Golf world charmed by Toronto

DAVE FULLER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:19 PM ET

The Canadian Open, being held here at St. George’s, just may be the nicest thing to happen to Toronto since Genesis.

Okay, at least since 2004 when the medical yo-yos at the World Health Organization declared the GTA a “no travel zone” — or something scary like that — because we all had SARS.

The news, thanks to CNN, Fox and every other round-the-clock news service, spread faster than sound, itself. Tourists stopped coming. Conventions were cancelled. Distant relatives elected to keep it that way. Distant.

Then came Mad Cow, swine flu and the great recession or depression, depending on whether you still held a job or not. Toronto the Good was still Toronto the Good, if only you could see through the misplaced panic.

But this year, this month, this week, something changed. At least, I think it did.

Instead of trashing Toronto, Americans and Brits and Australians — even fellow Canadians who had, until now, never set foot in Ontario — seem absolutely charmed by the city.

Britain’s Paul Casey, ranked No. 8 in the world of golf, and much higher than that by friends such as Mike Weir, has only one complaint about Toronto: The traffic.

Otherwise … “I really like it,” he said on the eve of the $5.1-million Canadian Open.

“Everybody seems very relaxed here. It’s a much bigger city than I expected. It’s like a mini-New York.”

He went on: “I love the sort of people I’ve met. Great attitudes. It’s got a cross between an American and European sort of flavour. I’ve been living in Yorkville and I went for a jog (Tuesday) and got to see some of the old houses around the north side of Toronto, which is beautiful.”

Defending Canadian Open champ Nathan Green always seems to play his best golf in the GTA — be it the Hamilton Golf and Country Club or Glen Abbey, where he won in 2009.

“I like being up here,” said the Aussie. “We look forward to our week in Canada. We seem to get out more when we’re in Toronto. There’s always something to do. It’s just a good fun week and I think that’s sort of reflected in the golf I’ve played up here.”

Two Golf Channel technicians sharing the same shuttle bus Wednesday were taken aback by Bloor West Village, like it was some kind of urban Disney World, which is neat, because one of the techies was from Orlando.

Then there was this volunteer shuttle driver from Victoria, B.C. While he’d grown up in the Islington/Kingsway area, his wife had never visited Ontario. Anyway, they decided to make a holiday of it — him shuttling golfers and the missus helping out on the course. One gets the impression she might not want to leave.

As for St. George’s itself, here’s what last week’s Reno-Tahoe Open winner, Matt Bettencourt, of Alameda Calif., had to say about the course following Wednesday’s pro-am:

“St. George’s is one of the top golf courses we’re going to play all year on the PGA Tour,” Bettencourt said. “It’s arguably one of the top two.”

We’re guessing Augusta is the other one.

“This place is phenomenal,” he continued. “I’d love to see a tournament here for quite a few years.”

Golf Canada organizers, meanwhile, expect the 2010 Canadian Open will inject $25 million into our local economy.

All the goodwill that comes with it? I hate to be corny, but okay, the word is: “Priceless.”

dave.fuller@sunmedia.ca


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