Old course offers new perspective
By KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun
ANCASTER -- While the verdict on the 2003 Canadian Open was in question right to the end, and beyond, there were no lingering doubts about the golf course.
When Hamilton Golf and Country Club was awarded the 2003 Open, there were a lot of raised eyebrows in the golf community.
The fear was that given the power and talent of today's players, coupled with technological advances unknown to Harry Colt when he designed this beautiful layout in 1914, the PGA Tour professionals would bury it under an avalanche of birdies.
Instead, what they got was the best tournament setup that many of the pros can remember. Not just in Canada, but anywhere.
At the end, the question on the lips of most every pro who competed was: "When are we coming back?"
That's a very good question, indeed. The Royal Canadian Golf Association has venue commitments for the tournament through the next four years. Next year, the Canadian Open's centennial celebration will be held at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville.
In 2005, it moves west to Shaugnessy Golf Club in Vancouver, another old-style traditional design much like Hamilton.
In 2006, the tournament is slated to be held at a golf course the RCGA is designing and building in Montreal, though the timeline for that to come to pass seems a bit tight.
Angus Glen Golf Club in Markham, which did such a good job playing host to last year's event on its South Course, has the 2007 Open slated for the North Course.
The RCGA must also go back to Glen Abbey in either 2008 or 2009 as part of the commitment they made when the Abbey was sold to ClubLink.
So, the first opportunity to come back to Hamilton would be whichever of those two years is available. First and foremost, though, the membership at Hamilton, one of the more exclusive courses around, has to want to have it back.
When it voted on whether to accept the RCGA's invitation to host the 2003 event, about 80% of the membership voted in favour. It remains to be seen how it would react to a second request but clearly anybody who is a member at Hamilton is beaming with pride today. And with good reason.
The golf course not only survived its first challenge by the best players on the planet in 70 years, it sent a lot of them away with their tail between their legs though even those suitably chastened players vowed to be back.
Even in defeat, Brad Faxon wasn't about to leave without paying an additional compliment to the quality of the course.
"Last week, we played a 7,400 (-yard) course in Boston and the winning score was 20-under," he said. "I don't think any of us who came in here to play our practice rounds would have believed that this course (at 6,930) would finish at eight-under.
"This place rivals all the great old courses we play in the United States: Westchester (New York), Riviera (Los Angeles) ... it's similar to the very best courses we play."
In their own individual ways, most every player at this tournament said the same thing: That the golf course was difficult, that the greens were a severe test, that the rough was long enough to make players pay for errant shots but not so long as to be unfair.
"Players have been raving in the locker room about this place all week," said the winner, Bob Tway.
"It's 6,900 yards and we all hit the ball a long way and eight-under-par wins the golf tournament. The course forces you to manage your golf game and I think that's what golf was meant to be.
"I don't know what it is about guys who built courses early in the 1900s, but they knew what they were doing."
The entire experience has been an absolute eye-opener for the RCGA and PGA and even the tournament's title sponsor.
"What has happened here is that this experience has delivered a real message for us about these old established super-tracks," said John Sheridan, Group President, Bell Canada.
And that message is clear: These courses aren't old at all, they're just ageless.