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How Professional Golf is Coming to Smugglers


From September 3rd to 9th, Smuggler's Glen Golf Club near Ivy Lea (Ontario) will be the site of the inaugural Great Waterway Classic Canadian Men's Professional Golf Tour event. This will be the first ever professional golf tournament held in Eastern Ontario and the 1000 Islands. 

Smuggler's Glen GC is owned and operated by Dave and Jane Seal. Dave is a life-long resident of Gananoque and the region. For generations, The Glen House Resort has enjoyed a long history along the quiet banks of the St. Lawrence River, stretching back well into the early days of the twentieth century. The resort came into the possession of its current owners, the Seal family, in the fall of 1962, when it was purchased by Trudy and Ed Seal. At that time it was a humble establishment of quaint Victorian era-homesteads and boathouses. The Glen House Resort's primary clientele over the years has been fishermen and visitors from the United States. The completion of Hwy. 401 in 1968 and Interstate 81 in 1971, along with the ready access provided by the Thousand Islands Bridge, have all combined to make the Glen House Resort an idyllic vacation destination for visitors from both sides of the border.

In 2005, the opening of Smuggler's Glen Golf Club somewhat changed the focus for marketing the Glen House. Now, a championship golf course complimented the natural beauty of the resort's setting.

This challenging golf course has received many accolades in its brief history: Nominated as the Best New Course of 2006 by Golf Digest, Score Golf and the Golf Association of Ontario; Best Public Course in the Ottawa-Gatineau, Eastern Ontario Region by Flagstick Magazine: 2008 & 2009 Reader's Choice Awards; listed as one of Ontario's Best Value Courses in 2008 by Golf Ontario; and rated in 2011 as a Top 50 course by the Golf Ontario (GO) magazine - "Peoples' Choice" (24th) and "Top 50 You Can Play" (34th). Smuggler's Glen receives high rankings every year in the Flagstick Magazine Readers' Polls for its course design, customer service and challenging layout.

How then did the Canadian Tour find its way to the 1000 Islands and Smuggler's Glen? The answer is a great story in itself, one which is captured on video on the tournament's web site: www.thegreatwaterwayclassic.ca.  It began when I was interviewed by Scott Pritchard, Director of Tournament Development and Communications for the Canadian Tour. The "thumbnail" version of this background story is that we had organized a Charity Pro-Am in August, 2011 at Smuggler's Glen that matched club professionals with 3 person amateur teams. The success of that tournament plus our stated vision of bringing a professional men's golf tournament to Eastern Ontario attracted the Canadian Tour executive's interest and prompted them to ask in late September, 2011 if we were able to put together a team that would conduct a tournament in this area in 2012. Now that was quite a request, given the time and effort that is needed to run such an event and the compressed timeframe in which we had to work.

Since we had worked successfully with the Seals and Smuggler's Glen Head Professional, Doug Wark, on three other charity golf tournaments, we knew that this challenging golf course would be our first choice for such an event. Next, a small team of organizers, led by myself and Martin Noe of Evolution Golf and Event Management Inc., banded together to seek a title sponsor for this tournament. Through the hard work and guidance of Ann Weir, the Director of Economic Development for the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, we were led to making a presentation to the Board of Directors of The Great Waterway Tourism Region (RTO 9) in November, 2011. 

As we discussed the width and breadth of this project, the concept of a four year commitment to the Canadian Tour was put forward. In December, 2011 The Great Waterway Classic was approved with RTO 9 coming on board as the Title Sponsor.  The four-year series that begins at Smuggler's Glen in 2012, then moves up and down the St. Lawrence River with stops at the Upper Canada GC (Morrisburg) in 2013; Loyalist G&CC (Bath) in 2014; and Black Bear Ridge (Bay of Qunite) in 2015. 

On January 19th, 2012 The Great Waterway Classic was launched at a media conference attended by representatives from the four tournament sites, the Canadian Tour, Evolution Golf, RTO 9, and local, regional and national media. Since that date, the planning for this inaugural event has been non-stop and the focus on the 1000 Islands has been significant in newspaper and magazine articles, radio interviews, and televisions spots. The target for this event is to attract 10,000+ spectators to Smuggler's Glen during the 4 days of the actual tournament. The projected economic impact for this event will be in the $1.2M range.

The Great Waterway Tourism Region came on as Title Sponsor for this Canadian Tour event to showcase the natural beauty and charm of the four regions in which the event will be held. What better place to start than Smuggler's Glen and the 1000 Islands? We have had the Canadian Tour staff visit the course and stay at the Glen House Resort on many occasions and every time one of those folks have remarked about the beauty of this area. The Oakville-based tournament staff have travelled all over Canada and the United States running Canadian Tour events and they have told our organizing committee that the September 3-9 Great Waterway Classic will be one of the most talked-about venues on the Canadian Tour!

The invitation is open to all residents of the 1000 Islands and beyond to join us from September 6-9 for the 72 hole tournament proper. The touring professionals will be playing for a prize purse of $150,000 and since this will be the last domestic event on the 2012 schedule, the field for The Great Waterway Classic will be a strong one. Evolution Golf is currently trying to get some "local flavour" in the tournament by sponsoring a series of six "Chase the Dream" qualifying events. These one-day events are being held at various golf courses across Eastern Ontario in July and Early August with the top four finishers from each of those events coming to Smuggler's Glen in late August for a shoot-out to determine which three players will get exemptions into the Canadian Tour event in September. Imagine if one of those local qualifiers were one of the leaders going into the last day?

Tickets for The Great Waterway Classic are very reasonable: Thursday & Friday pass is $10.00; Saturday & Sunday pass is $20.00; and a four day pass is $25.00. These tickets can be purchased online by going to our web site: www.thegreatwaterwayclassic.ca. Come join us at this first-ever professional men's golf tournament to be held in the 1000 Islands and see the future stars of the PGA Tour up close and personal. You all are welcome!

By David P. Dargie. www.thegreatwaterwayclassic.ca

David P. Dargie is the Director of Tournament Development for Evolution Golf and the Tournament Director of The Great Waterway Classic. He was born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario.  It was his father who got him involved in golf 54 years ago.  David was a teacher and administrator in the Leeds and Grenville school system, 'retiring' after a 32 year career in 2000.  He writes,  “my dream has always been to be a Tournament Director for a professional golf tournament. Dreams do come true if you put the work into making them happen!” 

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