Sunday, December 01, 2013

Battleground's comical look at elections


Super Channel 1 - Mondays

Trail Rides

"Battleground" Offers A Comical Look
At The Roller Coaster Of Election Campaigns 

By Eric Kohanik

Election campaigns can be funny things. Just ask J.D. Walsh.

Although Walsh has a solid list of acting credits, including guest stints on TV shows ranging from Two and a Half Men to The Crazy Ones, it was his real-life stint as a campaign worker during John Kerry's 2004 presidential bid that led him to a role as creator/executive producer.

Walsh's brainchild is Battleground, a clever, documentary-style comedy series that made its Canadian debut Nov. 18.

“It was soul-crushing,” Walsh says of his ride on the campaign trail. “There was a guy there who kind of took me under his wing and kind of showed me the ropes of, like, 'This is how the campaign works.' And he knew all this kind of, like, secret stuff. This guy was kind of my window into the world, and what that life is like.”

Battleground spins its fictional yarn around a group of misfits working on an election campaign in Wisconsin. Jay Hayden stars as Chris “Tak” Davis, the campaign manager toiling to get Deirdre Samuels (Meighan Gerachis) elected to the U.S. Senate. The show's ensemble cast includes Jack De Sena as speechwriter Cole Graner, Teri Reeves as media strategist Kara “K.J.” Jamison, Alison Haislip as tech whiz Ali Laurents and Ben Samuel as campaign newbie Ben Werner.

The show's documentary style is reminiscent of such other TV comedies as The Office or Modern Family. But there's a twist to Battleground. It's a series originally made strictly for the Internet.
Battleground was actually the first foray into scripted programming by Hulu, a video-streaming site based in the U.S. The series premiered there last year and was recently picked up by Super Channel for TV viewers across Canada.

A tight, web-oriented budget meant things had to be done quickly. “We wrote all 13 episodes and then shot them as a movie,” reveals Walsh, who puts in cameo appearances as the filmmaker within the show. “Essentially, we shot three movies in a period of eight weeks.”

The tight budget and shooting schedule don't detract from Battleground. It has production values similar to big network TV shows, but its roots as a web series allowed for a freer creative environment.

“It felt very comfortable immediately,” Hayden recalls. “We were able to stretch as actors and really tell the story that J.D. wanted us to tell.”

Haislip echoes the sentiment. “There was an ease and a flow on set that allowed for a lot of creativity,” the actress says. “J.D. actually came up with this brilliant thing. After every single shot set-up, when he got what he wanted, he gave us an 'unusable' take, and that was, 'Do whatever the hell you want. Just go for it.'

“We were able to get these moments of gold because we weren't thinking about the script anymore. We weren't thinking about what we were told to do. We were thinking about how can we make this even more ridiculous and more hilarious. It's amazing how many of those unusable takes actually made it into the show.”

Other distinct features include the show's on-camera interviews with characters, which appear to take place well after the campaign has ended.

“The idea behind it is we wanted to give it time and distance and space,” Walsh explains. “Because that would allow the people who are being interviewed to, occasionally, not remember exactly how it worked, or possibly still be 'spinning it.' And then we would actually see what happens.”

Not everything is played for laughs. Walsh's campaign experience inspired him to tell stories from varied perspectives.

“All of those people just go from campaign to campaign,” he says. “You can't live a life that way. You can't live a real life. So, that's the struggle that you see in this show, with Tak and his wife at home. She wants a real life.

“What we're trying to do on this show is as real as possible … to find out what the day-to-day struggle is like, what the roller coaster is like.”

Battleground – Super Channel 1 – Mondays

(First published in Channel Guide Magazine - December 2013.)

Deck The Halls with Holiday Specials

'Tis The Season 

December Brings Its Usual Plethora
Of Holiday Specials. Here Are
Some Gotta-See Attractions
To Mark On The Calendar

By Eric Kohanik 

Deck the halls! The yuletide season is approaching and, of course, that means December's TV schedules are filled with the usual torrent of holiday programming.

