In this week that was supposed to be RBC Canadian Open week, a gnarled media room warrior feeling somewhat lost without it might be tempted to wander back to weeks in which the national championship was actually played and conjured up some fine memories that haven’t faded with time.
For example, it was 10 years ago at St. George’s in Toronto, where this year’s Open was supposed to be played, that a personable young man won his first of two consecutive Rivermead Cups as low Canadian.
Adam Hadwin was playing on what was the Canadian Tour at the time and wasn’t well known, but that began to change, not only in 2010, but especially the following year at Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club, when he had the nation behind him as he entered the final round just one shot off the lead, but eventually tied for fourth.
Ten years later, Hadwin is an established player on the PGA Tour with one win and a couple of appearances in the Presidents Cup and still a sound bet to end that nasty drought that has deprived a Canadian of winning the national title since Pat Fletcher did it in 1954. Hadwin isn’t the only one to make good runs at winning it – the names Richard Zokol, Mike Weir, David Hearn and Jared du Toit come to mind.
Speaking of 2010, that was the year in which I sat down with Erik Estrada, who was making like his TV character “Ponch” Poncherello in the police drama series CHiPs. Estrada seemingly hadn’t aged and when we did an impromptu photo shoot of him arresting me, I thought he was going to break my arm.
There was Tiger’s famous shot from the bunker to win 20 years ago, Carl Petterson’s near 59 before settling for 60 in the third round in 2010, the remnants of Hurricane Fran blowing through, turning umbrellas inside out in 1996 at Glen Abbey as the Open was reduced to 54 holes and …
Sorry, I digress. I knew that would happen.
Since there is no present, as far as the RBC Canadian Open being played this week, one needn’t go back 10, 20, 30, 40 or even more years ago, to when Dick Grimm and Jack Nicklaus were making their marks on the national championship.
More recent history nicely sets up the future, which is what counts with the RBC Canadian Open these days.
It’s nearly two years ago that it was announced that the dates would be changed from that dreadful spot on the PGA Tour schedule behind the British Open to the first week of June, just before the U.S. Open. It didn’t hurt that the overall purse had been bumped up from $6.4 million to $7.6 million.
The 2019 Canadian Open was to be played at the prestigious Hamilton Golf and Country Club, while it’s now official that next year’s will go at St. George’s, just as it was supposed to be in 2020.
If that wasn’t enough, the 2019 edition became part of the British Open qualifying series and the leading three players in the top 10 and ties who were not already exempt moved on to Royal Portrush. Hadwin was among the qualifying players after finishing sixth to win another Rivermead Cup.
— Ty Costigan (@ty_cost) June 10, 2020
When the players were off the course, RBC hosted a concert series that featured Florida Georgia Line and The Glorious Sons on the Friday and Saturday night. A concert series was also planned for this year and, I suspect, the same will hold true for 2021.
It all paid off as a field that included Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, and Justin Thomas showed up at Hamilton last year, when the week began with a touching induction of longtime Kent State coach Herb Page and former PGA Tour Champions player Rod Spittle into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.
It ended with McIlroy firing a magnificent nine-under 61 for a dominant seven-shot win before embracing the championship trophy and the same Raptors fever that Southern Ontario was in due to the eventual NBA champs.
That’s the most recent memory of the RBC Canadian Open that fans will carry forward for not one, but two years, and it’s a pretty sweet one.
I have a feeling that when next year’s national championship rolls around, fans will respond just as golfers did when they went without the game due to the pandemic, only to fill the fairways when courses finally opened.
When the 2021 Open is played, those who cherished their memories will be creating new ones, considering the trajectory the national championship is on.