Royal Canadian Golf Association

he Royal Canadian Golf Association made several announcements Monday about enhancements to Canada’s only PGA Tour stop, to be played this year at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont., July 24-27.

Among them is an attempt to make the week of our Open a festival of Canadian golf.

It will kick off by moving the Score Awards — a variety of categories in Canadian golf — from May to Monday night of Open week. And on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings after golf is complete, concerts featuring Blue Rodeo, 54/40 and Tom Cochrane will take place in the amphitheatre built in the spectator village at Glen Abbey.

RCGA CEO and executive director Scott Simmons and RBC Canadian Open tournament director Bill Paul also said they are pulling out all the stops to cater to players and their families, with the hope of attracting a better field. That includes again chartering a jet to fly players from England to Toronto after play concludes Sunday night at the British Open.

Simmons and Open organizers, including representatives from RBC, the new title sponsor that signed on last November, met with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and his team earlier this month to lay out the new five-year vision for improving our Open. Simmons said they were received enthusiastically.

Paul said Monday he has commitments from several players to play our Open, including from Jim Furyk, who will go for a three-peat.

Among the others who have signed to play are Sean O’Hair, Retief Goosen, Fred Couples, 2005 champ Mark Calcavecchia and Canadians Mike Weir and Stephen Ames.

Simmons said the RCGA continues to make its case to the PGA Tour about improving the date (it’s unlikely to change in the next four years), but there’s a hint of a new strategy here — no more whining.

“This date has its challenges following the British Open, but there are also a number of benefits,” Simmons said. “Being after the FedEx Cup playoffs is not preferable. We’re happy we’re in July, in the summer, with great weather. There are better dates, yes, but what we really have to do is to do everything in our power to attract players, corporate Canada and spectators, and if we take care of all those, we’ll be happy.

“We think if we take care of our event, the rest will take care of itself. We’d like to (be considered) for other dates, but that decision is made in consultation with the Tour. We’re not waiting for a date change to make our event great.”

Golf has a new presence and a new selection method on the national stage with the sport’s addition to the 2009 Canada Games in P.E.I.

All 10 provinces have adopted an advance-preparation model for the competition, and in Manitoba, the process began earlier this spring with the selection of 16 players between the ages of 15 and 17. All must be 18 or younger when the games begin.

Rather than just appointing the three boys’ and three girls’ entries a week or two before the Games, or using next summer’s provincial junior as the measuring stick, Golf Manitoba has chosen to begin training squads for both boys and girls.

Chosen for the first phase are:

Adrian Kibsey (Southwood), Burke Wiebe (Southwood), Lyle MacKenzie (Southwood), Jeff Bassey (St. Charles), Myles Sullivan (Portage), Steve Minion (Breezy Bend), Alex Crawford (Breezy Bend) and Ryan Pitzel (Rossmere) on the boys’ side.

Jessie Choi (Public Players), Ashley Fredette (Niakwa), Kayla Ketcheson (Larters), Nicole McGlenen (St. Charles), Alyssa Moon (Portage), Jenna Roadley (Glendale), Lindsay Stewart (Selkirk) and Bri-Ann Tokariwski (Selkirk) on the girls’ side.

The squads have already begun training activities, including mental game, fitness, diet, skill development and on-course play. An evaluation will take place near the end of summer, when additions or subtractions to the squads may be made.

“From our standpoint, this is extremely exciting to be able to work for 18 months with 16 young players to train them,” said Golf Manitoba executive director Dave Comaskey.

The intense process will continue through next season, when it’s expected that a variety of on-course competitions will ultimately determine the province’s representatives in P.E.I.

A unique opportunity awaits eager players next weekend at Fast Golf on the west Perimeter Highway.

A major demo day is scheduled for Saturday between 1 and 4 p.m. at the range and three-hole golf course. It will include Titleist, Cobra, Callaway, Taylor Made, Srixon, Ping and Jazz in an assembly of most of the major equipment manufacturers.

It’s an ideal chance to try out that driver or the irons you’ve had your eye on, and better, to compare them to what’s out there in new technology.

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