We've sifted through most of the merry mix to come up with some shining lights and gotta-see attractions to help make your season bright ...

A Pitchin' In Christmas 
Chef Lynn Crawford is inviting her extended family of Pitchin' In friends over for Christmas, and they're bringing some of her favourite ingredients, including heritage turkey, roast rack of Canadian lamb, and figs for her famous figgy pudding (Food Network Canada, Dec. 2) 

A Charlie Brown Christmas
The holiday season just wouldn't feel right without certain classics. Leading the pack: Charlie Brown's timeless quest to find the true meaning of Christmas and the help of his pal, Linus. (ABC, dec. 2 and YTV, Dec. 11)

CMA Country Christmas
Trace Adkins, Sheryl Crow, Kellie Pickler and a gaggle of other country stars gather in Nashville to share traditions, memories and songs in a two-hour concert showcase. (ABC, Dec. 2 and City, Dec. 7)

Gordon Ramsay's Christmas Cookalong Special 
When you think Gordon Ramsay, you might not think Christmas cheer, but the Hell's Kitchen chef is in the proper spirit for this special where he invites families to cook together to create a three-course festive feast. (Food Network Canada, Dec. 5) 

The Santa Claus Parade
If you missed the same-day telecast on Nov. 17, here's a couple of chances to catch Santa and the other attractions making their way down the streets of Toronto. (CTV, Dec. 7 and CTV Two, Dec. 8)

A Very Merry Mix-Up
Alicia Witt tops the cast of this fluffy new movie. She plays a young bride-to-be whose Christmas trip to meet her future in-laws becomes a comedy of errors. (CTV, Dec. 7)

The Great Christmas Light Fight
OK, why not have Christmas cheer duke things out with reality TV? This three-episode competition series has 20 families pimping out their homes to win big money. Fa-la-la-la-la. (ABC, Dec. 9, 16, 23)  

Dragons' Den Holiday Episode
How much more of a Scrooge could curmudgeonly money-bagman Kevin O'Leary possibly be? Wait and see. (CBC, Dec. 11)

Kelly Clarkson Christmas Special 
Pop star Kelly Clarkson will loosely base her yet-to-be-titled holiday special around Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and its underlying message of learning the true meaning of Christmas. (NBC, Dec. 11) 

Miracle on 34th Street
Take your pick of the 1994 remake starring Richard Attenborough (Dec. 12) or the original 1947 version featuring Edmund Gwenn (Dec. 25). Either way, Kris Kringle wins everyone over in the end. (CBC)

It's A Wonderful Life
Jimmy Stewart's performance as downtrodden George Bailey is worth seeing again. And again. (NBC and CTV, Dec. 14, 24)

How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Get out the Roast Beast. The original animated rendition of the Dr. Seuss tale is a treat for young and old. (CBC, Dec. 16)

I Love Lucy Christmas Special
Everything old is new again. Really. CBS has taken a newly colourized version of the seldom-seen 1956 Christmas episode of I Love Lucy and merged it with a colourized rendition of the “Lucy's Italian Movie” episode. The colours are a nice visual bonus; the laughs are still as classic as ever. (CBS, Dec. 20)

Rita MacNeil's Christmas
The late Rita MacNeil's charm lives on in this feel-good special from 2000. John McDermott, Patti LaBelle, Natalie MacMaster and the Barra MacNeils round out the musical celebration. (CTV Two, Dec. 22)

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Sometimes you just need some silly laughs. And there are plenty in the yuletide missteps of Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and his family. (CBC, Dec. 22)

The famed 1951 film adaptation of A Christmas Carol showcases Alastair Sim in what is still the definitive portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge. (CBC; Dec. 24)

Air Farce New Year's Eve Special
A longtime New Year's Eve tradition, this year-in-review romp by the Air Farce crew should have plenty of timely targets. (CBC, Dec. 31)

Gerry Dee New Year's Eve Special
Fans of CBC's Mr. D can catch comedian Gerry Dee yukking things up in preparation for the New Year. (CBC, Dec. 31)

New Year's Eve At Niagara Falls
Entertainment Tonight Canada hosts Cheryl Hickey and Rick Campanelli round up some of the music industry's hottest acts to ring in 2014 in this fifth annual coast-to-coast countdown from Niagara Falls, Ont. (Global, Dec. 31)

(First published in Channel Guide Magazine - December 2013.) 

