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.)