Things got a little more predictable for Golf Canada on Tuesday evening when the Hamilton Golf and Country Club voted to host the 2012 RBC Canadian Open.
“I got the call from Mike Hughes, the (Hamilton) president, with the great news,” said Golf Canada executive director Scott Simmons, whose vision into the tournament’s future is still shrouded in mist.
The good news for Simmons is that the host site is now confirmed for the next two years, with the Open scheduled to be played at Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in 2011.
Golf Canada is also obligated by contract to hold an Open at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ont., before 2015 as part of the sale of that golf course to ClubLink Corporation in 1999.
“The good news is that it’s now July, 2010. If you assume Glen Abbey in 2013, we’ve got three years and I’ve got a very good feel for 2014, so we’ve got five years to figure out ’15, ’16 and ’17,” said Simmons.
As much as he tries to chart the tournament’s future, there are a lot of wild cards that could suddenly affect negotiations, including a new PGA Tour television deal that expires in 2012 and will likely affect the tournament’s date. Also, RBC’s title sponsorship ends in 2012 and will need to be renewed.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions with clubs that say, `We’re on board,’ and I’ve said, `Fantastic, as soon as I have more details that I can actually give you, we can get into a firm letter of intent,’” said Simmons.
One of the main concerns about hosting the Open at a traditional club such as St. George’s Golf and Country Club in west-end Toronto this week is that such established facilities might lack the infrastructure required to host a modern PGA Tour event.
Assuming everything works out at St. George’s – and there’s no reason at this point to think it won’t – that club’s ability to overcome the perceived challenges would open the door to more clubs taking a run at hosting an Open, including those outside of Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
The last time the Open was held outside those three provinces was 1961 when it was held at Niakwa Country Club in Winnipeg. Calgary is frequently mentioned as prime territory for a future Open.
“We’re aggressively looking at all options of how we can get to Calgary. We’ve talked to the City of Calgary. There are a lot of private projects in the works, people considering building golf courses,” said Simmons.
“We’re trying to get in touch with all those people that are potentially investing in building or renovating an existing facility because it would be best to get connected with them on the ground floor, so that you can build the golf course with the potential of hosting the national championship in mind,” he added.
The Open’s current date behind the British Open has been criticized in the past, but seems to be less of an issue these days with a strong field at St. George’s. The alternative date that’s often been mentioned by Canadians has been around Canada Day.
The other alternative is a flex schedule that would see the Open’s dates rotate to several dates over the period of a few years, but nothing will be decided until 2012. On another fixed date, according to Simmons, Golf Canada’s expenses would skyrocket.
“That comes with a $3-million price tag on top of what we’re currently paying. Our television underpinning right now is $2-million U.S. We get a lower rate because of the date we’re in. Every other event pays $4-million in underpinning when they’re on network,” said Simmons.
He added a jacked-up purse would also be necessary if the Open were to go prime time on the tour schedule. This year’s purse is $5.1-million, but that would go up.
“Your minimum purse is $6-million. Immediately you’re looking at $3-million extra in infrastructure costs. It’s not a slam-dunk decision. If we were offered a new date, we might say no,” said Simmons.
“Would we be interested in doing that one out of every three years? We don’t have enough details yet, but that’s the kind of stuff that we are constantly talking to the tour about,” he added.