Angus Glen to host Pan Am Games golf in 2015
64 golfers to compete in 72-hole tourney
The first Pan American Games golf champions will be crowned at Angus Glen Golf Club.
The Markham, Ont., course just north of Toronto will be the venue for golf when the sport makes its Pan Am Games debut in 2015 — just a year before golf makes its Olympic return in Rio.
"You're going to get some of the world's best amateur golfers in the world playing here, and you're also going to get some of the best professional golfers in the world playing here, so you certainly want a golf course that is a great competitive test," said Golf Canada CEO Scott Simmons. "[Angus Glen] has certainly held its own with the world's best players, so having that on their resume was a huge feather in their cap."
Angus Glen has twice hosted the Canadian Open — won in 2002 by John Rollins, and in 2007 by Jim Furyk.
LPGA legend Annika Sorenstam was crowned the Canadian Women's Open champion at Angus Glen in 2001.
The club, which has two 18-hole championship courses — the Pan Am tournament will be held on a redesigned south course — was selected through a request for proposals process conducted by Golf Canada.
Simmons said the national organization received some "very, very strong applications," and that Angus Glen's strengths were its proximity to downtown Toronto — with its accessibility by public transit — and its proven ability to host big events.
"And the golf course itself needs to be a very competitive test for some of the world's best golfers," Simmons said. "They scored high on all of the criteria."
Rebecca Lee-Bentham, a 21-year-old from Toronto who's in her second year on the LPGA Tour, has her eye on a spot on Canada's team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and said the Pan Am Games would be the ideal preparation.
"It's really exciting because (competing in a multi-sport Games) is something so new and something golfers don't really get to be a part of," said Lee-Bentham, whose best finish this year was 18th at the Australian Open. "Just being around other athletes in that kind of setting is exciting. Plus, it's on home soil in front of friends and family."
The International Golf Federation voted last month to allow both amateur and professional players to compete in the Toronto 2015 Pan Am golf tournament.
While the Pan Am Games act as the Olympic qualifying event for several sports, that's not the case for golf.
"So you likely won't see Tiger Woods and players of that ilk," Simmons said.
He predicts the 64 golfers who are expected to compete will be a mix "of the nations' elite amateurs or their young professionals."
Simmons lists 15-year-old Brooke Henderson among the Canadians to possibly watch for in 2015. Henderson won the Canadian women's amateur championship in July, and is the world's No. 10-ranked amateur.
"Unless she turns professional in the next two years, she could be the No. 1 amateur in the world by that time," he said.
The Pan Am golf tournament is tentatively set for July 16-19.
Golf returns to the Olympic schedule in Rio for the first time since 1904 when Canadian George Lyon claimed the title.
Markham, meanwhile, will also be the Pan Am Games site for water polo, badminton and table tennis, and will host table tennis for the Parapan Am Games.