Bill Paul, tournament director for the RBC Canadian Open, can’t go into details, but he says there was a “credible” threat to the event made in 2009 when it was played at Glen Abbey, the site of this year’s event.
“Over the years, we’ve had our fair share of threats. We had a very credible one that came to us in 2009,” said Paul.
“We kept it quiet. We worked with the (PGA Tour) security, we worked with the RCMP, we worked with Halton police. We came up with a plan and we put it in place,” he said.
“Nobody would know about it, nobody saw it, but there was certainly an increase of law enforcement around the golf course, both during the day and at night and knock on wood, nothing happened,” added Paul.
“It came at a great cost, but the cost is certainly a lot greater if something does happen to the golf course, particularly in this case, the playing surface that you see on television and becomes a story the next day,” he said.
Reading between the lines, it sounds more like a threat against property than the human tragedy that took place at the end of the Boston Marathon on Monday, an event that will likely cause other sporting venues to rethink security.
“We were talking about it (Monday) night as a family and it’s scary,” said Paul.
“You can’t stop your life, but I do appreciate that things like going through an airport or what we have to do as a tournament,” he said.
“I think golf fans and volunteers and those of us who patronize and support a tournament need to know that we’re doing it for the best interests and safety of the spectators and players and everybody on site,” he said.
Paul says he expects to hear more from the PGA Tour in the coming days about security measures in the wake of the Boston bombing, but he says the tour has been mindful for years about the importance of such matters.
“The PGA Tour has been very proactive,” said Paul.
“It started with the upswing of a kid named Tiger Woods when he came on tour and what that brought in terms of spectators and let’s say non-traditional golf fans or spectators. It just brought other people into the sport and created more crowds,” he said.
“In the early stages, (security) really helped players get around the golf course. After 9-11, for everything that America went through, the PGA Tour was, I’m going to say, very proactive in establishing guidelines that all tournaments had to follow,” he said.
“Security went away from just making sure that Tiger Woods and a whole bunch of other players got around a golf course to what a volunteer was able to bring on site,” he said.
“I know in those early days, we — and I put we as a lot of tournaments — probably thought the tour was crazy, that 9-11 was a one-off,” said Paul, adding that the tour brought in experienced people to create security and reaction plans if the latter was necessary.
Individual tournaments also call on several forms of enforcement.
“The team that we have to have in place has to have the local law enforcement, we have our paid security people and we have the PGA Tour person and, if we need to, if we know of any kind of intelligence going around, the RCMP or whoever else gets involved,” he said.
“Up here, we tend to look at Canada a little bit different than we do the States, but you just never know,” said Paul.
The Boston bombing came just one day after Adam Scott won the Masters, an event that Paul attended last week and one that is known for heavy security at the gates.
“You empty your pockets, put things in a bowl, you walk through the metal detector and if you get the green light, you put everything back in your pockets and go and if you don’t, you get frisked,” said Paul.
“The Super Bowl has probably been the leader in terms of what they do,” he added.
“It’s part of life today and the idea of opening the gates and everybody flooding in and heading to a seat or heading to a location on a golf course without some type of a restriction or an inconvenience, all from a safety standpoint, it’s just going to be part of life,” he said.
Paul adds that the Canadian Open does a pre-tournament sweep of the grounds, has overnight security and works closely with law enforcement agencies, which is advantageous when something is discovered that appears suspicious.
“Player mail or player packages get delivered to us. We have the ability through our local law enforcement to have dogs come on site if there’s any sort of suspicious package or anything,” said Paul.
“I think we’ve gone the extra mile. Chairs that come in bags that we all take to our kids’ soccer games or picnics or something like that, the regulations of the tour are not to allow those,” he said.
“I think that we’ve been proactive. Certainly, I think it’s an inconvenience to a lot of spectators when you think about `Why can’t I bring a bag on site?’ but it just goes to show you how vulnerable we are with what happened in Boston,” said Paul.