If there’s one word that describes this year’s Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship, it’s history.
Hosted by The Royal Ottawa GC in Gatineau, Que., and co-hosted by Eagle Creek GC in Dunrobin, Ont., it marks the first time the renowned championship — any of Golf Canada’s national championships, actually — has taken place in two separate provinces.
“It’s also interesting in that it’s the first time the drinking age has been different at both clubs too,” says Adam Helmer, Golf Canada’s director of rules and competitions, with a hearty chuckle.
Joking aside, Helmer says he is thrilled to have this year’s Canadian Amateur at such a historically important club like The Royal Ottawa. He’s eager for this year’s championship to begin.
“It’s such a storied club. This is where the Canadian Amateur began, and where Golf Canada began. We’re really excited to return,” he explains.
The history of The Royal Ottawa is robust, and it’s no wonder the club will be hosting a number of events to celebrate its 125th anniversary throughout the summer. It will have a kick-off event on April 15 (it’s around that date the club was founded in 1891), and over Canada Day weekend, the club will host its reciprocal clubs and ‘Royal’ affiliate clubs from around the world (there are five in Canada).
First established as the nine-hole Ottawa GC near the city’s current downtown core, the club moved to the Quebec side of the border not long after that, quite close to where a casino now stands. It moved to its current spot in 1903 and opened in 1904. It received its Royal designation from King George V in 1912.
Head professional Paul Carrothers says he approached Golf Canada (then the Royal Canadian Golf Association) in 2006 to say that the club’s 125th anniversary was approaching and they wanted to host the Canadian Amateur. The club also hosted the inaugural Canadian Amateur in 1895.
“At the time they were booked up to 2012, but we got slotted in for 2016. At the same time, we took the 2010 Canadian Mid-Amateur as part of the deal,” Carrothers explains.
Meanwhile, Eagle Creek — a Ken Venturi design (the Hall of Famer’s only Canadian layout) — is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
“It’s the biggest event in Canada for amateur golf, and we’re proud to co-host,” explains Ryan Little, Eagle Creek’s director of operations. “It’s the signature event for our 25th anniversary.”
Built through 230 acres of forest, the course features large greens and challenging, yet receptive holes. Water is a big part of the challenge at Eagle Creek, while the course sits just over 7,000 yards in length.
“Eagle Creek is one of the top courses in the region and this is an awesome opportunity to get the name out there and put on a good show for the players,” says Little. “I think the players are going to see a completely different course then what they’re seeing at The Royal Ottawa. It’s very remote, parkland-style. It’ll be really exciting.”
The Royal Ottawa, which also hosted the 1906 and 1911 Canadian Opens, sits at just over 6,600 yards, and although it’s not long by modern standards, it boasts some of the toughest greens in the area.
This year’s Canadian Amateur champion, according to Carrothers, will likely be a wizard around the greens.
“They have to be a putter, and they need to have a good short game. You’re dealing with very fast, small greens that are subtle in their breaks, but can play havoc if you don’t put the ball in the right spot,” he explains. “You could easily have four or five putts.”
Both clubs are also excited to offer opportunities to their members to play in the championship.
Golf Canada has given The Royal Ottawa three automatic entries, one of which is going to its current club champion. It will host an open event for members in June, along with another event in the summer that will reward both winners with a spot in the championship.
The Royal Ottawa is also hosting a pre-qualifier for the event, and “hopefully there will be some local representation there as well,” according to Carrothers.
There is one exemption from Eagle Creek already locked in, and the club is hosting a qualifier for all ClubLink members this summer for another spot.
“We want to really get our membership behind all of this. It’s a great opportunity for them,” says Little.
The field expanded to 240 players in 2010 as part of an effort to get an ‘A’ ranking for the event, according to Helmer. The ranking was established at the same time the World Amateur Golf Rankings were formalized, and Helmer says the Canadian Amateur is “pretty close.”
“The exemptions are the big carrot. Having the RBC Canadian Open exemption helps, and our U.S. Amateur exemption helps too,” he explains.
The Canadian Amateur is sandwiched between the Western Amateur and the U.S. Amateur, and right before that is the Porter Cup. That makes four huge amateur events in North America all happening around the same time.
“We’re hoping our combination of The Royal Ottawa/Eagle Creek, and Toronto Golf Club in 2017 will help translate our championship into an ‘A’ ranking,” Helmer states.
Whatever the ranking, the Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship continues to play an important role in Canadian golf history. And this year’s championship will no doubt provide another chapter.
Capital city clash
This article was originally published in the May 2016 edition of Golf Canada Magazine. To view the full magazine, click the image to the left.