The RCGA has scheduled a 11:30 conference call to announce the site of the 2009 Canadian Open site.
The likely choice: Glen Abbey, the course that will hold the event next year already, and has held it a couple of dozen times since 1977.
And Glen Abbey would be a disaster and could prove the end of the Canadian Open.
The point of selling the Abbey in the late 1990s was to allow for the Canadian Open to be moved away from the Abbey. There’s been a revisionist history that has suggested the RCGA wanted to move the Open around after the sale. In fact, the RCGA wanted to build courses to hold the tournament and then realized they didn’t have enough money to follow through with the concept.
So the notion of “moving the Open around” Canada was developed. It didn’t take too long to see the problems with that. Turns out there are not that many courses capable of holding the tournament. There was Shaughnessy in Vancouver, nothing in Calgary, Glen Abbey, Hamilton and, apparently, Angus Glen in Toronto, Royal Montreal in Quebec and that was it.
In order to add a course to the rota, the RCGA entered into an agreement with Gord Stollery, Angus Glen’s owner, to build a course in the Montreal market. But that has been long delayed and now won’t be ready for 2009 and maybe not 2010.
So, according to a story by Lorne Rubenstein in today’s Globe, the site for 2009 will be inspired: Glen Abbey. Lorne uses RCGA tournament director Bill Paul’s comments, along with the fact a wedding was put on hold at the Abbey until an announcement was made.
While the RCGA has danced with the likes of St. George’s in recent weeks, the club has yet to have a vote on accepting the Open, so it doesn’t appear to be headed there. The other obvious option would be London’s Hunt Club, but there is no indication it is headed there, which is a shame.
So it is back to the Abbey, a course that last saw Mike Weir duel with Vijay Singh and lose in 2004.
The problem? Most PGA Tour players are pretty split on the merits of the Abbey and it isn’t like it is an exciting classic venue. Jim Furyk told me this summer that he wouldn’t have come to play the Canadian Open if it was at Glen Abbey as opposed to Hamilton. Then there’s Weir. The RCGA always leans on him to sell the Canadian Open and he’s not fond of Glen Abbey. If Weir has to sell the tournament, something he does so more reluctantly these days, why not try to find a venue he actually supports?
I’m also perplexed at why the RCGA would feel the need to announce the venue now. It must be under some pressure to nail this down, but without a sponsor do we even know for certain there is a 2009 Canadian Open? RCGA pres Garry West said this summer the organization was committed to running the tournament without a sponor this coming summer. Beyond that, who knows? The organization can not afford to run the Canadian Open at a huge loss without a sponsor, so there’s a chance there is no tournament in 2009.
And if a sponsor is found in coming months, wouldn’t the RCGA want to consult with that operation about where this potential sponsor would like to see the Open? Perhaps their immediate goal isn’t the Toronto market.
Overall, Lorne is probably right and the 2009 Canadian Open is likely heading to Glen Abbey, demonstrating once again just how shortsighted former RCGA exec director Stephen Ross was when it came to his planning.
The only question is whether there will be a Canadian Open to take to Glen Abbey in two years.