It was 1977 the first time Glen Abbey hosted the Canadian Open. The winner, Lee Trevino, can still remember every single hole on the course. A course that’s quite different now than it was then, something his retelling makes abundantly clear.
“The 9th hole was a very difficult hole for us short hitters, because it was 3-woods. And I watched the guys in the past, and watch this tournament every year, and they’re hitting 8-irons and 7-irons, but these guys hit it 350, 325. We were 240 hitters. Numbers 18 and 16 are a gimme to them now, you know?”
I certainly do. Last year with conditions on the hard, dry side, players were literally driving their balls into the water just some 150 yards in front of the green.
Trevino is far from the only one with distinct memories of this golf course. With development likely to derail chances of continuing Glen Abbey’s run as the home of the Canadian Open, I spoke to a number of people on site this week to find out what they will remember most from the course that, come Sunday, will have hosted this event 30 times.
Favourite Memory or Thought of Glen Abbey
- “I just always dread that 11th tee shot. I really like the golf course, and it’s the shot that’s most memorable to me because it’s the one that I’m most uncomfortable with. I really enjoy the finish here, the last six holes are great fun. Three par fives, a short par three, you have a chance to make a lot of birdies, maybe throw in an eagle, and provide a lot of drama.”
Course Superintendent Andrew Gyba
- “I’m always impressed with how my staff comes together and when we bring volunteer help in, we basically double the size of our crew, so we’re up around the 80 mark with grounds crew and staff this year. It absolutely blows me away. Everything we ask of them: Four a.m. starts and 10 p.m. finishes, finishes at midnight; just how enthusiastic and how optimistic, how happy they are to be out here, and how they come together when people have only known each other for a day or two. It really becomes a tight-knit crew for the week. So, those are my fondest memories, and things that happened behind the scenes, and some of the scrambles and sorts of things that we sneak in here and there. That sort of thing.”
- “I eagled 16 and 18 last year on Sunday to finish top-five, so that was cool. And then obviously watching Tiger hit that shot in 2000. When I first got here four years ago and I recreated the shot for myself, I couldn’t believe how small the window was to get to the back shelf. So if they ever come back to Glen Abbey, that would be great, but that shot, that was one of the best shots to ever be hit.
- “I think of the back nine when I think of Glen Abbey. I think of 18. It being a par-five, all the history that’s happened over the course of the years between playoffs, the shot Tiger hit, it seems like every year it seems like someone has a shot to win, or get into a playoff, or do something. So every time I think of Glen Abbey, I think of 18. The year I won it was kind of uneventful. I had a couple shot lead, which was nice, but still, lots of drama can still happen on that hole.
- “I’m going to be very original here – Tiger Woods, fairway bunker (laughs). No, I’ve had some good finishes here myself, so I have a lot of great memories of being in contention and kind of kicking the tires on a win, and maybe 2018 will be another chance to do that.”
- “Yeah, I mean, I won the PGA coming off of really good vibes here on Sunday, I remember. So, to me, I’ll always remember that I found something really good here at Glen Abbey on Sunday, and went on to win my next start, a major. So, pretty cool.”
- Yeah, certainly Mike Weir and Vijay Singh dueling in 2004, and unfortunately Mike losing in a playoff. Tiger out of the bunker on 18. But, I think what Glen Abbey provides, is an exciting finish. You’ve got the par fives, you’ve got the 18th where anything can happen, it’s a great spectating golf course as well. So, it provides a legitimate challenge for us playing the tournament, but also enough birdies and enough excitement for the fans. It’s just an enjoyable week.”
- “Well, I’ve finished second here twice, so I’ve been very close, so I’ve got a lot of good memories here. Hopefully we can make a better one this year.”
- “I would say the first thing that comes to mind is Tiger’s shot on 18 from the bunker, and that’s probably the only shot that really sticks out to me. I mean, I’ve had some shots that were pretty cool, but nothing even compares to that. If I think of Glen Abbey going forward, if the course ends up becoming a bunch of houses, I’ll still look back at that shot and be like, yeah, that was pretty good.”
- “Tiger comes to mind for me, but I do have a lot of cool memories as a kid coming here to watch the tournament. There was always a group from Listowel Golf Club that would take a bus down and get to watch, and I remember standing watching the 17th green. It’s such a cool shape. Just trying to get as many golf balls as I could from the pros as they finished the hole.
I remember watching when Mike played well a number of years ago. Yeah, a lot of cool experiences. But definitely the first one that comes to mind is Tiger. I think its – I don’t know, I saw it somewhere on social media this morning, like, in case you forgot about that. But, I hadn’t forgot about it. Pretty cool.”
- “I think it’s kind of the people. I’ve always felt that I am just super comfortable around this place. I mean, people are really more my type of personalities. Everyone is more outgoing, everyone goes outside more, walking, doing things, just having a good time, always enjoying the weather when they can, especially this time of the year. Obviously there are a lot of Venezuelan people who live here, so being able to connect with that, I always feel the energy here in this city. It’s always been fun, even when I used to play on the Web.com Tour and drive through here. I’ve always been able to stop here in Toronto for a day or so and hang out in the city.
Obviously I’ve been super lucky to have success on this golf course, so I mean, the closing part, I really hope that the city is smart enough to know not to decide on that. This is such a historic place. Pretty much every great golfer has come here and has won here, so the history that this place has is enormous, one of the oldest championships on the PGA Tour. And like I said, how much history we have on this golf course, it would be a shame to lose it just to be houses.”
While Tiger’s shot may be the first thing that comes to mind for most, there have been 30 years of memories for us all to enjoy. And if this is the last go-around at The Abbey, it’s been a hell of a ride.