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Bob Weeks

TSN Senior Reporter

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While the RBC Canadian Open has been cancelled for the second consecutive year, hope remains that other high-profile golf tournaments in Canada will be still held this season.

One of those is the Shaw Charity Classic, the PGA Tour Champions’ lone stop north of the border. It’s currently scheduled for Aug. 11-15 at Calgary’s Canyon Meadows Golf & Country Club. This week, organizers announced they are targeting a safe return for the event after being cancelled last year.

“We’re optimistic that we can make this a go,” said Sean Van Kesteren, the tournament director.

Some might call that optimism misguided. As the pandemic rages, sporting events and leagues have dropped off the schedule in Canada one after another: Major League Soccer, the NBA, Major League Baseball the Montreal Grand Prix, the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, and on and on the list goes.

But Van Kesteren remains full of hope. He and his team have created two different scenarios. One would be a tournament with no fans and little to no infrastructure such as stands or concessions, and almost no volunteers. The other would allow up to 2,000 spectators a day and look more like a regular event.

A detailed program of safety protocols has been developed for both cases, much of which came from existing regulations by other sports organizations, including Hockey Canada, which have operated events in the province.

The golf tournament’s plan has been given the green light by Alberta Health Services.

“There certainly is an appetite from the provincial government to bring back sporting events when it’s safe to do so,” Van Kesteren said.

The remaining stumbling block is with the federal government and trying to get an exemption for golfers and support staff to come into Canada with no or very little quarantine time.

The majority would arrive from the U.S. and it’s likely few would accept a quarantine of any sort to play the tournament. A week off at home is easier than a week in isolation. The RBC Canadian Open, which was scheduled for early June, was cancelled when it was unable to find a way around these regulations.

Still, Van Kesteren is moving ahead with the idea that things could look very different in a few months’ time as vaccines continue to roll out.

He’s also hoping that the event will go off to assist the 230 charities that benefit from fundraising at the tournament. In the past eight years, more than $60 million has been raised. Even last year, when the tournament was cancelled, $12 million was handed out to the youth-based charities.

“We held a conference call this week with all the charities and told them that no matter what happens with the tournament, we’ll be supporting them,” Van Kesteren stated. “These charities count on us and it’s the No. 1 driver to keep this event going.”

Despite the positive outlook, the clock is ticking on this championship. Van Kesteren said the cutoff for making a decision is June 15, only six weeks away.

After that, there just isn’t enough time to properly organize and the Champions Tour would need time to try and fill the date with a U.S.-based event as has been done with the RBC Canadian Open.

“I know it would be disappointing for fans and the charities if we have to cancel for a second year,” he stated. “We really want to keep the momentum going but no matter what happens, this event isn’t going anywhere.”

The only other major golf tournament on the calendar is the CP Women’s Open, scheduled for Aug. 23-29 at Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club in Vancouver. It’s operated by Golf Canada and planning is continuing as if it will be held.