While other Canadian courses may eclipse Glen Abbey in the minds of critics, no other facility can claim to have witnessed as many great moments in Canadian golf.
Undoubtedly more drama will be seen on the fairways and greens of the Oakville, Ont. course when it plays host to the RBC Canadian Open once again. Since it first held the tournament in 1977, Glen Abbey, a high-end public course owned by ClubLink Corp., has held Canada’s top tournament a total of 25 times, with the 26th playing coming this week.
“It is my first solo design, and it is a pretty good golf course,” said Jack Nicklaus in 1999, who designed the course that first opened in 1976. “I don’t think it is the most difficult golf course in the world, but I certainly don’t think it is the easiest golf course. I think it has served its purpose very well for the Canadian Open. It’s been very popular over the years. I think that is a very positive reflection on the golf course.”
Given the number of greats who have played it over that time – ranging from Nicklaus, who never won at the course he designed, through to Lee Trevino, Greg Norman and Tiger Woods – Glen Abbey was witnessed numerous great moments.
Perhaps no event is more connected to Glen Abbey than Woods’ famed 6-iron out of the right fairway bunker on the 18th hole during his dual with Grant Waite in 2000. With the tournament on the line Woods hit his drive into the bunker and faced a daunting shot over a pond to the green. Woods’ shot out of the bunker cleared the water and nestled just off the right side of the green, allowing him to better Waite. Many have said is the golfer’s most legendary shot in a career filled with legendary shots. Said Woods: “It was pretty good, but I keep telling everybody I didn’t hit the green. I hit it over the green. It wasn’t really that good.”
Calc’s incredible run
During a tournament where rain brutalized Glen Abbey, Mark Calcavecchia did something never before accomplished on the PGA Tour. With his son caddying for him, Calcavecchia, starting on the 10th hole in his second round, birdied the par three 12th and then rattled off eight more birdies in a row, setting a new PGA Tour mark for most consecutive birdies.
Canada’s Mike Weir had already captured the imagination of his countrymen when he won the 2003 Masters, success that led to great expectations for the 2004 Canadian Open. Weir, who rarely played well at the Abbey until that point, found himself at the top of the leaderboard in the fourth round with the hope of becoming the first Canadian to win the tournament since Pat Fletcher in 1954. Unfortunately missed putts on the 13th and 16th holes dropped him into a tie with Vijay Singh, who would eventually better Weir in a playoff.
Nicklaus never won at the course he designed – though he did come close. He finished second seven times at the Canadian Open, and one of this never misses came at the Abbey in 1984. That year Norman hit his ball over the 17th green, an unusually shaped putting surface, with the ball coming to rest under a parked car. A volunteer moved the car, which was actually in play as the out-of-bounds stakes had been taken down. Norman would eventually go on to win.
“I think I won it and had it taken away from me,” Nicklaus said.
Robert Thompson is an award-winning golf writer and best-selling author of five books.