Friday, November 01, 2013

Anna Silk's begins fourth season of Lost Girl


Showcase - Sundays, beginning Nov. 10

"Girl" Talk

Anna Silk Faces New Challenges as 
"Lost Girl" Begins Its Fourth Season

By Eric Kohanik 

It's been a busy morning of pushing and shoving for Lost Girl star Anna Silk.

Inside one of the buildings that once housed the Lever Brothers factory near the Toronto waterfront, Silk, who plays succubus/heroine Bo Dennis on the supernatural series, has been locking horns on this late-September morning with guest star Linda Hamilton, who returns as ruthless assassin Acacia in the 11th episode of the upcoming season.

Lost Girl begins its fourth season Nov. 10 on Showcase with the first of 13 new episodes. Hamilton is part of a roster of guest stars that includes Kyle Schmid (Copper, Blood Ties), George Takei (Star Trek), Mia Kirshner (Defiance) and Ali Liebert (Bomb Girls).

When viewers last saw Bo, she had mystically disappeared in one of several cliffhangers in last season's finale. Bo's return will herald some big changes in the Fae world.

“Bo is a key player in the Fae world,” Silk says. “She doesn't even realize how key she is at this point.”

The new season also brings big challenges for Bo and those around her. But then, Bo has always had to face big challenges.

“What's been so great about Bo from the very beginning is that, no matter what, she has been a character with so much room for growth,” Silk reflects during a break in filming. “Because she started into this world brand new, she had everything to learn and every skill to learn and develop. So, that has been a real pleasure to play and a real gift.

“Our writers and creators come up with great stuff every season to keep challenging her. But, man, she never gets to rest! She always has to fight something.”

Exactly what Bo will fight is being kept super-secret. “I'm under lock and key,” Silk confesses. “Every season, I try to think of a handful of things I can say. And usually I have a good handful. This season, I have, like, no handful. And I've said this before in other interviews: The best way I can describe it is that you have to take everything you know about Lost Girl and turn it upside down, in every aspect of the show. With so many cliffhangers at the end of last season, the way that people might think it's going to go might not be the way it goes. Or it might be.”

Silk has a much easier time talking about changes that took place off screen between seasons, including the birth of her son, Sam, in May. So, how is mommyhood?

“It's wonderful. It's really wonderful. He's ridiculous,” Silk giggles as she shows a baby picture on her smartphone. “He's really a dream baby, as I'm sure every mother says about her baby. But he really is a pretty easy-going babe. He's a happy boy.”

As for whether parenthood has affected how she plays Bo, Silk isn't quite sure.

“I've always heard other actors say, 'Oh, being a parent changes how you perform.' And I think that's true because it opens up your emotions,” she says. “It opens up your heart in a broader sense. I feel I can't answer that question yet. I feel I need more time before I can really answer how it's changed. It's busier, for sure. And there's a lot more to balance, but it's really great.”

Parenthood seems to be a good fit for Silk, much in the way that Bo felt like a good fit to her right from the start.

“It definitely fit right away because I feel like, in my own life, I'm a bit of a late bloomer,” the 39-year-old New Brunswick native says. “And I've learned to kind of be proud of that. But I feel like Bo was so new and I felt like I was kind of new at taking on a leading role, and we kind of got to grow together, so it has felt very organic right from the beginning.

