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Hosting the CP Women’s Open is a big deal

Written by Glenn Campbell

Hosting the Canadian Women’s Open is a big deal for golf clubs.  Not everyone can do it.  Course layout, club support, clubhouse amenities and volunteer commitment all play a vital role in deciding who can play host.

Priddis Greens met all the necessary requirements and more, when it hosted the 2016 CP Women’s Open. The 36 hole facility is located just outside of Calgary.  The course is always in excellent shape and the scenery is spectacular.

The Canadian Open attracts the top female golfers from all over the world.  According to tournament director Brent McLaughlin, Priddis Greens was an easy choice.  He says they knocked it out of the park.  “The feedback from the players was very good, from the food to the warm hospitality to the playing conditions.

For fans, this tournament is a chance to get up close and personal with stars of the game like Ariya Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko or perhaps Canadian favourite Brooke Henderson.  Fans also have the opportunity to see up and comers like Jaclyn Lee or Jennifer Ha.  You can follow them around the golf course or pull up a seat beside and green and watch some of the best birdie seekers do their thing.  The fan experience is truly amazing and something you’re sure to remember.  When you’re that close to the action, it makes you realize just how good these women are.  Four young fans, it may even inspire them to take the game further.

Last year was not the first time Priddis Greens has hosted the Open; in fact it’s the third time.  “Having hosted this event twice before provided invaluable experience” says Golf Course Manager James Beebe.  “Understanding the expectations and the process leading up to the event enabled our team to execute our plan with very few surprises’.  He added “It provided for a somewhat stress free event and we were all able to fully enjoy it.” Of course, you couldn’t put on this kind of event without the help of volunteers and they needed plenty for the Canadian Open.  “We had just over 12 hundred volunteers” says Bas Wheeler, the Host Club Tournament Chair.  And it wasn’t a problem getting Calgarians to step up.  “Our event was one week before the Shaw Charity Classic at Canyon Meadows, but we were able to fill our volunteer needs and do did that event.  You may recall the weather wasn’t great for either event but we had no issue with volunteers not showing up for their shifts.”

And during tournament week, it has to be all hands on deck for the staff to make sure the course is in pristine condition.  Beebe says during tournament week approximately forty golf course maintenance staff are required to prepare the golf course very early in the morning, starting in the dark with lights prior to play.  In the late afternoon another forty staff members are required to follow a safe distance behind the final groups and work until dark to perform additional maintenance tasks.

Early starts of crucial to setting up events like the Canadian Women’s Open.  Beebe says because of the size and scope it takes two months to build temporary structures such as bleachers, corporate skyboxes, television towers and merchandise tents.  He says you also have to be careful not to damage the course in the process.

Last year Ariya Jutanugarn won the CP Canadian Women’s Open, but she wasn’t the only one who came out victorious.  Children benefit through Canadian Pacific’s CP Has Heart Campaign says tournament director Brent McLaughlin.  “Last year CP donated two million dollars to the Alberta Children’s Hospital in support of pediatric cardiac care and research.  A total of 4.3 millions dollars has been raised in support of children’s heart health in the first three years of CP’S sponsorship of the event.”

Jaclyn Lee, who competed in the 2016 CP Women’s Open, poses next to the train.

The host club was a winner as well, says Host Club Tournament Chair Bas Wheeler.  “We sold more than a dozen memberships that week alone, and the club’s net income from the event was $250,000.”

The legacy and aftermath of hosting a major LPGA event varies depending on who you’re talking to.  For the Head Professional at Priddis Greens, Ron Laugher, the tournament enriches the club’s history with many stories from players, caddies, volunteers, staff and spectators.  And that’s not all. “Hosting an event like this instills a great deal of pride within the membership, it helps establish the quality of your club to the rest of the world.  The exposure is priceless.”

For Bas Wheeler, it’s about the privilege of hosting the Canadian Women’s Open three times, in 1999, 2009 and 2016.  “There are a number of artifacts from the event that are displayed in the Clubhouse and around the facility as a reminder to members and guests about the Open” says Wheeler.  He goes on to say “Members who billeted players have an experience they’ll likely never forget.

Golf Course Manager James Beebe says everyone is proud of the fact they’ve hosted this event three times.  “Priddis Greens is truly a world class golf facility that our membership are all very passionate and proud of.  Having the opportunity to showcase our golf course on an international stage is something that no doubt adds to both the legacy of the club and pride within the membership.”

When you’ve been chosen to host this tournament three times you must be doing something right, but the big question is, would the tournament committee go back to Priddis Greens for a fourth time?

McLaughlin says Alberta has always been a terrific host for the Women’s Open and Golf Canada amateur events.  “Our mandate is to move Canada’s National Women’s Open championship across the country.  However, CP has a very strong footprint in the Calgary area with nearly two thousand employees plus their families.  He went to say “You never know what the future has in store but with any luck, we’ll be back at Priddis Greens again one day.

Ron Laugher sure wouldn’t mind.  “We look forward to the opportunity to host the Canadian Championship again.”

The 2017 CP Women’s Open is currently underway, at the Ottawa Hunt & Country Club.


Hosting the CP Women’s Open

This article was originally published in the 2017 edition of The Alberta Golfer Magazine. To view the full magazine, click here.

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