Commissionaires Open promises world’s best golfers in Dunrobin

By Jake Davies - West Carleton Online

DUNROBIN – The upcoming Commissionaires Ottawa Open at Eagle Creek Golf Club is preparing to improve on the success of the inaugural event last summer, and last Friday (July 5) organizers gave the media a chance to ask questions, learn about the new PGA Tour Americas and most importantly, play the course.

Last year’s event featured famous golfers, a famous hockey player and a local pro looking for his big break. The PGA Tour Americas event topped off the exciting week with a final round that needed four sudden death playoff holes to decide the winner, with Vancouver’s Stuart MacDonald taking the trophy and $36,000 in prize money.

At Friday’s Media Day, PGA Tour Americas vice president Scott Pritchard, tournament director Andy Rajhathy, honourary co-chair and Ottawa Senator superstar Claude Giroux and Eagle Creek general manager Ryan Little shared some spoilers for this year’s tournament scheduled for Eagle Creek from July 22 to July 28, as 156 professionals from more than 30 countries look to win the open and collect some vital Fortinet Cup series points which could turn in to an opportunity to join the world’s best tour, the PGA Tour.

New to the world of professional PGA Tour golf is the newly established PGA Tour University, which is meant to bridge the gap between college and professional golf and will mean even better players will be coming to Dunrobin in the coming weeks.

A golfer swings.
Ottawa Senators’ Claude Giroux said he’s looking forward to returning to Eagle Creek for another crack at a professional golf event. Photo by Jake Davies

It allows the world’s best college players to more easily join a professional tour based on rankings. The number one ranked university player has access to play PGA Tour events for the remainder of the season. Players two to five are exempt on the Korn Ferry Tour as well as the final stage of PGA Tour qualifying school.

Players from six to 10 earn conditional status on the Korn Ferry Tour and exempt status for the North American swing of PGA Tour Americas. Numbers 11 to 25 are also exempt for the North American swing of PGA Tour Americas, which includes the Commissionaires Open Ottawa.

“These are the best young golfers in the world,” Pritchard told the media in Eagle Creek’s main hall. “Literally, some of these players are one shot away from playing on the PGA Tour. Certainly, we’re excited by the quality of players coming to Eagle Creek.”

Pritchard says those who do come, are in for a test.

“Eagle Creek is a formidable test,” Pritchard said. “The players said it was in great condition last ear and they can’t wait to get back here.”

Little shared a little insider knowledge on how to beat Eagle Creek. Last year -20 won the tournament, but he doesn’t expect scores to be that low this year.

“You have to be aggressive,” he said. “Maybe off Hole 1, hit an iron. But you have to go low with this calibre of player. So, maybe you’re taking shortcuts on Hole 17. Not sure too many guys will take the risk on Hole 6. Maybe it’s worth trying to go for the green. You want to be inside that 100 yards, and these guys are deadly with the wedges in their hands. So, they’ll take advantage of these opportunities. The one thing I’ve noticed is, we’re seeing better rough conditions right now. I think the rough is going to play a lot harder. Knock on wood, we’ve had lots of rain. Last year, conditions were relatively dry. So, I think the players are going to see if they don’t hit that fairway or miss the greens, they’re going to have a hard time. I know our members are emailing me, giving me the gears about the rough. I think our super would like the scores a little higher this year, but again it’s so fun for the fans to see the eagles and birdies. I can’t wait.”

A golfer lines up a put.
Last year, Fitzroy Harbour’s Jake Bryson lines up a putt on Hole 18, playing in the inaugural event on a sponsor’s exemption. Photo by Jake Davies

Giroux played in last year’s tournament as a sponsor’s exemption. Although a world class athlete and an excellent golfer, he is still several steps below the talent at this level and was far off last year’s cut mark.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Giroux said of last year’s event. “The course looked great last year, and I think it’s going to look great this year. I’m just happy to be involved.”

Giroux remembers it as a challenge last year.

“It’s pretty tight for me,” he said. “The layout, the risk and reward. It depends how you’re feeling that day. If your confident, you’re going to go for it a little more. It’s just a fun track and I feel you can shoot low or high. I feel like if your driver is doing pretty well, you can shoot low.”

Giroux said it was a thrill to watch the other players perform at the top of their game.

“Their misses are not really misses,” he said. “They’re so dominant, any shot they’re trying to do, they can do it, and they never really get in trouble. I was very impressed. I knew they were good, but I didn’t know they were that good. It was pretty cool to see them play.”

Giroux said he attempted to learn from the pros he was competing against.

“I tried, but my game just got worse,” he said. “I just went back to what I do and tried to keep it simple.”

For this year’s event, Giroux has a bit more experience and a different game plan.

“For me, it’s a weird way to say it but just care less,” Giroux told West Carleton Online. “When you’re playing, and there’s a lot of people watching you, if you care too much you’re just going to put more pressure on yourself and be a little more nervous. So, you have to just trust what you can do, those guys can trust themselves a little more than me, but you have to trust what you’re doing and go out there and just play golf.”

Giroux says he still prefers to play in front of loud, crazy hockey fans than reserved, quiet golf fans.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “It’s a rush that’s hared to get in life. In hockey I’m confident, I know what I’m doing. When I get on the golf course I kind of overthink it a bit too much. I feel a little bit more confident on the ice. I prefer the rink when everyone is yelling at me.”

This year’s Commissionaire’s Ottawa Open is the second of three in the original agreement, and Rajhathy would like to see the tournament stay there beyond the first contract.

If we had the choice right now, we would commit to going long term,” Rajhathy said about the tournament’s commitment to Eagle Creek. “It’s a partnership to make it successful and right now we have partnerships, and we’ll do our absolute best to strengthen those over the years and continue to grow this tournament and support the Ottawa community. We have fun doing it, we have a great structure and volunteer crew, and that all leads to fun times and a great event. We’re back for sure for year three and hopefully many years after that.”

For more information, tickets and volunteer opportunities, visit the Commissionaires Ottawa Open website.

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