“And I've definitely learned from her. I'm way more tough in my own life now.”

Lost Girl - Showcase - Sundays, beginning Nov. 10 

(First published in Channel Guide Magazine - November 2013.) 

Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob Guccione Story


The Movie Network / Movie Central - Nov. 8

Ladies' Man

"Filthy Gorgeous" takes a revealing look 
at "Penthouse" founder Bob Guccione

By Eric Kohanik

The saga of Penthouse founder Bob Guccione is one of the most colourful in publishing history. And it came as a surprise to Canadian filmmaker Barry Avrich when he discovered, after Guccione's death in 2010, that the story wasn't being told.

“It was odd because I expected, within the year, there would be all kinds of bio-pics announced,” Avrich recalls. “And there was nothing, because no one knew him.”

So, Avrich set out to tell the story. The resulting documentary, Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob Guccione Story, launched at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, and Avrich was pleased with the response. He admits the story is sad: Guccione died penniless in a Texas hospital after a battle with throat cancer.

“It is a rise-and-fall [story],” Avrich reflects over coffee at a downtown Toronto espresso house. “It's tragic, [but] I don't know whether he would consider it tragic. Because, if you live for 79 years, and 74 of them are damn good, so be it. It was a great life.”

Born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey, Guccione briefly considered becoming a priest before setting off for Europe to be an artist. He eventually became famous for Penthouse, a men's magazine that began in England in the 1960s before taking aim at Hugh Hefner's Playboy empire in the U.S.

The success of Penthouse led to vast wealth and an opulent lifestyle that made Guccione, often decked out in gold chains, a notorious icon of hedonism in the 1970s and '80s. His success led to other ventures, ranging from movies (Caligula) and magazines (including Omni and Viva) to the development of nuclear-fusion energy and even a failed hotel/casino project in Atlantic City.

Along the way, there were ironic turns, ranging from Guccione's role as a righteous defender of the First Amendment to his decision to publish photos that would cause the first African-American Miss America, Vanessa Williams, to be stripped of her crown.

Filthy Gorgeous doesn't hold back in tracing the entire story in sometimes-stark detail. The documentary begins by warning viewers that it is filled with nudity, profanity “and some truth.”

The film is brimming with revealing interviews, ranging from Guccione's family (including sons Nick and Bob Jr.) to professional associates (including Alan Dershowitz and Xaviera Hollander). 

Particularly insightful are recollections of Guccione's personal assistant, Jane Homlish, and Victoria Johnson, who was 1978's Penthouse Pet of the Year and one of Guccione's lovers. 

“There were twists and turns for me,” Avrich says. “When I decided to make the film, I didn't know everything about him. I chose him because nothing had been done and I was curious.” 

That curiosity arose after Avrich was invited to screen his 2005 documentary, The Last Mogul (about Hollywood agent Lew Wasserman), at the Playboy Mansion.

“I was intrigued,” Avrich recalls. “After so many years, why is the Hugh Hefner brand, the Playboy brand, so powerful and the Penthouse brand is tattered and left in ruins, like a Shakespearean tragedy? So, I started to do some preliminary research. When Guccione died in 2010, that file moved to the front for me.”

It soon became clear there was a lot to the story. “He was a flawed genius, without a doubt,” Avrich says. “We're all flawed; few of us are geniuses. And that made him, for me as a filmmaker, really interesting.”

A native of Montreal, Avrich divides his time between making movies and running an advertising agency in Toronto. His credits include last year's Show Stopper: The Theatrical Life of Garth Drabinsky and 2011's Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project.  

Fithy Gorgeous is a compelling addition to that roster, particularly in light of how the story ultimately ends.

“The man died without a penny,” Avrich says. “Without a penny. Nothing to his name. Zero. 

“In that 200-square-foot hospital room in Plano, Texas, was this man with nothing but the name on the door. It's sad.”

Filthy Gorgeous - The Movie Network / Movie Central - Nov. 8

(First published in Channel Guide Magazine - November 2013.)

