VANCOUVER - It could be Open season again at Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club in 2015.
The private Southwest Marine Drive layout recently informed its members by letter that it has had discussions with Golf Canada about playing host to the 2015 RBC Canadian Open.
“Shaughnessy is probably ranked the highest by the players of any of the courses we play,” Golf Canada president Mike Carroll said in an interview Monday. “In terms of feedback that has come from the players, they really love Shaughnessy.”
Shaughnessy has played host to the event twice in the last nine years. In 2005, Mark Calcavecchia beat Ben Crane and Ryan Moore by one shot and in 2011, Sean O’Hair defeated Kris Blanks in a playoff. Shaughnessy was also the site of the 1966 Canadian Open won by Don Massengale.
Shaughnessy general manager Jason Sigurdson said discussions with Golf Canada are still at the early stage.
“Our official position is that to date we have really only had preliminary discussions with Golf Canada.” Sigurdson said Monday. “ We have made our membership aware of where we are in initial discussions. . .we are not going to do anything without the blessing of the membership, certainly.”
If the Open does return to Shaughnessy in 2015, the course figures to be set up a little more player-friendly. In both 2005 and 2011, the rough was long and gnarly and the scores were high. Calcavecchia won with a score of five-under par in 2005, while O’Hair was four-under two years ago.
“There were two schools of thought about it,” Carroll said. “One was, this is great, this is our national Open and we should have the golf course playing that way for a national Open championship.
“On the other hand, there were people like Ernie Els who said this is a pretty rough go because we have just come from the British Open and we’re heading to the PGA Championship and it’s a pretty tough grind.”
It was also tough on Shaughnessy members, who had to endure a difficult course while the fairways were narrowed and the rough was grown in the many weeks leading up to the tournament.
“I think all of those things put together mean that this time around the course is going to play easier,” Carroll said. “I don’t think there is much doubt about that.”
Carroll, a Vancouver lawyer who is serving a one-year term as Golf Canada president, acknowledged that it becomes more difficult for Golf Canada to turn a profit on the Canadian Open when it moves the event out West.
“It costs us more to run the tournament at Shaughnessy than it does at Glen Abbey or probably anywhere in the Greater Toronto area,” Carroll said. “There are several reasons for that. One is just moving equipment to the West Coast. The second is the corporate hospitality, because of the Toronto market it usually does a little bit better. The offset is that Glen Abbey it is not a private club so there are no members to get corporate sales humming, whereas at Shaughnessy the members are pretty active at trying to sell it.
“On the whole I think it’s fair to say it’s more difficult to make money with the tournament here than it would be in Toronto. But the offset to that is we’re getting so much good publicity on the PGA Tour from the players about playing at these different courses. We couldn’t come here every year, for sure, but as far as I am concerned it is great to be able to come here as much as we reasonably can.”
The 2014 Canadian Open has been awarded to Royal Montreal Golf Club, which last played host to the event in 2001.
There was some speculation after last month’s Canadian Open at Glen Abbey that tournament sponsor RBC might be interested in using its leverage with the PGA Tour to turn the event into a FedEx Cup playoff event.
Carroll said he personally would be opposed to such a move.
“It wouldn’t be our national Open anymore because the field is dictated by the PGA Tour,” he said. “One of the big pluses for the tournament for us is that we can get a number of Canadians into the field and as far as we are concerned at Golf Canada, that is important for us.
“On the other hand, at the end of the day the title sponsor will basically have the call on it. If an opportunity came and RBC said ‘we want to be a FedEx event’ it would be pretty hard for us to say no.”
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Sean O'Hair tees off on 1st hole during first round play at the 2012 Canadian Open at the Hamilton Golf and County Club in Ancaster, Ont., on Thursday, July 26, 2012. O'Hair won the 2011 Canadian Open at Shaughnessy,
Photograph by: Dave Chidley, THE CANADIAN PRESS