Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

The Rink is the place to be and be heard (like a hockey fan) at RBC Canadian Open

By admin Jun3,2024

HAMILTON, Ontario – Mackenzie Hughes arrived at the par-3 13th hole at Hamilton Golf & Country Club on Saturday and described the scene as pandemonium.

Before he could hit his tee shot, the fans at The Rink, the hockey-themed hole wrapped in boards on both sides of the tee, goalie helmets as tee markers, a goal on the tee, and an ice-resurfacing machine nearby, serenaded him with Canada’s national anthem.

“The hair on the back of my neck stood up,” Hughes said.

They sang “Hey, Baby!” before Trace Crowe teed off and John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” in between groups, while Rory McIlroy was treated to a Ryder Cup-esque Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole!

It was a hair-brained idea that debuted seven years ago and is now part of the fabric of the RBC Canadian Open. Credit goes to the executive director of Golf Saskatchewan, who suggested a hockey-themed hole to combine Canada’s most popular pastimes, golf and hockey. It debuted originally in 2017 at Glenn Abbey.

RBC Canadian Open: Photos | Merchandise | Leaderboard

The first year, rowdy fans lined the hockey-style boards, which replaced traditional roping, on one side of the seventh hole. The next year, at St. George’s it was both sides of the 16th hole, which created a different vibe, and it just keeps growing with a double decker tent lining the left side of the hole.

The Rink, the hockey-themed hole at the RBC Canadian Open, has become part of the fabric of the championship. (Adam Schupak/Golfweek)

RBC Canadian Open tournament director Bryan Crawford told PGA Tour.com, “I don’t think anybody could have dreamed when that idea was brought forward that it would have grown to what it is today.”

It creates an electric atmosphere that is shades of the infamous 16th at TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course during the WM Phoenix Open, only these fans tend to be buzzed rather than three sheets to the wind and while they slap the boards and singalong to their heart’s content, it becomes quiet enough to hear a pin drop before a player tees off.

The pros have bought into putting a slice of Canada’s national pastime into the act, wearing their favorite hockey jersey. Mike Weir has worn a Detroit Red Wings jersey. Dustin Johnson, a past champion before departing to LIV, used to rock an Edmonton Oilers jersey of his father-in-law, “The Great One,” Wayne Gretzky. Former touring pro Graham DeLaet used to sport a Calgary Flames jersey.

2024 RBC Canadian Open2024 RBC Canadian Open

The hockey helmet tee box marker at the 2024 RBC Canadian Open. (Photo: Adam Schupak/Golfweek)

Two years ago, Golf Canada introduced The Rink at the Canadian Women’s Open, with Brooke Henderson donning a sweater of her hometown Ottawa Senators and Nelly Korda a Chicago Blackhawks jersey, the team that her boyfriend played for at the time. The volunteer marshals dress as referees too, and have dubbed the area around the tee “The Penalty Box.” And just like at a hockey game, the fans booed and chanted “Referees suck,” when one of them confiscated a plastic hockey puck that was being toss in the stands. It’s fast become one of the more unique experiences at a professional golf tournament without feeling too contrived or the fans getting out of control.

“On that Rink, there’s like no space. It’s just like the boards are right there on the tee and they’re banging and they’re screaming,” said Hughes, who wore a Durham 360 Painting jersey of a late friend as a tribute. “Walking on that tee, again, just a total hair-raising moment where, I mean, I’m trying to play it pretty cool, but inside I’m thinking this is really, really cool.”

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