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Melissa Grelo: The Cat Herder on The Social


CTV - Weekdays

The Cat Herder

Melissa Grelo Keeps The Talk 
On Track On CTV's "The Social"

By Eric Kohanik

It would be easy to lump The Social into a certain breed of talk show that has been growing on daytime TV.

But co-host Melissa Grelo doesn't want people to put CTV's new entry into the same paddock as ABC's The View or CBS' The Talk.

We can use analogies and comparisons to The View all you want,” Grelo says. “But the reality is, we have a very distinctly Canadian perspective. A perfect example of that would be the gay-rights issue or, perhaps, the gun-control issue. These are issues that have a vastly different tone if you're talking about them north of the border vs. south of the border.

And there's the fact that we've never had [on TV] a round table of Canadian women of varying backgrounds discussing the issues that matter not only to Canadians, but what everyone is talking about around the world.”

The Social airs live each weekday on CTV, with same-day rebroadcasts on CTV Two and E! The hourlong show features Grelo and her co-hosts – gossip blogger Lainey Lui, relationship expert Cynthia Loyst and entertainment reporter Traci Melchor – tackling each day's most talked-about issues, inviting viewers to join in via social media.

Grelo acts as the show's moderator, keeping the conversation going and keeping it on track. She often gleefully refers to herself as the “cat herder” on the show.

We've got some very, very feisty, sassy women,” Grelo laughs. “This is exactly how everyone envisioned the show.”

Social media was also envisioned as a significant element on The Social. And, according to Grelo, that is where she and her co-hosts have an advantage.

We are of that generation and we are definitely participants in this new world where people who are watching television are simultaneously on social media,” Grelo explains. “It's almost like one doesn't happen without the other. That's the centre point of our show.”

Of course, that can lead to some on-air juggling. But then, Grelo is no stranger to the demands of live TV.

Since 2008, Grelo has been the co-host of Toronto specialty channel CP24's morning show, CP24 Breakfast. She also co-hosted CTV's live Olympic Morning telecasts from Whistler, B.C. during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Add that to stints as a news anchor, fill-in host, reporter, entertainment correspondent and weather/traffic reporter and you quickly get the sense that Grelo can tackle any topic on The Social.

A self-confessed news junkie, Grelo didn't always see TV on her career path. In fact, she had set her sights on teaching at an early age.I started teaching horseback riding when I was a kid,” Grelo recalls. “Teaching was something that came very naturally to me.”

After pursuing degrees in psychology and education, she embarked on a short stint as a teacher before shifting her focus to journalism.For someone who's always been a news junkie, I never considered it a career,” Grelo confesses. “Then I realized, 'Wait a second, here's a very similar skill set.' I love writing. I love reading.”

And now, she loves combining her duties on CP24 Breakfast with her role on The Social – even if it means her days get pretty hectic. 

It's insane,” Grelo concedes. “That's my middle name these days. But I'm so excited. It's something I've wanted to do for a really long time.

I first talked to the network about a show kind of like this a couple of years ago. To actually see it happening, it's a dream come true.”

The Social - CTV - Weekdays 

(First published in Channel Guide Magazine - October 2013.) 

Vincent Walsh and Dwain Murphy in Played


CTV - Thursdays, beginning Oct. 3


Vincent Walsh and Dwain Murphy Clicked 
Right Away As Underover Cops On "Played"

By Eric Kohanik

It's just past noon on a warm late-summer day. Next to an outdoor storage-locker facility near the waterfront in downtown Toronto, actors Vincent Walsh and Dwain Murphy have been going through take after take since the early morning hours of what will be another whirlwind day of location filming. 
Walsh and Murphy are part of the ensemble cast of Played, a new Canadian drama series that debuts this month on CTV. The police procedural casts them as detectives who work for the Toronto police department's Covert Investigations Unit, donning a variety of alter-egos in order to carry out undercover “plays” – sting operations that nab criminals.

