Hamilton likely to get '06 Open

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

The Royal Canadian Golf Association hopes to finalize a site shortly for the 2006 Bell Canadian Open.

The 2006 Open is scheduled to be played at a new course in Montreal being built by Toronto-area businessman Art Stollery, who also owns Angus Glen Golf Club in Markham.

But with only 23 months to go, it's clear the new course will not be ready in time and the RCGA must decide on an alternate venue as soon as its contractual obligation to the new Montreal course expires at the end of this month.

The likely alternate venue would be Hamilton Golf and Country Club, coming off its successful turn as host of the 2003 Bell Canadian Open.

Such a move would have to be approved by the club membership and, while the members were proud of how their course was received in 2003, it is not a cinch they would vote in favour again so soon.

"We expect there will be a meeting within the next few days between the key parties," RCGA spokesman Victor Cui said yesterday.

A major complicating factor is that Bell Canada, the title sponsor, wants the tournament to be played in Montreal sooner rather than later.

Next year's event is scheduled in Vancouver and the Open in 2007 is contracted to Angus Glen. Unless a Montreal venue can be secured for 2006, the earliest it could be staged in Montreal would be 2008.

Another complicating factor is the 2007 Presidents Cup Matches which are expected to be played at Royal Montreal Golf Club, though an official announcement has not been made.

RENOVATIONS

The 2007 Presidents Cup is tentatively scheduled the week after the Canadian Open, which is slated for Angus Glen's North Course in early September. That course must undergo massive renovations before it is suitable for a PGA Tour event.

After struggling to maintain a high profile, the Bell Canadian Open is on a roll the past two years. In 2003, the Hamilton layout impressed spectators and players alike and the word of mouth response on the tour has been significant.

The 2004 Open at Glen Abbey, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the event, was another unqualified success, with Vijay Singh and Mike Weir battling down the stretch and into extra holes before Singh won.

The momentum is expected to continue through next year's event at Shaugnessy in Vancouver, another venerable course that is being talked about by the touring pros in positive terms.

In order to maintain the high levels of enthusiasm, 2006 and 2007 are important decisions for Bell and the RCGA.


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