Golf star Phil Mickelson hopes to bring RBC Canadian Open to Calgary

WATCH ABOVE: One of the biggest names in golf was in Calgary, and as Global’s Kevin Smith reports, he was sharing his vision for a family friendly golf course that could also host the best players in the world.

CALGARY—Phil Mickelson, one of golf’s all-time greats and most popular players, hopes that a new course he is designing in Calgary will bring the RBC Canadian Open to Alberta for the first time in nearly six decades.

“We will anticipate this will hold the Canadian Open,” Mickelson said at a press conference to showcase the course he’s designing near the Springbank Airport, just north-west of the city.

Mickelson, 45, has won 42 PGA Tour tournaments, including five major championships and is one of the most widely recognized golfers in the game’s history. The course, called Mickelson National and expected to operate as a private club, was commissioned by Windmill Golf, the operator of several Alberta golf courses, and is expected to open in 2018.

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Mickelson, who spent parts of two days out at the site of the course, has only designed a handful of facilities, working alongside his design partner and former coach, Rick Smith.

“The details of this project are what will make it special and what will make it unique,” Mickelson said.

“We were handed a blank canvas and as long we put in the thought and effort to come at it from all different angles, I think we’ll create something enjoyable for the average guy to play, challenging for the tour player, and in addition to that, enjoyable for the spectators who come out to watch.”

The Canadian Open last appeared in Alberta in 1958 when it was held at Royal Mayfair in Edmonton. There has been interest in seeing the tournament return to Alberta, but given Calgary’s elevation, golf balls fly about 10 per cent longer in the city. That means creating what would appear on paper to be a monster of a golf course—over 7,600 yards long—but in reality it would play much shorter.

Mickelson talked at length about making a golf course that could be played and enjoyed not only by the bombers on the PGA Tour who regularly launch balls over 300 yards, but also for recreational players, and especially kids. Saying that growing the game of golf and involving children in the sport is important to him, Mickelson said the course will offer tees for junior players to allow them to enjoy the game with their parents.

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Mickelson, who demonstrated time and again that he knew the smallest details about the project, said it was important for him to spend time on site while the course was being shaped. That way he can really work on the nuances of the design, he said.

“We don’t open for three years… but this early we are starting to grade some of the holes,” he said. “It was important to get out here early enough so when we start grading we are on the same page.”

Mickelson, who was picked for the American team at the Presidents Cup that will battle an international squad in October, said he wouldn’t rule out playing a Canadian Open in Calgary should his course hold the event. That said, given its opening, it is likely that the course wouldn’t hold the tournament until Mickelson was in his early fifties.

“I feel some of my best golf is ahead of me,” said Mickelson, who hasn’t won since capturing the British Open in 2013.

Regardless of whether he’s there, Mickelson said he’s being given a rare opportunity to create a pure golf course.

“We were given the ability to create the greatest possible golf experience—an intimate and fun challenge for players of all ages and skill levels,” he said.

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