Much of the filming for Played is done on location around Toronto. That often means 15-hour days that require a lot of intense teamwork.

You fly by the seat of your pants,” Walsh relates during a short break in filming. “This whole project is one big ensemble piece. It's very much character driven, by outside stories. It's all very much a work in progress.”

Walsh plays John Moreland, a veteran undercover cop who lives in the moment, is somewhat pigheaded and could easily go over the edge at any time. Murphy plays Moreland's partner and wingman, Daniel Price, a smooth-talking, exuberant detective who sometimes has a tough time separating his undercover persona from his real one.

What drew me in initially was the fact that we get to play multiple characters,” Murphy explains. “What I connected with was the fact that every episode is like a mini-movie and you're literally adapting a new character to that episode along with maintaining this other character throughout a season.

I get to stretch myself as an actor. In one episode, I'll play a DJ. In another episode, I'll be an undercover bank robber. And in another episode, I get to play a Brazilian drug lord. You don't really know what angle you're going to come from, episode to episode.”

Walsh and Murphy both have solid lists of TV credits under their belts. The Irish-Canadian Walsh has an acting resume that runs the gamut from guest shots on such Canadian series as Murdoch Mysteries and Republic of Doyle to lead roles in such productions as Hemingway vs. Callaghan and Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion.

Meanwhile, Murphy, who was born in Dominica and raised in Toronto, boasts a list of credits that ranges from roles in such Canadian series as Combat Hospital and Degrassi: The Next Generation to guest stints on such U.S. shows as The Mentalist and Ghost Whisperer.

Right now, though, both are busy pouring all their energy into the teamwork that is required of them and their characters as they watch each other's backs on Played. Fortunately for the duo, their chemistry clicked right away.

This is my first time playing a cop and I absolutely love it!” Murphy declares enthusiastically. “And I get to do it with this guy,” he continues, playfully tapping Walsh's knee. “We make it fun. I think that will resonate, when people see it on the screen, just how much fun we really have working together. From the first time I met Vincent, I could see he's just a fun-loving, happy guy. From Day 1, I instantly clicked with him.”

Walsh is quick to return the compliment. “Right back at you, mate,” Walsh says in an Irish lilt punctuated by a wry smile. “Dwain brought an amazing energy the second he walked on the set.”

As for their chemistry on screen, “we didn't really have any time to think about 'clicking,'” Walsh quips. “The only time we really had was to hit the mark and say the line. That was it.”

Played - CTV - Thursdays, beginning Oct. 3

(First published in Channel Guide Magazine - October 2013.)

Monday, September 02, 2013

Glen Abbey hosts The Canadian Open

We Did It!

Glen Abbey Staff And Volunteers
Make The 2013 RBC Canadian Open
A Memorable Success

By Eric Kohanik 

From prepping the locker room, planning menus and stocking merchandise tents to making sure the fairways, greens and even the famed Tiger Trap were all groomed and ready for action, the activity had already been buzzing for quite a while as the staff of Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont. got things in top shape for the 2013 RBC Canadian Open.

This year's event, held from July 22 to 28, marked the 26th time that the Canadian Open has been held at Glen Abbey. And whether they were veterans of previous times or newcomers who had never participated before, more than 1,400 volunteers joined the ClubLink staff members who had already rolled up their sleeves and were enthusiastically geared up to ensure a successful event.

At a special staff orientation on July 15, Glen Abbey Director of Operations Allan Huibers and Golf Canada Tournament Director Bill Paul welcomed employees from Glen Abbey and a host of other ClubLink courses, offering them vital instructions on what they could expect in the days ahead.

For many, though, preparations had already long been in full swing. Take Executive Chef Jamie Hussey and the team in the Glen Abbey kitchen, for instance. Preparing the clubhouse menu for the Canadian Open was a task that stretched back to the beginning of the year.

