Hamilton area still op­tion for Open home

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - TERRI PECOSKIE OAKVILLE —

There’s still a chance the Cana­dian Open will find a per­ma­nent home near Hamilton, and if it does one of the great­est golfers in his­tory will have had a say in it.

Bill Paul, the chief cham­pi­onship of­fi­cer for Golf Canada, said the list of po­ten­tial sites for a cham­pi­onship course has now been whit­tled down to three “solid” lo­ca­tions in On­tario, one of which is in “close prox­im­ity” to the city. Where, ex­actly? He won’t say. But here is what we do know:

Paul is hunt­ing for hun­dreds of hectares of land for an am­bi­tious multi-use de­vel­op­ment that would also house sports fields, recre­ation fa­cil­i­ties, Canada’s Golf Hall of Fame and Mu­seum and other ameni­ties. He planned to visit a “cou­ple of places” — his words — with Jack Nick­laus fol­low­ing the tour­na­ment’s open­ing cer­e­mony and hall of fame in­duc­tion at Glen Abbey Golf Club Tues­day.

Those places could in­clude any­thing from fully de­vel­oped golf cour­ses to com­pletely un­de­vel­oped land. It’s not likely the pair toured King’s For­est, how­ever — city staff pre­vi­ously deemed the 120-hectare mu­nic­i­pal course in the Red Hill too small to suit Golf Canada’s plan.

As for Nick­laus’s in­volve­ment in the process, Paul called the golf leg­end “a val­ued opin­ion” and re­mained mum on whether he has been tapped to de­sign the project’s cham­pi­onship course. He also noted “it would be cool to have a Cana­dian de­signer.”

Nick­laus, mean­while, de­scribed his role as “a work in progress.”

“I’ve been up here be­fore look­ing at prop­erty and try­ing to set­tle on some­thing that may work out,” he added. “Noth­ing has been of­fi­cially signed.”

An Ohio na­tive, Nick­laus is the ar­chi­tect of Glen Abbey — the Cana­dian Open’s pri­mary venue and his first solo de­sign. But, with owner ClubLink in­tend­ing to turn the prop­erty into a sub­di­vi­sion, the tour­na­ment’s days there look to be num­bered.

In a scrum with re­porters, Nick­laus was prag­matic when asked a broad ques­tion about the sale and de­vel­op­ment of golf cour­ses.

“It is what it is,” he said. “Glen Abbey is un­der pres­sure from that stand­point and I’d hate to see it torn down, but progress moves on. If we got this golf course 41 years ago, I think we could do some­thing bet­ter to­day. I think I’ve got­ten bet­ter.” He also voiced sup­port for Paul’s vi­sion for the tour­na­ment, say­ing that hold­ing the Cana­dian Open at Glen Abbey — even on a semi-per­ma­nent ba­sis — has “con­trib­uted a lot to the game of golf in Canada and it does show you that one lo­ca­tion does help you grow the game.” If you re­ally want to grow some­thing sig­nif­i­cant, he added, “the best you can do is be at one place.”

Since it was es­tab­lished in 1976, Glen Abbey has hosted the Cana­dian Open a record 29 times.

Paul said he first con­tacted Nick­laus in 2014, when the golf ex­ec­u­tive be­gan his search for a per­ma­nent home for the tour­na­ment. He was Cana­dian Open di­rec­tor at the time and Nick­laus, a sev­en­time run­ner-up at Canada’s na­tional cham­pi­onship, was ea­ger to help.

Since then few de­tails have emerged about the project or its po­ten­tial lo­ca­tion — al­though one of the three shortlisted sites is known.

In Vaughan, city coun­cil­lors re­cently ap­proved a $700,000-or-more study to de­ter­mine if a 365hectare rec­tan­gle of dump and park­land north­west of Duf­ferin Street and Ma­jor Macken­zie Drive is suit­able.

Golf Canada and Vaughan are ex­pected to split the bill. Asked about the se­lec­tion process, Paul was clear: “It’s not a com­pe­ti­tion. It’s try­ing to get the best site.” He said it’s pos­si­ble it won’t even be one of the three spots still in the run­ning. He started out with a long list of 35 prop­er­ties from coast to coast. Paul said he ex­pects a de­ci­sion to be made and pre­sented to Golf Canada’s board of direc­tors in early De­cem­ber.

GRA­HAM PAINE, METROLAND

Not bad for a rookie. For the first time in his life, golf leg­end Jack Nick­laus took a few shots with a hockey stick and puck, on the sev­enth tee, named The Rink, at Glen Abbey on Tues­day.

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