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Canadian Open at St. George's?

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It is looking more and more like a reality after a story published in the Toronto Star.

The Star, quoting RCHA chief operating officer Rick Desrochers, said the club has now signed off on hosting the event (was that really in question?) and now the issues reside with the city. It would be the first Canadian Open held within Toronto since 1968, when it was last held at St. George’s.

Royal Canadian Golf Association chief operating officer Rick Desrochers told the Star that there are still hurdles to leap, but that it was “a very important step” when St. George’s agreed to the concept.

The biggest “hurdle” is the city and potential pushback from residents over road closures. While Scott Simmons, the RCGA’s top blue blazer, told me recently that the city has been extremely cooperative, there are still questions about the reaction from nearby residents.

The main problem is this — while St. George’s as a golf course could certainly host the Open from within the ropes, it is issues outside the ropes that could derail this like a weak slice in a cut wind.

Details have to be hammered out and residents of Etobicoke will have to be consulted next month, but Toronto councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby yesterday said city officials like the concept.

“I think you could say it’s moving along,” she said. “Staff feel it’s feasible. But I have a lot of serious questions that have to be answered.”

The issue is the closing of Islington, a major roadway, and perhaps the issue of a driving range. St. George’s has a short range, but pros would not be able to hit driver. Club and RCGA officials would ideally like to move the range somewhere else, and use the land for tents. Islington could also be used for corporate tents, since it rests between the clubhouse and the course.

Residents probably won’t be big fans however. I’m hoping to head to the public meeting and gauge reaction for myself.

So where does this leave the potential site for the 2010 Canadian Open? I’d say it is clear as mud. The club is interested and the city is being helpful. But angry residents could hurt this — especially if they are going to be inconvenienced for a week or more.

And there are also issues of what the pros might make of having to travel some distance to warm up. Sure it happens at places like Pebble Beach already, but the proposal from St. George’s is to have the range in a nearby park, with limited landscaping just for the event. I imagine that would be a security hassle, but nothing that can’t be dealt with. In a conversation with Mike Weir — who has not played St. George’s — he said if the course is as good as reports — and it is — he’d be willing to deal with the second-rate range.

But how good could St. George’s be as the host site? Likely one of the top three or four courses the players would play on tour in any given year. It is that strong. The truth is fans wouldn’t see the results — which would mean a stronger field — until the second time the course hosts the events. The first time most PGA Tour pros would not even recognize the course. But Stanley Thompson’s gem is a better course than Hamilton — and golfers like Jim Furyk were thrilled by that one.

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Robert Thompson

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.

17 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Merion East is hosting the 2013 US Open and their plans seem to include using the West course, which is about 1.5 miles away, for a driving range as their existing range is insufficient for touring pros even though it is much larger than the St. Georges range.

  • With both CBC and The Star recently reported a sharp decline in tourism and Toronto Tourism looking for attract visitors. Having the Open at St George’s would make a lot of sense.

    Of course, as home owners, the nearby residents would have their own selfish reasons to oppose it.

    Now it is up to the salesmanship of Scott Simmons, The City, and probably the Club itself.

  • Hey Henrye,

    At a glance, the best courses on tour this year might be Augusta, Pebble, Riviera, Kapalua, Oakland Hills, Royal Birkdale, Colonial and Muirfield Village. It might be a bit much to put St. George’s in the top three, but isn’t it up there with the rest of them?

  • I will second what Boyd said, but having the Open could definately help its’ ranking.

    It would be wonderful to see the pros play at St. George again and it would certainly help tourism and the economy of the City.

  • Okay, I’ll give you Augusta, Pebble and Riviera. I’m not so sure about Oakland Hills, and Birkdale is fine. So maybe I was speaking through a bit of Trumpian hyperbole, but the point is the same — there are lots of tournaments and St. George’s is a better course than 95% of those that hold PGA Tour events.

