The Presidents Cup is returning to Canada.
The biennial competition pitting a U.S. team against a squad of International golfers will be played at Royal Montreal Golf Club in 2024.
“Being able to bring what we do at its grandest scale to our country is just absolutely unbelievable to me and humbling at the same time. I’m looking forward to sharing that feeling coast to coast,” said Ryan Hart, executive director of the 2024 Presidents Cup, in an interview with Sportsnet.
“The Presidents Cup in 2024 will be graciously hosted in Montreal at one of Canada’s most storied venues, but truly, our hope is that it will be Canada’s event.”
The Royal Montreal Golf Club, located in Île Bizard, also hosted the Presidents Cup in 2007 when the American side defeated the International team 19.5-14.5.
Hart, a Winnipeg native, says that it was the Canadian fans that helped make the 2007 event one of the most special in Presidents Cup history. He also said Canada is a country that’s almost “tailor-made” to host this event.
“Our country opens its arms to new cultures, and that’s part of who we are,” said Hart, who has served as the tournament director of The Players Championship on the PGA Tour for the last two seasons. “To do more of that through the game of golf and really welcome the world, it’s a unique opportunity.”
Royal Montreal has hosted the RBC Canadian Open 10 times, including most recently in 2014. The club, founded in 1873, is considered the oldest in North America.
Michael Richards, the chairman of the club’s Presidents Cup bid committee, says it has been working on this project for nearly three years.
A member of Royal Montreal since 1970, Richards was invited to the Presidents Cup in New York in 2017 with a group from the club to pitch the PGA Tour on hosting the 2023 event, since it would coincide with the club’s 150th anniversary (the event has since been pushed to 2024 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while Royal Montreal’s anniversary celebrations will continue in 2023).
Richards says representatives from the PGA Tour told the Royal Montreal group they were an underdog.
“If that was the case,” Richards recalled, “we were going to put something together and make it hard for them to turn us down.”
Richards said club members were engaged to measure support, and an online survey showed 97 per cent of responses were in favour of hosting the event again. He said the membership was only about 70-80 per cent in favour of hosting in 2007, but since there was such a positive experience more than a decade ago, the membership was “overwhelmingly supportive” this time around.
“You talk about an event at your club…. Can you think of anything better than a Presidents Cup?” said Richards. “The support we received from everyone was just extraordinary.”
The highlight from 2007 was the Sunday singles match between Tiger Woods and Mike Weir, who relied on a captain’s pick from Gary Player to earn a spot on the team. Weir defeated Woods 1-up.
In an exclusive statement to Sportsnet, Player said he went to a few other players at first, letting them know he wanted them to play Woods, but none were keen to take on the No. 1 player in the world. Finally, Player went to Weir and said, ‘You’re going to play against Tiger and you are going to beat him.’
“We had quite a little pep talk about the whole incident and I said, ‘Look me in the eyes when I tell you that you are going to beat him and all of Canada will be saying you had a great year.’ Well, he beat him,” said Player. “What a wonderful effort and a wonderful feat in front of all of those Canadians with their signs and they were so excited.
“All in all, we had great galleries that were most enthusiastic. I don’t remember playing on Tour or in a Presidents Cup where the galleries were so enthusiastic.”
Jack Nicklaus was the captain of the American side in 2007. He remembers the fans turning out in droves, about 35,000 per day, and says he’s confident Canadians will show out again in strong numbers four years from now.
“When I mentioned the 35,000 a day during the 2007 Presidents Cup, I remember joking then that 34,000 of them were there to root on Mike (Weir),” Nicklaus told Sportsnet. “When the Presidents Cup arrived in Montreal in 2007, the support from the fans and the corporate community was incredible.”
While no captains for 2024 were announced Monday, it’s likely Weir will eventually be named the leader of the International squad or at least an assistant captain. The 2003 Masters winner has served as an assistant for the last two Presidents Cups. He also had a solid record as a player (13-9-2) considering he never played on a winning team.
Weir was also one of three honourary chairs of Royal Montreal’s bid committee alongside former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and former Premier of Quebec Jean Charest.
While Weir’s prime years on the PGA Tour are behind him — he’ll be 54 in 2024 and made his debut on PGA Tour Champions last month — there is a whole generation of Canadians who are following in his footsteps and could factor into future Presidents Cups.
At this past weekend’s PGA Championship, there were four Canadians in the field for the first time — Corey Conners, Adam Hadwin, Mackenzie Hughes and Nick Taylor. In November, there will be four Canadians in the Masters, led by Weir — the most ever. And this summer, four Canadians were in the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in the ranking’s history.
“The next wave of Canadian talent is still young – with (Conners, Hughes, Taylor and Hadwin) ranging between 28 and 32 – and very talented,” said Nicklaus. “I don’t see why in four years’ time those players won’t be in the mix to make the International team and make a difference.”
This golden moment has many believing the 2024 edition of the Presidents Cup could be a banner event for Canadian golfers, not just the Canadian golf community.
“Our sport’s fans are unbelievable, and when you throw in Canadian pride with Canadian guys hopefully on the team you can wear that flag of honour,” said Hart. “To be there four years from now to listen to our fans and our country be showcased around the world — that gets me fired up.”
The PGA Tour also announced Monday that its celebrated First Tee Program, a youth development organization introducing the game of golf to juniors, will be coming to Canada. First Tee – Canada will look to launch three chapters in 2021 with a multi-year growth strategy to establish First Tee chapters in markets across Canada by 2023. The inaugural First Tee chapter will be located in British Columbia. A First Tee chapter in Quebec is expected to launch in 2022 as a legacy of the Presidents Cup.