TORONTO -- Golf Canada has announced Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) will takeover as title sponsor of the Canadian Women’s Open in a three-year agreement and the event will be played at the London Hunt and Country Club in 2014.
The announcement – made Wednesday in Toronto – was not a surprise. Both the golf course and the title sponsor had been rumoured as such for nearly a week, but it happened. As the saying goes, better late than never, especially considering the short time frame in which both the golf course and the sponsor must now plan for a large event.
CP comes to the table after the Canadian National Railway (CN) stepped down this summer after being the title sponsor since 2006.
It may seem odd that one railway will takeover as a sponsor from another, but not if you look at who is running CP. CEO Hunter Harrison was the man at CN when it first stepped in to sponsor the event in 2006. This isn’t unheard of, especially in Canadian golf circles. Jim Little, who was the former CEO of RBC, brokered most of the golf dealings of the bank, and in his current role – as CEO of Shaw Communications – he helped to get Shaw to sponsor the newest Champions Tour event (the Shaw Charity Classic which debuted in August of 2013).
“Canadian Pacific is please to have the opportunity to become title sponsor of the Canadian Women’s Open,” said Harrison. “Having been involved in this great championship in the past, I am well aware of the significant benefits of associating our brand to this event.”
The interest in sponsorship was significant said Golf Canada CEO Scott Simmons.
Simmons said the organization had people calling them – including companies in the auto, telecommunications and banking sectors – but said Canadian Pacific, and Harrison in particular, knew what it took to be a partner.
“I don’t like using the word ‘sponsor’,” said Simmons. “They are a partner.”
The event has always been one of the LPGA’s premier stops. It was an official LPGA major from 1979 to 2000 before being replaced in 2001 by the Women’s British Open.
“For our players, this championship has become a must-play event,” said LPGA commissioner Mike Whan, who was in attendance at the media conference.
The tournament made international headlines in the golf world in 2012 as Lydia Ko, then a 15-year-old amateur, became the youngest person ever to win an LPGA event. She followed up her performance with another victory at the tournament in 2013, becoming the lone amateur to ever win two events on the LPGA Tour.
“It was pretty special to me, to win a country’s national open,” Ko said on the phone during the media conference. “Everyone was so supportive.”
Ko turned professional on October 23rd and will be in London looking to three-peat.
London Hunt, a venerable Robert Trent Jones design built in 1960, last hosted the Canadian Women’s Open in 2006. Cristie Kerr came from behind to win in dramatic fashion. She said during the media conference that London Hunt is a “fantastic” course.
The greater London area has become a hotbed for Canadian golf tournaments – at least for 2014. The Canadian Women’s Amateur will be played at Craigowan Golf & Country Club in nearby Woodstock while Sunningdale Golf & Country Club (also in London) will host the Canadian Junior Women’s Championship and the season-ending Tour Championship of Canada on PGA Tour Canada – an event also put on by Golf Canada.
The event also gives Southwestern Ontario a double-dip of LPGA action for 2014, with the Manulife Financial Classic going into its third year at Grey Silo Golf Club in Waterloo, less than an hour from London.