Back in January, I started composing menus and themes,” Hussey recalls. Once the menus were set in February, the primary goal was working to make sure the clubhouse buffets would be pristine each day and that the players, media and other event participants, as well as the 500 to 600 RBC guests in the clubhouse every day, would be looked after flawlessly.

In all of July, it was obviously all hands on deck,” says Hussey, who noted that his team included 30 cooks and nine dishwashers.

The culinary bill of fare ranged from a special “RBC Blue Item” – a maple-blueberry salad with grilled salmon, Canadian wild rice and quinoa – served in the clubhouse to such on-course treats as the soft pretzels and Buddha Dogs (smoked hotdogs) that prep cook Kim Gaudon was grilling for players on the 11th tee during the Golf Canada Foundation Pro-Am on July 22.

Out on the golf course itself, meanwhile, Superintendent Andrew Gyba and his team of 65 staff and volunteers had been toiling away for months to make sure bunkers, fairways, greens and even the rough were up in top condition.
Preparing the course often meant 15- to 16-hour work days for Gyba and others in the week leading up to the Open. The task ran into a few extra twists and turns along the way, including a violent storm that hit Oakville on the Friday just before tournament week.

We had an arborist on call and we had 60 people picking up debris,” Gyba said of the post-storm activities. “But we just finished redoing all the bunkers earlier this year, so it wasn't that bad. We were back to normal the next day. Like I always say, in this business, you hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”

Fortunately, it was the best that prevailed. With the exception of a storm warning that halted play for a short while on Saturday, the weather co-operated almost perfectly during the rest of the Open week.

With several weeks still to go before the Open, it was the rough at Glen Abbey that had already caught the attention of a lot of Club Members and public players. Long and thick enough to gobble up a ball that merely rolled a few inches off the fairway, the rough presented a considerable challenge for Glen Abbey's starters and play coordinators when it came to helping Club Members and public golfers maintain their pace of play while still making sure they had a memorable and enjoyable experience.

Once Open week got rolling, the task of making sure the pro golfers were well looked after was a top priority, especially for those manning the Glen Abbey locker room during the event. Their tasks ranged from cleaning and polishing golf shoes and carefully storing players' clubs to taking care of individual laundry deliveries and making sure the golfers' every other need in the locker room was met and fulfilled enthusiastically.

With three previous Canadian Open tournaments already under his belt, veteran Golf Services staff member John McLellan was often the go-to guy for many of the locker-room staff. According to McLellan, the key to doing a good job in the locker room was simple.

Just be patient and nice...” he says, adding with a wink: “...and use a soft brush, not a stiff wire brush, on the tops of the shoes!”

As the week drew to a close, there were so many people to thank that Glen Abbey Office Manager Cathy Hyatt ended up sending out a series of e-mails to staff that kept adding to the list of individuals and departments whose hard work she wanted to acknowledge.

I hope it was an exciting experience for everyone,” she wrote to all in one missive. “I know it's a long hard week … but man, it's worth it!” 
(Eric Kohanik is a starter and play coordinator at Glen Abbey Golf Club.) 

(First published in On Course - Fall 2013.) 


Friday, July 26, 2013

How to play The Canadian Open at Glen Abbey

The Right Way To Play 
The Canadian Open

A starter's perspective on 
the ins and outs of Glen Abbey

By Eric Kohanik
Special to The Hamilton Spectator 
Welcome to Glen Abbey. My name is Eric and I'm your Starter today. You're going to have a great time.” 
For five seasons, I've used those words to introduce countless guests to the first tee of the course that is home to this year's Canadian Open. And as the pros get down to serious competition in Oakville, it should be no surprise that any golfer following the action would get the urge to play the Jack Nicklaus-designed course that is hosting the Open for the 26th time.

As a starter and a play coordinator (that's what marshals are called at Glen Abbey), I've encountered players from around the world who have made the pilgrimage to “The Abbey.” Many are thrilled and even awestruck, as if they are standing on the most hallowed ground.

