Home Game in the Hammer

By Adam Stanley, Flagstick.com Contributor

Mike Weir warms up at Hamilton Golf & CC

(Ancaster, Ontario) – Teeing it up this week at Hamilton Golf & Country Club will be 23 Canadians, the third- most in an RBC Canadian Open field in the modern era since the tournament joined the PGA Tour.

From Abbotsford, British Columbia, to Ottawa, Ontario, most of the country will be well-represented.

Despite the hometown success stories, the tournament, which is arguably the biggest awareness campaign for golf in Canada, is unfortunately a victim of a poor spot in the tournament schedule and will once again attract few ‘big name’ draws.

The Canadian Open falls during the one week that many of the best players in the world are taking off, as the British Open is the week before, and the following two weeks feature a World Golf Championship and the PGA Championship – the final major of the year.

“We play great golf courses, and in 2007 when the tournament had no sponsor, we as a Tour tried to come up with ways to return the tournament to it’s glory days,” said two-time champion Jim Furyk in a press conference.

Hunter Mahan, the newest member of the roster of RBC-sponsored golfers (and lover of all-things Canadian) echoed Furyk’s statements.

“It’s always a big event. Yes, in the mid-2000s there was a tough time with no sponsor, but it’s a great event and the courses are amazing. It’s an unfortunate problem that there are so many good tournaments on tour and they are all crammed into the same, tight timing.”

As both Furyk and Mahan alluded to, there were a few years when the tournament had no sponsor but as the saying goes, the show must go on.

Since those worrisome sponsorless years, RBC has turned into one of the premier sponsors of golf in the world.

Canadian Open aside, RBC also rescued The Heritage tournament – taking place the week after The Masters – earlier this year, and boasts one of the most impressive lineups of sponsored golfers of any product in the world.

Many of the Canadians who are here this week are excited for the opportunity to join the ‘big boys’ of the PGA, as most of the 23 are either on the Canadian Tour or the Web.com Tour, two of golf’s minor leagues.

Mike Weir, Canada’s favourite golfing son, says that the future of golf in Canada is bright, and that “there a bunch of players who are just about there.”

Scott Simmons, the Executive Director and CEO of Golf Canada is surely hoping that ‘just about there’ turns into ‘already there’ sooner, rather than later. As early on Wednesday he expressed disappointment in some parts of the country.

“We can’t get 100 people in Alberta or Quebec to try to play for the country’s national Open.”

However, the issue with the PGA Tour and scheduling is a much bigger one than Simmons concern of trying to lure local qualifiers.

The newly minted Greenbrier Classic got a prime spot on the schedule which certainly raised some eyebrows at Golf Canada headquarters as that tournament is only three years old.

It’s sponsor, though, was willing (in a possible violation of the PGA Tour no appearance fee policy) to shell out the big bucks to entice both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to attend this year, and as with most things in business, money talks.

The Canadian Open, unfortunately, does not have that luxury. The best it can do is again speak with the Tour in two years after the current contract is up to try to re-jib the schedule in its favour.

However, as Furyk said, “If you have a very good golf course and a big purse, usually, the best players show up.”

Adam Stanley is a graduate of the Carleton University Journalism Program, a Digital Media Specialist for a Major Corporation,  and a regular contributor to Flagstick.com.  He maintains a personal Blog “Adam’s Touch” here.