It was a simple idea that grew. Why couldn’t we do that? It was a question posed to Jordan Klein by phone by Mark Laurie while the two Oakdale Golf and Country Club members watched the 2019 RBC Canadian Open at the Hamilton Golf & Country Club from their respective homes.
“They are both very good and passionate golfers at Oakdale,” says the club’s immediate past president Mark Sadowski of that fateful conversation “Jordan replied that he thought their course would be too easy. Mark pointed out that Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia hosted a big tournament by using a composite 18 of their 27 holes and Oakdale likewise has 27 holes.”
Sadowski said the more the two men thought about it and talked about it the more they got excited at the prospect of actually doing it. A phone call a few days later to Laurence Applebaum, CEO of Golf Canada really got the ball rolling. The concept then took on a life of its own as then club president Sam Winberg, former general manager John Caven along with Klein hosted a series of meetings with Golf Canada staff to discuss the concept in greater detail. These series of meetings put the foundational pieces together on what could be an incredible moment for Oakdale to open its doors to Canada and a worldwide golfing audience.
Sadowski became president of the club in 2021 and the project fell on his shoulders. He said they had an extremely consultative program involving Golf Canada, the PGA TOUR, and the members. It was important for the members to understand all aspects of what they were getting themselves into. In the end the members voted 73 percent in favor which he says is the highest percentage of membership approval for any club that has hosted the Canadian Open in recent years. As a result, they were approved to host this year’s tournament, June 8-11, as well as the 2026 event which aligns with the club’s centennial celebration.
For Oakdale, which was founded in 1926, it will be a coming out party of sorts, a chance for Toronto and indeed the whole world to see their facility for perhaps the first time and hear their story. “It was out of necessity that this club came into being,” says Sadowski. “A hundred years ago the world was a very different place and there were clubs who would not allow Jewish people to join or even play. And it was the same in the medical community and other aspects of business. There were very clear, no blacks, no Jews, and no Asians rules.”
While it was members of the Jewish community who purchased the land a hundred years ago and formed the club Sadowski says it is not now and never has been a club for Jewish people only. He says the membership is predominately but not exclusively Jewish.
“There is nothing on our membership application that asks your religion and never has been,” said Sadowski. “What we do ask, and have asked since basically the club was formed, is that you have a willingness to give back to the community in one way or another.” Sadowski points out, as an example, that when Golf Canada introduced the First Tee – Canada program to help inner city kids get into golf couple of years ago, Oakdale was the first private club in Canada to jump on board. And years earlier when a young George Knudson moved from Winnipeg to Toronto to become the club’s professional, a group of members put together some money to send him out on the PGA TOUR.
“They told him he didn’t have to pay them back, just to go out and make the club proud,” said Sadowski. Knudson made all of Canada proud winning eight times between 1961 and 1972. And Sadowski says the membership has gotten behind the RBC Canadian Open in a big way. He says the members have bought out the club’s complete allotment of private lodges and have signed up in big numbers to volunteer for the various committees that are required to run an event as big as an RBC Canadian Open. “The members and their families are looking at this as great for Oakdale but also a great life experience, a chance of a lifetime,” he says. “This is something that money can’t buy.”
For more on the RBC Canadian Open, visit www.rbccanadianopen.com