Joe Murphy is general manager of the St. George’s Golf and Country Club, the host site of the 2010 RBC Canadian Open next month in Toronto. Murphy will contribute a guest blog each week about operations at the host club leading up to the national championship.
The first step towards the St. George’s Golf and Country Club hosting the RBC Canadian Open came in the fall of 2007, when past-president Ken Field contacted what was the Royal Canadian Golf Association.
I recall talking to former RCGA executive director Stephen Ross when I was here in the ‘90s about hosting the Open and his fear at that time was that St. George’s could handle it inside the ropes, but it was always going to be a challenge outside the ropes.
Like any obstacle, you make it work. Tournament director Bill Paul has worked closely with the city and got them onside in terms of rerouting the TTC (Toronto transit) because you clearly needed Islington Avenue to make it work.
In order for this to happen and to bring 22,000 people a day here, you need to have Islington Avenue as an access point and the city’s been great in getting behind it.
I was the general manager here in the ‘90s, but came back in the spring of 2008 when a decision by the membership was last on the priority list.
They had to make sure that they had all the other components in place because, if one of those components didn’t work, this Open was not going to happen.
If the city didn’t close Islington Avenue, if they didn’t get the TTC on board, if RBC wasn’t on board with where it was going to be – there were a lot of pieces that had to come together.
The last piece of the puzzle was getting the membership onside and our bylaws state that we have to go to our membership to close the golf course for professional tournaments.
When we did take it to the members, we could explain all about logistics. As you can appreciate, members had a lot of questions, so we had all of those answers for them in terms of the closure of Islington Avenue, how long the golf course was going to be closed and so on and so forth.
In June of 2008, we took it to the membership. There was a big meeting called for that purpose and we got a 90 per cent approval.
Certainly, our members were very supportive and I think a big part of that, obviously is that they believe the golf course to be Open quality, but I also think they really wanted to support Canadian golf.
We know that we’ve got the right venue. We know that the Canadian Open wanted to move around and we know that we can be a major player in that and it’s a great partnership with us, Golf Canada and RBC.
It’s been two years since we voted on it and there have been some disruptions, but they’ve mostly been cosmetic changes. We haven’t made any structural changes such as changing any hole designs, but we have rerouted cart paths, backed up some tees, etc.
Going into the Canadian Open, we had a golf course improvement plan ready to go and it was originally going to be spaced over four to five years. Because of the Open, we accelerated a lot of those projects, so that in itself created more disruptions than we would normally have had in the fall of 2008 and 2009.
Really, on every change, when members saw it completed, they knew they were the beneficiaries. They have just been ecstatic. I hear raves about our golf course, people are happy with the condition and the changes made in advance of the Open.
They’re permanent changes and people see the great value for hosting the Open, as well as for them beyond the Open. I think if we took the vote again, we would still be in the 85 to 90 per cent range.
We see the excitement building. For instance, we have 250 member volunteers for the Open, so that’s about 15 per cent of the volunteer pool.
When all is said and done, I think they will be very proud of the way St. George’s hosted the Open.