My golf playing days are over and a grandson has inherited a new set of used clubs. Now I watch golf on television: The Masters, The US Open, The British Open and The PGA. I’ve pretty much restricted myself to these important tournaments because the weekly run of the mill contests do not challenge the skills and mental endurance of top flight players. They offer none of the career enhancing benefits accruing to a major winner. These weekly schedule fillers are low scoring yawns, predictably boring. This year I added a tournament I had watched during past seasons, but had in recent years ignored, the Canadian Open.
Glen Abbey golf course was opened near Oakville, Ontario in 1976. Intended to be the home of the Canadian Open, Glen Abbey was Jack Nicklaus’ 1st solo design. His name and professional watchfulness over the care and maintenance of the course kept the Canadian Open going for about a decade. Jack was runner-up seven times, but never won first prize. After about ten attempts he stopped attending and in his absence, interest in the Open began to wane with professional golfers and the public. Now with major television coverage, it’s well on the way to being resuscitated, big time.
During this year’s television coverage, two on air interviews by NBC announcer Jim Nantz grabbed my attention. First, an agreement between the RCGA and the PGA was revealed. No details were given, but tickets to an upcoming PGA Canadian Tour event in Morristown, Ontario are now on sale.
Nantz’ second interview involved the President and CEO of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Tim Finchem, PGA Tour Commissioner. This was Finchem’s first appearence at a Canadian Open. During this interview the RBC and PGA officers announced an agreement with fast food giant McDonalds which called for donating a portion of the proceeds from selected tournaments to big Mac’s Ronald McDonald Houses.
Today the Canadian Open is known as the RBC Canadian Open. Canada maintains only 5 banks all chartered by the federal government which strictly supervises their conduct. For this reason the Canadian banks were much less affected by the financial crisis then US banks. Perhaps perceiving a wounded giant, the RBC is making strong inroads into the United States. In military terms their southern offensive is comparable to a quadruple envelopment involving professional golfers and their Professional Golfers Association of America (PGA), the Royal Canadian Golfers Association (RCGA), NBC Television and Big Mac’s Ronald McDonald Houses.
I was neither prepared for nor aware of this coalition’s presence and its effect upon The Canadian Open. For me, the amount of attention given the tournament was difficult to understand. Things became clearer as the week-end progressed. Now, conflicted by a certain pride in the tournament’s new status I’m fearful of how an overly bombastic style of US television and commercialism will alter the tournament’s character.
Along with golfer’s shirts, caps and bags festooned with sponsor tags, the Aflac Duck and the Konica Minolta Bizhub Swing Vision Camera, the new car, mid-lake on a floating island, there are, as predictable as dust, the judgments of network commentators. “That’s the last place you want to be on this hole”, or “He’ll never get up and down from there”, or ”That’s a bogey for sure, maybe a double”, or “How could he have done that?” Week after week a litany of psyco-golf babble. Far worse are the fans who yell “Go in the hole” the instant a clubface meets the ball. Or that almost obcene yokolism “You da man”!
Golf’s Zen like qualities, pastoral settings, casual pace and quiet, contemplative nature are being subsumed by blatant commercialism. I understand the need for sponsorship, but I hope corporations would pursue the wisdom of the Masters tournament sponsors who take only a few minutes from each hour to have their names on air.
After the British Open, I read about a private plane airlifting 100 top PGA golfers and caddies from England to Toronto to participate in the Canadian Open. This in itself was a dramatic departure from past years when the RCGA could not field top international stars, particularly those from the PGA stable. They always managed one or two famous names, but the Open never achieved pizzazz.
Besides being the named sponsor for the Canadian Open, RBC has formed what it calls Team RBC. Its members include venerables Ernie Els (South Africa), Jim Furyk (USA), Mike Weir (Canada) and a slew of flat bellied young stars such as Ireland’s Graeme Mcdowell, known as G-Mac; Brandt Snedeker, this year’s Canadian Open Winner (USA); Luke Donald (England) and among others, Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan both from the USA.
By attracting the world’s top professional golfers the RBC, the PGA of America, the RCGA and MacDonalds have been able to quietly accomplished a major coup, an international prominence for The Canadian Open. They should all be congratulated. I hope the Canadian Open is allowed by all concerned to maintain the dignity that should accompany a National Championship.
P.S. I’m still ruminating on the significanse of a Canadian military man holding the flag on the 18th green. Our Prime Minister has stated his desire to make Canada a player on the world stage. He has a special place in his heart for George Bush, military power and pomp and circumstance. But what has this to do with mid season golf? Most other sports mount displays such as this once or twice a year, opening and closing championship games.
During the Canadian open, Hunter Mahan, leading after 36 holes and just minutes away from teeing off, was told his wife Kandy had gone into labor 3 weeks early. RBC provided him with a private jet to Dallas where he was just a day ahead of Kandy giving birth to their first child. During the NBC broadcasts, this event was inflated into a major news story. Off and on during the afternoon, NBC telecast Mahan’s empty parking space at Glen Abbey.
There is a photograph on Team RBC’s web site showing Brandt Snedeker holding the Canadian Open Trophy upon which RBC skillfully overlaid their logo. Unless one knew better, one could very well believe the logo was engraved on the trophy.