    Oh, and Boyd and Dick are wrong — St. G is better than Hamilton. Not by a lot though…

  • let me guess – you play better at St. George’s? Sorry Rob, I think I would have a better eye than you on this subject. 🙂

  • RT, I’ve always felt St. George’s is a good course, but not a world great. In fact I put it in a catergory with other local courses like Beacon Hall, the Paintbrush, Eagle’s Nest, The Osprey Valley Courses, Rocky Crest & Toronto. You can probably guess, that I think there might be up to about 13 better on the PGA tour. If I was being impartial, I would look at the Golf World ranking and they list 9 better than St. George’s – Augusta, Pebble, Oakland Hills, Riviera, Birkdale, Muirfield Village, Sawgrass, Harbour Town & Spyglass.

  • Henrye – you are mistaken. St. George’s is a world-class course. Golf Digest lists it as #10 in the Top 100 courses outside of the U.S., and last year it topped the Ontario Golf rankings. You say it yourself – Golf World lists 9 better – if St. George’s is in two publications’ top 10 lists, I would say that is world-class. The other Ontario courses listed are good – but not that good. Eagle’s Nest is a nice novelty course, and a lot of fun to play, but honestly lacks the conditioning and consistency with their greens to be considered great.

  • The National would be a better venue than St. George’s, and while St. George’s in a great golf course that can hold its own among the world’s best, Oakland Hills is a notch above.

  • There are approximatelely 40 events on tour. If you say St. George’s is better than 95% of the courses on Tour, that means only 5% are better. 5% of 40 events leaves two courses which are better than St. Georges. You have already agreed that Augusta, Pebble and Riviera are better. That makes three courses. Did you have trouble with math in school?

  • Sorry Big Dog. I should have been clearer. Golf World lists 9 better from the PGA Tour. They list more than 90 better in the world. I’d more than admit that a world top 100 would normally make a course a world great. It just isn’t to me, but I know I’m in the minority on this one.

  • Oh, and Big Dog, Golf Digest has it at #26 outside the US, not top 10. They also have other Canadaian courses.
    26. St. George’s
    34. national
    38. Highland Links
    52. Beacon Hall
    54. Capilano
    70. Redtail
    83. Banff

  • RT, you and the Toronto Star are mistaken on one important fact. St. George’s membership has NOT given approval to hold the event. They are scheduled to hold a vote in early July, and given the devide on other topics within the clubs membership, the hosting of the Canadian Open is far from a guarantee.

    As for the course. They will need to toughen it up significantly due to its shortness and being wide open off the tee. But its a world class course regardless of the rankings.

  • “They will need to toughen it up significantly due to its shortness and being wide open off the tee”? I wasn’t aware that a 7,000 yard, par 70 (the RCGA will convert #11 to a par 4) was considered a short course, but Golfer must be awfully long compared to the average tour player. The length is not an issue, nor will the generous fairway landing areas be an issue. The tight approaches into the greens, along with the greens themselves will be the tougher part of the test for the pros.

    To Henrye: apologies, I was quoting the 2005 Golf Digest rankings instead of the 2007 rankings.

    To all others – #26 is still the highest ranked course in Canada, and where are Hamilton, Royal Montreal, and Shaughnessy in those rankings – not to mention Angus Glen and Glen Abbey?

    Unfortunately, none of this argument will matter as the membership still has not voted, nor have the residents in the immediate area who will have to deal with Islington Ave. being shut down for 3 weeks – and those will be the determining factors, not what an online blog discussion has to say.

  • St georges is without a doubt a world class golf course.
    If the open is played here it would bring better players and make the canadian open and even that quality players would actually want to come to. Glen Abbey and Angus Glen are absolutely embarresing. Those courses are an embaresment to Canada and every year players complain about the bad conditions of those courses. St Georges, Royal Montreal, Crowbush and chantesy (cant spell it) are the only courses that this open should be played at. Forget the public courses these players deserve the best and if we give them it this open can become one like colonial, memorial or the buick. Right now however it is mediocer at best.

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