But there are a few things you need to know when you go to play Glen Abbey.

There are no white tees, for instance. The red tees play 5,346 yards. The blue tees, at 6,224 yards, are usually challenging enough for beginners and those with double-digit handicaps. The gold tees clock in at 6,622 yards, while the black (pro) tees add up to 7,273 yards.

As for the holes, there's a twist. As in 2009, the front nine holes have been reconfigured for the tournament, so things will look different when you play your version of the Canadian Open at Glen Abbey.

To help you out, here's a quick, starter's guide to the course and some of its most memorable (and difficult) holes:

No. 1 (No. 8 at the Open) – Par 5
This hole is simply memorable because it's the first hole you'll play at Glen Abbey. First-timers get excited just standing on the tee box, often snapping photos as souvenirs. The hole is often called an "easy" Par 5. The pros play it as a Par 4 during the Open.

No. 2 (No. 9 at the Open) – Par 4
The No. 1 handicap hole has a big tree that comes into play off the tee. It can be tough to reach the green in only two shots. An extra club is a good idea on the approach, thanks to a sand trap at the left front of the green. The green is also smaller than it appears from the fairway. 

No. 3 (No. 7 at the Open) – Par 3
Wind comes into play, while bunkers and pin placement on the narrow green can easily spell trouble. The hole doesn't look tough, but the pond between the tee and green gobbles up 15,000 golf balls a year. More than a few have been mine.

No. 7 (No. 4 at the Open) – Par 3
Another hole over water that looks easy but isn't. If the wind is brisk, it can mean a difference of two or even three clubs.

No. 9 (No. 6 at the Open)
A pretty finish to the front nine, this Par 4 is similar to the Par 5 that finishes the back. The fairway slopes toward a pond that is in front of the green, so a long drive can be trouble. The hole is ranked as the third toughest on the course. It's also rated as one of the toughest on the PGA Tour.

No. 11 – Par 4
The second-hardest hole is also Glen Abbey's signature hole, and one of the most picturesque golf holes around. An elevated tee leads you down to the first of five valley holes. From the gold tees, it's about a 220-yard carry reach to the fairway (although the elevation does give your shot extra distance). From the blue and red tees, the perfect shot is usually aimed over a large tree on the left side of the fairway. A wide section of 16 Mile Creek runs in front of the green, so your approach may need a lot of carry, too.

No. 13 – Par 5
The mid-way point of the valley, this hole crosses 16 Mile Creek not once but twice. Once you get to the green, things don't necessarily get easier. A deep swale to the left of the green can easily mess up your game. 

No. 14 – Par 4
Ranked as one of the toughest holes on the PGA Tour, this hole plays completely different from the gold and black tees than from the blue and red tees. An undulating green adds to this hole's charm and challenge.

No. 15 Par 3
It's rated as the easiest hole on the course. Uh-huh. Sure. Depending on the pin placement, the elevated, two-tier green could leave you with one of the toughest putts you'll face. 

No. 17 Par 4
There are 17 sand traps adorning this hole. That's right, 17. Oddly enough, the tee shot from the golds actually seems easier than from the blues. A funky, U-shaped green can cap off this adventurous hole in a unique way. 

No. 18 – Par 5
This the home of the famed Tiger Trap, which led to a shot by Tiger Woods during the 2000 Canadian Open that still ranks as one of the most famous in golf history. No wonder a lot of first-time visitors throw a ball in there to try out their 6-irons. 

So, there you have it: a guide to your own version of the Canadian Open. Of course, there are a number of other things every starter will tell you when you play Glen Abbey – things like repairing ball marks on greens, replacing or filling divots on the fairways and always making sure you keep up with the group ahead of you. But then, we'll save those for when you actually get there. 

Eric Kohanik is a freelance writer and former Spectator reporter. 

(First published in The Hamilton Spectator - July 26, 2013.)