Life's good on Abbey's layout

IAN HUTCHINSON, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 7:11 AM ET

Much to the chagrin of those who want to see the Canadian Open moved around the country, LG Electronics has no problem with the first two national championships under its possible title sponsorship being played at Glen Abbey.

Contrary to reports, no official deal has been signed for LG to come on board, but a deal appears imminent, barring unforeseen complications. A deal could be in place by the end of the month, so LG can be a part of the 2008 PGA Tour schedule when it's released.

"We are going through what I call our final evaluation stage," said Andrew Barrett, vice-president of marketing for LG. "We began quietly evaluating the opportunity for the Canadian Open sponsorship around the end of May, beginning of June -- late this spring."

LG also attended this year's Open at Angus Glen, where company representatives had discussions with the Royal Canadian Golf Association, and attended the Presidents Cup in Montreal, where PGA Tour officials convened.

"It was made even more spectacular to see the strong crowd reaction that went on, to hear the commentators speak about what a wonderful country Canada is to run a golf event of this level, how good our spectators were," said Barrett.

"I think we've got great confidence that they put on a great event and I think it helped the world understand on TV that we're a great country to come and host an event. That certainly helps in the decision-making process.

"We're now summarizing all of our notes and sitting down to make some decisions on our end about our potential involvement," said Barrett, adding that Glen Abbey is a great venue at which to launch a sponsorship, assuming all goes well.

This is a topic discussed here a couple of weeks ago when there was criticism of the RCGA for returning the Open to the Abbey for a second consecutive year in 2009.

While it's understandable that many fans want to see it moved around the country, hosting the Open in Canada's largest market is a positive to a potential title sponsor, so it made sense for the RCGA to keep it at the Abbey.

"For a major sponsor, having it in a key urban market is very important. A market with a lot of population is very important," said Barrett. "Having it at a venue that is near international airports is really important when you look at bringing international guests into the event.

"Being able to take advantage of all that a big city like Toronto or Montreal has to offer, both in terms of attracting the players, as well as our guests, is also really important. I know from a fan perspective that Glen Abbey was built to watch golf."

The Open is business and, while the price of the sponsorship itself may run somewhere between $6 million and $7 million per year, it will more than likely run between $10 million and $11 million if LG wants to maximize its sponsorship through pro-ams, hosting, entertaining, public relations and advertising.

So, launching a sponsorship in Canada's largest city made business sense, but that doesn't mean the Open will always be played in the Toronto area, according to Barrett.

"One of the things that appealed to us with the Canadian Open is the fact that there's a vision to hold it in key urban centres in Canada and not necessarily in the same venue.

"There are some good advantages to that because we would like to broaden our exposure throughout Canada, so the Canadian Open doesn't have to always be in the same place," said Barrett, adding that he isn't scared off by the Open's position right behind the British Open on the tour schedule.

"We've known from the very beginning that that's the location for the Canadian Open. We're evaluating it on the basis that that's its location in the schedule. If I had any form of discomfort, I wouldn't have proceeded this far."

RCGA executive director Scott Simmons and Brad Pelletier, managing director of IMG Canada, which has been working on the deal, are cautiously optimistic about a company with a global profile and an existing tie to golf through the LG Skins Game on board, but Barrett's enthusiasm for the Open is contagious.

"There are lots of wonderful positives to the Canadian Open," Barrett said. "The Canadian Open is one of those rare events in Canada that happens every year and has broad international exposure.

"It's broadcasted live on TV in the United States through CBS and the Golf Channel. It's also broadcasted to over 100 countries around the world. There are very few annual events in Canada with that kind of global reach."


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