My flight arrived in Kelowna on Saturday morning where I joined a group of golf writers for a tour of BC’s terrific trio of interior courses — Predator Ridge, Tobiano and Sagebrush. Interesting to run into Mike Grenier, the developer behind Tobiano. I guess I didn’t expect him to be anywhere near the development since it was put into receivership last month. That’s not the case. Grenier noted he was one of the secured creditor and I asked him to explain how the much-discussed marina led to the receivership. The newspaper accounts of this were vague at best. Essentially Grenier said he’d promised home buyers at Tobiano that they’d get a marina on the lake that is north of the property. Then one financing deal after another fell through. Since he’d been promising it for a few years, soon potential real estate buyers shied away from Tobiano thinking it would never get built. That lack of sales — which Grenier blames on the failed marina project — led to the receivership. I asked if Grenier might find a new financial backer to take the project over again and he suggested that is indeed what he is working on. Regardless, you’d never guess the course was in the hands of the receiver as Grenier held court with writers and generally acted like nothing had changed. Either way, it was my third time at Tobiano and the third time playing it without much wind. Though I think it is a much harder course than its slope (128 from the so-called “spur” tees at 6600 yards), I also think it is one of the most unique and fascinating courses in Canada.
Lots of talk about what RBC brings to the table of the Canadian Open and how the field is improved, though none, by what I’ve seen, have connected the dots that Jim Little, the chief brand officer at RBC who has become Mr. Golf, was the same guy who had to dump Bell’s title sponsorship of the event. I always thought that was a fascinating turn of events. Bell didn’t need the sponsorship with its American TV revenue, so they walked away and Little soon left the company, turning up at RBC. He was one of the business leaders at the “save the Canadian Open” lunch at Angus Glen in 2007. Others there included Blackberry baron Jim Balsillie, Tim Hortons mogul Ron Joyce and oil entrepreneur Jim Kinnear. A Vancouver Sun story seems to suggest Little is haranguing players to come to the Canadian Open while at the British Open, but I think most of that work was done weeks and even months earlier. However, RBC does deserve a lot of credit — the Canadian Open might not exist without the bank’s support.
Quietly a number of top players have dropped out of the field since Golf Canada initially announced names. Jonathan Byrd, Aaron Baddeley, Gary Woodland and an injured Retief Goosen are out of the event — or decided not to come. Jhonattan Vegas is an odd one to suddenly make an about face since he’s scheduled to play in Banff the day after the Canadian Open, but his name is missing from the field. As I count it there are now 13 of the Top 50 in the world. At Angus Glen in 2007 there were three — and two were Canadian.
A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.