Summer smorgasbord for golf fans in Ontario

(Pictured above: Osprey Valley Toot #18)

Not that anyone records this sort of thing, but this summer could be one of the best in many years for the volume and quality of spectator golf in the GTA.

We’ve already had one of the more memorable Canadian Opens, with the stellar performance of Rory McIlroy at Hamilton Golf & Country Club in early June.  Ancaster, as it’s more widely known, was a pitch-perfect venue for the best lineup of Tour professionals to come to our Open in at least twenty years.

From June 24-28, the PGA Championship of Canada was held at Whistle Bear GC, just outside of Kitchener… technically not in the GTA, but a close enough drive.  That event began with 72 players playing medal rounds, to determine a final group of 16 who played mano-à-mano matches to determine the winner.  Dustin Risdon, who won the PGA Assistants Championship in 2016, was the victor with a stirring 3&1 win in the final.

As I’m writing this, many of the best Canadian women players will be teeing it up at Toronto Ladies Club in Thornhill, for their annual championship.  Lorie Kane, a four-time winner on the LPGA Tour earlier in her career, will be headlining the field.

Along with Brooke Henderson, Lorie was a featured guest at a Media Day on Tuesday, at Magna Golf Club in Aurora.  This event was held to promote the CP Women’s Open, which comes up later in August at Magna.  Lorie told the assembled media types that she’s feeling very positive about her game for the first time in ages, having overcome some health issues.

I must say, she looked as chipper and refreshed as I’ve seen her in a long time.  I’ve always been a fan of Lorie’s, and I would be thrilled to see her dominate the PGA and play her best at the CP Women’s Open.

Brooke, of course, is arguably Canada’s best current athlete, and also the defending champion from last year’s highly emotional victory at the CP Women’s.  She may also be the most perfect athlete in any sport… supremely talented, of course, but with a fan- and media-friendly personality that every athlete in every sport should copy.   I’ve written so many positive things about this young lady for over five years, I can’t find another superlative, but I wish I could.  I’ll certainly make a point to come and watch her play at Magna, August 19-25.

Meanwhile, next week, the Mackenzie Tour – one of the developmental tours in the PGA Tour system – heads to TPS at Osprey Valley in Caledon, July 11-14.  Still widely if unofficially known as the Canadian Tour, the Mackenzie circuit now has a schedule that includes 18 events, including Q-school days in the US during the winter months.  Many current players on the regular PGA Tour earned their stripes, and some bruises along the way, by playing a season or two on the Mackenzie.

And finally, an old and historic event in these parts is making a welcome comeback this year.

The Ontario Open was first played in 1923 at Lakeview Golf Club in Mississauga, and for decades was one of Canada’s most coveted championships.  Past winners included American legend Sam Snead, George Knudson, Moe Norman, and two of our greatest perennial amateur players, Nick Weslock and Gary Cowan.  (In fact, Nick Weslock also won the tournament before he changed his name from Nick Wisnock!)

The tournament had a few hiatus years during the 1980s, then made a brief comeback in the 90s.  It’s seemed lost in time forever since 1996, however, until Golf Ontario (formerly the GAO) decided to bring it back again this year, in partnership with the new owners of Woodington Lake GC in Tottenham, near Orangeville.  It won’t be part of the Mackenzie Tour schedule, but as it falls between tournaments on the Mackenzie, you may well expect to see some of those professionals as part of the Ontario Open field.  But otherwise, the field at Woodington will be made up of most of the best pro’s and am’s from around southern Ontario, most of whom have made it into the tournament through qualifying rounds held at other courses around southern Ontario.

Golf Ontario and Woodington Lake have made a five-year commitment to hosting the Ontario Open, and I sincerely hope it succeeds.  The golf course itself is a fine test, and certainly worthy of hosting the best players in the province.

To their great credit, for three days before the Ontario Open, Golf Ontario will also be hosting the first-ever Ontario Disabilities Championship, also at Woodington.

From the GO press release:

“This event will showcase some of Ontario’s top disabled athletes in a provincial championship environment. Focusing on player development, this inclusive event will ensure a proper pathway and better competition opportunity for some of the highest performing disabled athletes. This event will be included in the list of events eligible for world ranking points and will see both men and women compete in both low gross and low net categories.”

My point in telling you all this, is that these events are put on for players and sponsors, of course, but their ongoing success depends on us, AKA the public, to come out and support them.  One, two, three generations ago, tournaments like the Ontario Open and the Canadian PGA would welcome thousands of spectators, all of whom would take pride in the golfing ability of their fellow Ontarians, as well as some of the current and future international stars.

I realize that most of us have other options and priorities in the summer, but if you love golf, and do have the time, try to attend at least one of these tournaments coming up in the next eight weeks.  It’s a privilege to have them in our neighbourhood, and a pleasure to watch them play.

Jim Deeks
Jim Deeks has been writing for Fairways for over a dozen years. He is a former Executive Director of the Canadian Open and Canadians Skins Game, and currently the Executive Producer and Host of CANADA FILES on PBS.

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