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Golf Canada officials defend returning to Glen Abbey; future remains uncertain

07/23/2015 07:00 EDT | Updated 07/23/2016 05:59 EDT
OAKVILLE, Ont. - Glen Abbey is a road well-travelled for the Canadian Open, and Golf Canada officials don't consider that a bad thing.

The Canadian Open is back at Glen Abbey Golf Club for the 27th time this week, for the second time in three years and fourth in the past eight. It'll also be at the Oakville course next year.

Golf Canada hasn't yet chosen a site for 2017, a decision that must be made with title sponsor RBC, and the possibility exists that Glen Abbey will host three years in a row. Golf Canada CEO Scott Simmons insisted Wednesday morning that no decision had been made, even with back-to-back events happening at the same venue.

"This is a little bit of an experiment for us," Simmons said. "We're looking at every possible option or angle. And the only constant in life is change. There's always continual change. I think what we're trying this year with '15 and '16 at the Abbey is, 'What can we learn from back-to-backs?'"

Simmons, president Paul McLean and first-year tournament director Brent McLaughlin hope having the Canadian Open at Glen Abbey two years in a row generates some local and national momentum. McLaughlin, who is also running the Canadian Pacific Women's Open at Vancouver Country Club next month, pointed to infrastructure as one positive of staying in the same place.

Beyond next year, though, there's plenty of uncertainty. Glen Abbey hosted the Canadian Open 16 times in a row from 1981-1996, and given its popularity and proximity to Toronto would make sense as a permanent or semi-permanent home for golf's third-oldest open championship.

But McLaughlin said "Golf Canada's mandate has always been to move our championships around the country," and Simmons upon becoming CEO assured the tournament would move around the country.

"I said, 'This is a national open, we are going to move it around,'" Simmons said. "And we have, we did and we will continue going forward."

McLaughlin wondered if the ideal solution might be to have a semi-permanent location. Title sponsor RBC seems to prefer Glen Abbey, and it's popular with players and Toronto-area golf fans.

The debate, which Golf Canada continues to have, is how to measure success of the Canadian Open. Ticket sales, sponsor and player happiness and community benefit are among the factors.

"Should we treat it as a commercial exercise or an exercise of putting on the best event that the players love that may not be the best commercial success?" McLean said. "I think we're trying to balance those two things."

Simmons didn't want to delve into the 2017 selection process other than to say Glen Abbey was an option and that Golf Canada had at least spoken with past hosts. That would mean Royal Montreal, Hamilton, Shaughnessy (Vancouver), Angus Glen (Markham, Ont.) and St. George (Toronto) have at some point been considered.

But the long-term future of the event is also cloudy. Golf Canada's contracts with RBC and the PGA Tour are up after 2017.

"Who knows what the nuances of that will dictate in terms of where we go '18 and beyond," Simmons said. "Right now it's fluid."

Future sites for the Canadian Open remain undetermined, while the U.S. Golf Association on Wednesday set out its plan through 2024. The U.S. Open will go back to The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., outside Boston in 2022, Los Angeles Country Club in 2023 and return to Pinehurst in North Carolina in 2024.

The Masters is the world's premier golf tournament and held annually at Augusta in Georgia, while the so-called fifth major, The Players Championship, has been held at the Tournament Players Club in Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., since 1982. The U.S. and British Opens move around.

The future of the Canadian Open is very much up in the air, though Simmons said in his opinion it shouldn't be at the same course every year.

"I don't see a world where the RBC Canadian Open isn't going to other parts of the country," he said. "I don't see that."

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