Back in June of 2019, just after Rory McIlroy had won the RBC Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf & Country Club, nobody would have envisaged that it would be three years before we see another playing of our National Open. Fast forward three years and we have just witnessed one of the most successful RBC Canadian Open of the modern era, where Rory was once again crowned the champion….
There are many ingredients that are required to create that success. Yes, you need a world-class field, one which can deliver a world-class leaderboard, that in turn hopefully delivers a world-class champion, but there are many other contributors. Some of these variables you can control, and some you cannot. In my experience you focus on the things that you can control and you let the non-controllable aspects look after themselves. The things that you can’t control, or couldn’t predict, tend to start appearing once the event has started. However, at that point you have to attempt to control them and worst-case scenario, is that you make sure they don’t repeat themselves the next day…. To help with this, I had one major rule that I tried to re-iterate in the build up to the tournament, efficient time management. This may sound slightly strange, but it was important that for around 7 days prior to the tournament, and then during the tournament, try and keep your calendar as clear as possible. This gives you the bandwidth to be reactive as and when issues arise, as we need to be realistic and recognize that issues will arise. If you have the capacity to deal with things as and when they happen, they get dealt with and don’t become any bigger. The longer something takes to get addressed, then it will potentially grow, or not get dealt with at all.
As managers we all know the importance of communication, even just on a standard day at our clubs. The challenge around communication when you are hosting such a big event, becomes even more paramount and a key ingredient to hosting a successful RBC Canadian Open. We created a number of WhatsApp groups, email groups, extra radio channels, daily updates first thing and last thing, and this was just among staff. Then there was communication to the membership through our members who were chairs, vice-chairs and volunteers on the 21 tournament committees that are standard at every RBC Canadian Open. We decided to do videos every second day, where we communicated some behind the scenes style information. These were done where I would interview our Head Professional, Golf Couse Superintendent, and the Tournament Chair. The membership really appreciated getting some information that the general public were not privy to.
From an actual golf course perspective, an area of concern for many members was whether the course would stand up to the world’s best golfers, and it did. Many members hoped that the PGA Tour would allow typical St. George’s course conditions to be played by the competitors, and they did. We can take pride that St. George’s is still a test for the PGA Tour, and also a challenge that the leading professionals were delighted to experience. A very recent major winner told me, “This is exactly what we should be playing every year before the US Open. The conditions at St. George’s are very close to a US Open and, in fact, if you gave this to the USGA, they would very quickly produce a US Open course”.
Going back to the foundation and key ingredient of staging a successful tournament, I have to comment on the staff and their commitment to make the tournament the success that it was. What I will say is that every department went above and beyond their normal daily duties, and all these efforts contributed to the success of the tournament. Notwithstanding the financial gain, it may not always be easy to identify the long-term benefits to hosting a tournament, however, I am already witnessing a shift in the culture of the staff. As a group they are looking back and realizing what they just achieved and, for most of them, it has made them realize what they are capable of. It is now my job to harness that momentum and use it to take St. George’s forward and build on the success of the RBC Canadian Open week.
St. George’s Golf and Country Club
Bio: John Caven is a golf industry leader with over 30 years experience working in the private club sector. British PGA qualified, John moved into overall club management at Loch Lomond Golf Club located in Luss, Argyll & Bute, Scotland in 2007. John moved across the Atlantic to Canada in 2017. In the fall of 2021, John was appointed the General Manager/COO of St. George’s.
St. George’s Golf and Country Club has previously hosted the RBC Canadian Open on five occasions, dating as far back as 1933 and most recently in 2010. Part of the FedExCup Regular Season and conducted by Golf Canada for more than a century, the RBC Canadian Open provides an opportunity for Canada’s top talents to compete against the world’s best golfers while also creating a positive impact in the event’s host community. Established in 1904, Canada’s national open golf championship is the third-oldest national open golf championship worldwide next to the British Open and the U.S. Open.