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Fore! We stand on guard for thee?

A snapshot of the  final hole  at Glen Abbey Golf Club during the 2013 Canadian Open Golf Championship.

A snapshot of the final hole at Glen Abbey Golf Club during the 2013 Canadian Open Golf Championship.

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.

Professional golfer exiting the 18th green at Glen abbey during the Canadian OPen, shakes the hand of a Canadian military man.

Professional golfer exiting the 18th green at Glen Abbey during the Canadian Open, shakes the hand of a Canadian military man.

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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.

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2013 in Articles, Commentaries & Critiques

 

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Bang, Bang You’re Dead!

Recently I saw an item on television about young boys playing the game War. When I was a kid we called that game Guns.  One of our gang had a small plot of woods behind his home. He also owned a very impressive collection of realistic looking toy guns including one I particularly coveted, a World War II German Luger.

The game would begin with the selection of weapons. Some of the guys didn’t own guns and we’d share whenever possible, but sometimes a player would have to find a stick that looked something like a gun or less satisfactory, resort to using a cocked thumb and finger.

We meet after school or on a weekend. The rules were simple. First we’d choose up sides. “The Defenders”, thought of as the good guys, would hide in the woods. The enemy would be the attackers. The point of the game was to “Kill” one side before they “Killed” you. The real point of the game however, was to feel the boyish joy of outfoxing a friend.

The enemy would have to keep their backs turned until the good guys had hidden themselves. No peeking.  They could attack after the defenders had yelled “Ready”.  Neither side could shoot until the attacking team had entered the woods and themselves taken cover. The weapon of each player had a predetermined number of bullets and the player was bound by the honour system to keep count of the number of shots he had fired. No cheating.

“Bang, Bang You’re Dead” was probably the one imperative of Guns.  Attacker or Defender mattered not. Once these words were spoken, all action came to a halt. Everyone froze. No movement was allowed by anyone on till it was determined if someone was indeed Dead or only wounded. Making this determination was a ritualistic process which allowed no dissimulation. The crux of our boyhood code of honour was confronted here. Within the context of the game, it was a matter of life or death. But among us it was a matter of friendship and trust.

None of the other players could be called him to help decide who was dead or wounded. After all they would have to give up their hiding places. No, this decision was between two friends, the shooter and the shot.

When “Bang, Bang You’re Dead” was heard followed by the name of the victim, the victim would say to the shooter, “Where am I and how much of me do you see?” The shooter would then have to answer. For instance, “I see the top of your cap and you’re behind that bush with a few leaves on it.” (A dead bush or a pile of leaves was considered adequate cover.) And then a kind of dance began. “How much of my cap can you see?” “I can see all of it down to the very top of the brim”. “Okay, I’m dead, but you have to show yourself”.

By revealing himself the shooter could prove whether or not he’d had a clear shot and if so, the matter ended and the ‘Dead” boy  had to leave the woods to await the final outcome of the game. If he had only been wounded, say only his shoulder had been visible, he could continue on until killed or wounded a second time by which he was considered dead. The shooter could hide again and the game would continue. It was during these Gun moments that for the first time I seriously confronted issues of honor among friends.

I remember a game when I had found a really neat hiding place from which I was sure I could shoot one and possibly two members of the opposing team without ever being discovered myself. In my warm corduroy jacket, snuggled down among damp leaves and hidden behind a fallen log, I had only a peep hole from which to shoot and was certain I’d never be seen by the enemy. I was thrilled by the feeling of anticipation and  invincibility, but I was disappointed.

A game would invariably uncover the need for more rules or the tweaking of an existing rule. These variants were usually  debated in a hideaway we’d found in the woods. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were growing up. We were experiencing our first committee meetings, our first attempts at determining the course of future events. It was all great fun and then we’d go home for dinner.

Friendships were cemented by this game and many of its rules, our rules, remained with us as we went on to other more serious games. I remember the game as an example of cooperative independence. Each of us was responsible for ourselves, but in order to enjoy the game, we had to commit to working with our buddies. We learned to accept the group’s rules and expected them to be observed by everyone.

When Stephen Harper (b. 1959) was first elected prime minister of Canada  in 2006 he proclaimed his desire to make Canada a player on the world stage. He did that by agreeing to play guns with George W. Bush. Harper cast his lot with a despised president and a  nation in an advanced state of  dissolution.

Although Canada’s military involvement as combatants in the wars with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan had probably been planned prior to his election, it was Harper who implemented those plans. Thus Canada became a major player on the world stage, but in a way most Canadians had never thought possible nor desirable.

Canada had always been perceived as a nation of peace and militarily, a peacekeeping nation. In one stroke Harper change that perception. Now Canada is a nation of war and a war making nation and its military children are dying.

Today friends are not playing games in backyard wood lots, its’ alien cultures making real war.  Today the boys and girls who have died and are dying to protect the insatiable avarice of businessmen and stoke the hubris of politicians, were only a few short years ago playing far gentler games. Today they no longer come home for dinner. They arrive in body bags and their homecomings haunt us.

 
 

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