Normally, I would save my first appearance at the RBC Canadian Open for Tuesday of tournament week, but this year, the national championship shifts into high gear pretty quickly with the playing of the Mike Weir Charity Classic today at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ont.
Traditionally, players slowly start to filter in as the day progresses, especially after a long flight from the British Open the past couple of years, so there isn’t usually too much to get jacked about on Monday.
This year, there will be tour players, as well as names like Michael Jordan, Kevin Costner, George Lopez, Martin Brodeur and Paul Coffey, among others that will grab the interest of golf fans, sports fans, star-gazers and the media, which gets an early wake-up call for tournament week this year.
So, the buzz starts early to make a long week at the Abbey even longer, but it’s all in a good cause, that being the Mike Weir Foundation, which benefits children’s charities, and the Reach Out Centre for Kids (ROCK) in Oakville, the community beneficiary.
The marquee value and the charitable benefits of the Weir Classic have added to the allure of our national championship this year after RBC and the Royal Canadian Golf Association added the Pengrowth Concert Series in 2008 to make the Open to add fun to what was strictly a sporting event just two years ago.
Back then, there was a pall over the Open, which was held in 2007 at Angus Glen Golf Club in Markham, Ont., where the exit of Bell Canada as the title sponsor had some questioning the future of this country’s only PGA Tour stop.
Of course, the tour, in its infinite wisdom, decided that money was all that counted and decided to stick one national championship right after another, thus the reason for the Canadian Open being right behind the British Open on the schedule, seemingly a death blow at the time to an event that was already struggling.
Yet, the RCGA and RBC, when it came on board as title sponsor later in 2007, have played the hand that they’ve been dealt. To deal with the issue of attracting players just coming off a major, a chartered plane was standing by to whisk players over the ocean to our Open.
Fun once seemed like an F-word at the Open, at least to those not accustomed to the polite applause and staid atmosphere encouraged by the more subdued RCGA of days gone by.
Having covered what was the FBR Open in Scottsdale, Ariz., several times, I’ve often said the Scottsdale stop is one tournament that every golf fan should attend just once with its boisterous 16th hole, female fans in stilettos and rocking watering holes.
The Canadian Open hasn’t yet reached that level, but it’s getting close without going over the top, making this year’s edition a stark contrast to the 2007 event.
In other words, the Open has made big strides in two years, so how would you rate the job done by the RCGA/RBC the past two years – Excellent, Good, Fair or Bad? That’s the question in the new GNN Poll now up on the home site.
Personally, I think they’ve done a good job, with plenty of work left to do. The biggest challenge is losing those brutal dates right behind the British Open. The other challenge is finding dates in a crowded PGA Tour summer schedule that are conducive to luring marquee names.
The wild card in this challenge is RBC with its global reach and solid financial situation that in a tough recession, particularly in the United States, has the tour’s attention after it once looked down its nose at Canada.
While shucking its current dates might be fixable, I’m not so sure that the Open can ever become a truly national championship.
While the naïve continue to call for a set rotation for the Open, it will never happen for several reasons, one being that members at Canada’s top courses don’t want their clubs disrupted every few years by the Open. The other is that this country has very few courses that have the infrastructure to host a tour event.
For that reason, the Open will likely never leave Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, which means those provinces will be the only ones to receive true benefits from the tournament.
In the last GNN Poll, we asked readers what effect the Open has on the golf industry as a whole. The majority (46 per cent) said its impact is felt mostly in the region in which its played, while 21 per cent said it had some impact nationally.
At opposite ends of the scale, 17 per cent said it had significant impact nationally, while 16 per cent said it had no impact nationally.
So, there is a feeling that only three provinces benefit from the national Open, but that isn’t likely to change given the concentration of population in this country and it’s unlikely anybody wants to toss up the political hot potato of the RCGA building new stadium courses in other parts of the country.
So one of the main challenges facing the RCGA/RBC is fixable, one apparently isn’t, but one thing is clear. The work they’ve done on the Open in the past couple of years is good, but there’s still some work left to do.
That’s my take. What’s yours? Let it be known on the GNN Poll and, by all means, expand your thoughts in the GNN Forum,
TOUCH DOWN IN TORONTO: The Big Dawg has arrived as Kyle German is in Oakville, Ont., for the RBC Canadian Open.
The 2008 Canadian Club Professionals champion took his first look at muscled-up Glen Abbey yesterday and offers his first-day observations in the latest installment of Kyle’s Blog, running simultaneously on the GNN home page and the Canadian PGA website at www.cpga.com.