Site in Vaughan under consideration for future home of Canadian Open

Adam Martin- Robbins / Vaughan Citizen

Vaughan is a soccer city, but it has a shot at becoming a Mecca for golf.

City councillors are taking a swing at scoring the future, permanent home of the Canadian Open. But first, the municipality and Golf Canada must complete a due diligence process.

The aim is to determine if the 200-acre North Maple Regional Park along with an adjacent 700 acres of land, including the Keele Valley dump, could be combined to create an integrated park featuring an 18-hole championship golf course plus a host of other sports and recreation facilities.

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” said Bill Paul, Golf Canada’s chief championship officer.

He’s been seeking a permanent home for the Canadian Open since 2014, when he was tournament director, as he felt the prestigious tournament should put down roots after years of rotating to courses across Canada.

That was the plan in the mid-1970s when legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus was hired to design Oakville’s Glen Abbey Golf Club, which houses the Canadian Golf Museum and Hall of Fame and Golf Canada’s headquarters.

Glen Abbey has served as the main venue, hosting the tournament 29 times, but it’s not an option as a permanent home because owner ClubLink plans on converting it into a subdivision.

Paul’s vision has evolved since 2014 into creating a facility that includes the hall of fame, a development course for youngsters and a championship course located next to baseball diamonds, soccer pitches, tennis and basketball courts.

The hope being that kids playing those sports might wander over, try swinging a club and fall in love with golf, which is struggling to attract younger players.

Paul initially scouted about 35 locations across Canada, which he’s whittled down to four. He won’t divulge the other locations.

This week, Vaughan council voted to go through the due diligence process, expected to cost between $700,000 and $1 million shared between the city and Golf Canada, in hopes of being chosen. They will look at the area bounded by Kirby Road, Major Mackenzie Drive, Dufferin Street and Keele Street.

“Nicklaus looked at it and loved the property and loved the opportunity,” Paul said.

The Canadian Open comes with a nice prize for the host municipality. In 2016, the tournament reportedly attracted more than 100,000 spectators and delivered an estimated $15 million to $20 million boost to the local economy.

“I think the proposal from Golf Canada may hold the answer to the park’s completion. … This (North Maple Regional Park) planning process goes back decades and, I think, it’s time to move forward,” Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua said. “I think it’s wise for us, as a city, to look at it very, very closely and do the due diligence that is required. But it is an exciting project that deserves our attention.”

It’s unclear how it would affect Eagle’s Nest Golf Club, located at the southeast corner of the site.

Paul said he’s spoken with the owners and the potential impact will factor into the due diligence process.

Selection of a preferred site is expected before Dec. 1.

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