Saturday, November 7th, 2009
Kandahar Open delights troops
One Canadian Open had rain problems Thursday and golfers stayed in the clubhouse — the other had 50C heat and the golfers hooted and hollered with delight.
“It’s hilarious,” said Winnipeg’s Bill Pigden, organizer of the other Canadian Open, and one of many people each chugging 30 bottles of water daily this week while building the golf course.
Oh — did we mention that Pigden’s golf tournament is in Kandahar?
It’s the first Kandahar Canadian Open, laughed Pigden, and it’s duplicating on a much smaller scale Ontario’s prestigious Glen Abbey golf course within a soccer-field-sized patch of rock-hard Afghan desert on the base in Kandahar.
A retired major, Pigden now works as one of 77 civilians in the Canadian Forces Personnel Support Agency in Kandahar, overseeing recreational programs to boost morale.
“I saw it was the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Open — I thought, what a great opportunity to do something here.”
The Royal Canadian Golf Association co-operated with technical information about the Glen Abbey layout, he said.
“I had one problem, no water — desert,” chuckled Pigden.
Not just desert, but hard-as-concrete desert, he said.
Braving plus-50 temperatures during the day, his crews removed rocks from the course, put down sand, rolled it, put in some rises and depressions, laid down carpeting, and used some really serious power tools to drill holes in the desert.
“We’ve got some indoor-outdoor carpeting from Rona. We’ve got some putters,” said Pigden.
The course is near Tim Hortons and the volleyball courts.
Pigden charges $5 for a round of golf, with all proceeds going to Soldier On, an organization helping wounded veterans. The golfers played under lights Thursday when it’s a tad cooler in the evening, with lots of enthusiastic spectators.
“There were about 100 went through today. We’re expecting a lot more through Friday and Saturday,” Pigden said. “Tonight we had Dutch, French, Americans, Canadians, some Brits. There’s a lot of hooting and hollering. A lot of people are signing up.”
Pigden took on the course himself, shooting an 82. He emphasized that while it’s a small course and golfers only use putters, it’s not mini-golf with windmills and other gimmicks, it’s a to-scale version of the Glen Abbey course with changing elevation and angles.
“I actually had a double-eagle one hole, the next hole I four-putted,” he said.
Pigden said that as many golfers as possible will play the course, and on Sunday the top 36 will go for the championship. “We’re trying to finish at the same time” as that other Canadian Open, Pigden said.
At least, the hardy golfers will finish on time in Kandahar. Those others at Glen Abbey….we’ll find out Sunday if they’ve been deterred by rain.
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