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London Hunt Golf and Country Club
London Hunt Golf and Country Club

Rubenstein: London’s Hunt Club has a rich golf history Add to ...

While it took a long time to arrange Canadian Pacific’s sponsorship for the Canadian Women’s Open, at least it’s happened. The company takes over as title sponsor for the former major championship on the LPGA Tour, on a three-year contract. Meanwhile, the London Hunt and Country Club in London, Ont. was announced in a media conference Wednesday as the venue for the 2014 tournament.

The difficulties of securing a title sponsor and also a course for the tournament are obvious, given the rather late announcement. The dual announcement of sponsor and venue wasn’t a surprise, but still, it comes late for an important tournament that will occur Aug. 21-24 next year. But there is a sponsor, one that appears very committed to the tournament, and there is a course. The news is good, if the timing is worrisome in terms of what it implies for the future: more problems finding a title sponsor and a course. Golf Canada’s executive director Scott Simmons didn’t offer any news of specific venues past next year, although he did say it’s expected that the tournament will return to courses where it’s been in recent years.

I’ll focus here on London Hunt itself, which recently added what long-time member Chris Goodwin (the co-founder of the terrific Redtail Golf Course a half-hour away) tells me is a mammoth new practice range. He said there’s also a new short game area with five holes useful for wedge practice. Cristie Kerr, the winner in 2006 when the tournament was last held at the course, said during the media conference (I wasn’t there, but listened in) that the Hunt feels to her “like a major course,” a “special” course.

It’s good to see the tournament return to the Hunt Club. It’s rich in history, having held numerous national championships. The Canadian Open was held there in 1970, the only time the club has hosted the men’s tournament. It hosted the women’s tournament in 1993, when it was the du Maurier Classic and a major. The tournament lost its major status in 2001, when the Women’s British Open was deemed one of the four majors then on the LPGA Tour. London Hunt then hosted the 2006 CN Canadian Women’s Open.

The club has also hosted many important amateur tournaments. It hosted the Canadian Amateur in 1930, 1938, and 1954, when the course was in a different location. Albin Choi, since turned pro, won the 2010 Canadian Amateur on the current site. The course has been on the current, sprawling site since 1959. Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed it, and his son Rees renovated/reworked/updated the course in 1999.

Meanwhile, many prominent Canadian golfers have been members. Sandy Somerville, perhaps the best Canadian amateur ever, was a member there. He won the 1930 Canadian Amateur at the club, one of the six national amateur championships he won between 1926 and 1937. He won the 1932 U.S. Amateur at the Baltimore Country Club’s Five Farms course; he was the first Canadian to win the U.S. Amateur. I once visited him in his home in London. We talked golf for hours. He was known as Silent Sandy because he was quiet and wouldn’t use three words when two would do. But he knew everybody in golf and he had everybody’s respect, including that of Bobby Jones. The time I spent with him ranks as one of the highlights of my life in writing golf. What a gentleman. What a golfer.

Then there’s Ed Ervasti, a long-time–and I mean “long-time” member of London Hunt. He’ll turn 100 on January 13th, 2014, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he were playing golf that day at the Turtle Creek club in Tequesta, Fla., where he spends his winters. Chris Goodwin mentioned that Ed’s youngest son drove him to Tequesta last week–the first time Ed hasn’t driven down on his own. He’s probably on the course today.

Try to let this sink in. Ed was 93 when he shot 72 at London Hunt, on a day when the weather was blistering hot. Nobody has broken his or her age more than Ed, a six-time Canadian Senior Golf Association champion. He’s a master of the wedge and always has been. I learned that when I played with him at London Hunt a few years ago and during a game at Turtle Creek. He’s also a master of the quip. Ed can play a great game of golf and he can tell a great story of golf. I might also add that his son John, who lives in New York City and plays at the Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough, N.Y. He’s become one of the top senior amateurs in the region.

All of this is to say that London Hunt should be a regular when it comes to hosting important tournaments, and that it’s an excellent resource for anybody interested in diving into Canadian golf history. I haven’t even mentioned national champions such as Ian Thomas and Kelly Roberts, who grew up playing London Hunt. Thomas won the 1965 Canadian Junior. Roberts won the 1971 Canadian Junior and the 1972 and 1973 Canadian Amateurs.

I’m partial to London Hunt because I’m into Canadian golf history and wish more Canadians appreciated how rich it is. Doesn’t such knowledge add to one’s enjoyment of a course, or following a tournament? London Hunt is certainly part of my own involvement in the game. I played in its annual 36-hole Invitational for years, and I also caddied in that 1970 Canadian Open. That was my introduction to caddying on the PGA Tour, which I did for three or four tournaments a year for a dozen years.

That year I caddied for Bob Dickson, a 26-year-old Oklahoman who had won the 1967 U.S. and British Amateurs and then the 1968 Haig Open Invitational on the PGA Tour. He shot 72-70-72-78 at London Hunt to tie for 39th and win $503.60. Kermit Zarley, known as the Pro from the Moon for his unusual name, won. Dickson helped me get into the game then and there at London Hunt. He introduced me to players and invited me to dinner with them. Our friendship started in 1970 during that Canadian Open at London Hunt. We remain good friends It’s no surprise, then, that I’m pleased that the Canadian Women’s Open, with its new sponsor CP, will return to London Hunt. The course will again host the most significant women’s tournament in Canada. I hope it will also again host the Canadian Open. Whatever transpires, the club is about to add another chapter to its expanding book of Canadian golf history.

RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein

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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at lornerubenstein@me.com. You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein

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