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Published on Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Jack Nicklaus opens the Canadian Open today

Says, "I'd hate to see it torn down" when asked about ClubLink's plans

Jack Nicklaus opens the Canadian Open today
Jack Nicklaus at Glen Abbey for 108th Canadian Open
By Herb Garbutt, Oakville Beaver

Jack Nicklaus and the Canadian Open will forever be linked.

But unlike most things associated with the 18-time major champion, that tie does not include victories. Nicklaus finished runner-up at the Canadian Open seven times. And that doesn’t even include 1983 when he finished third, just one shot back of John Cook and Johnny Miller.

“My wife kept saying to me, “I’m sending you back until you do it right,” Nicklaus said Tuesday as he helped open the 108th edition of the Canadian Open. “She sent me back every year and I never could quite get it right.”

But as much as Nicklaus is known for his near-misses north of the border, his ties to the Canadian Open are far stronger because of Glen Abbey Golf Club. Nicklaus left a lasting imprint on our national championship and on Oakville when he created his first solo course design on the 229-acre property.

Nicklaus was already a four-time runner-up at the Canadian Open when he was tabbed to design a permanent home for the tournament. He was coming off back-to-back second-place finishes when Glen Abbey made its debut in 1977.

But his detailed knowledge of the course’s intricacies did nothing to change his luck. He finished fourth.

With Glen Abbey entrenched as the Canadian Open’s home, Nicklaus was always at the top of the leaderboard as he pursued the one championship that eluded him. Between 1981 and 1985, Nicklaus finished second three times and third once on the course he designed.

But though he never saw his name added to the wall of champions, outside the clubhouse, Nicklaus clearly had a winner in Glen Abbey.

Even after Nicklaus played his last Canadian Open two decades ago, his course has continued to provide highlights that have become part of Canadian golf lore, from Tiger Woods’ bunker shot on the 18th hole, to John Daly’s 390-yard drive into Sixteen Mile Creek on the 11th hole.

“It’s served it’s purpose pretty well,” Nicklaus said as Glen Abbey prepared to host the Canadian Open for the 29th time. “How long Glen Abbey is going to serve its purpose is another question.”

And the question everyone wanted to know the answer to was how Nicklaus felt about the course becoming a housing development, as its owner ClubLink applied to do two years ago.

“It is what it is,” Nicklaus said. “I’d hate to see it torn down but progress moves on.”

Though having the legendary golfer at the Canadian Open as the country celebrated its 150th birthday was a nice touch, Nicklaus’ presence at Glen Abbey this year wasn’t a coincidence. With Glen Abbey’s days seemingly numbered, Nicklaus is in the area to scout new locations for a course that could become a new permanent home to the Canadian Open.

“We’re working on it,” said the 77-year-old Nicklaus, who has designed more than 400 courses since Glen Abbey. “It’s a work in progress. We are looking at property and trying to settle on something that may work out, nothing is signed or anything else, but we’re trying to figure out what we’re trying to do.”

Glen Abbey may have been surpassed in terms of prestige in the eyes of Canadian golfers, in some cases by Nicklaus’ own designs. On Score Golf’s list of Canada’s top 100 courses, Glen Abbey has slipped down the list into the 80s.

But it occupies a disadvantaged spot on the golf landscape. It is too old to have the new car smell of the 34 courses on the list that have opened since 2000, nor does it have the history of the 26 that opened prior to 1940. Only two courses on the list, including Glen Abbey, opened between 1962 and 1979.

Unfortunately, it will never likely see the day where it swings back into favour as it fully matures as a golf course. And it will surely be missed if and when the bulldozers arrive.

But rather than mourn Glen Abbey, Nicklaus would prefer to give the Canadian Open another win, even if it never returned the favour.

“If we did this golf course 41 years ago this way, I think we can do something better today,” he said. “I think I’ve gotten better.”

That sounds like someone who is willing to come back and do it right again.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

Categories: News

Tags: ClubLink , Glen Abbey Golf Course , Canadian Open

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