Sit in the Saddlehome for a Flames home game and it becomes clear this is a crazy sports city. Likewise for the Calgary Stampede, a two-week party in July that actually does have its own rodeo portion, believe it or not (in recent years, the party aspect has grown). The world’s largest outdoor rodeo is a testament to Calgary putting on a show, as the LPGA will find out in 2024.
On the final day of February 2023, Golf Canada announced a return to Calgary for our nation’s premiere woman’s event, the first time following 2016’s playing at Priddis Greens notable Hawk course. Priddis Greens is a strong venue (currently ranked inside Canada’s Top 100 according to Beyond The Contour), but it is a bit of a hike from city-centre. When the CP Women’s Open returns to Cowtown in 2024, it’ll be at Earl Grey, about 10 kilometres from downtown.
Earl Grey is not exactly the big-name club like Priddis Greens, Mickelson National, or Calgary Golf & Country Club across the Glenmore are, but it is a solid venue for such an event. The land is gentle, although provides interest on some of the par 3s. It’s a parkland layout, although portions of the layout play near the Reservoir. It will be easy to navigate the property for spectators, and it is not an overly demanding walk for players.
But the return of the LPGA to the biggest city between Vancouver and Toronto is not necessarily about the venue, but the city itself.
Calgary has been, largely, ignored by such events. Sure, it has hosted the CP Women’s Open in 1999, 2009, and 2016, but still no RBC Canadian Open in the event’s much longer history. I understand the hurdles for hosting from the perspective of sponsors and Golf Canada, but Winnipeg, Saint John (New Brunswick), Gatineau, and Niagara Falls have all hosted a Canadian Open in its 100+ year history. In today’s day and age, Mickelson National could host, but likely not with the Mickelson name attached. Glencoe could potentially, too, but it might be too short at 7,500 yards with limited room for spectators. And of course, there’s still the pipe dream of a boutique National Open at Banff Springs with additional yardage added (there’s way more room than you’d expect) akin to a Shinnecock Hills US Open some three hours from NYC in the Hamptons.
The LPGA is different, though. Like the PGA TOUR, they’ve gone to St. George’s and Glen Abbey, but they’ve also taken it to rural Québec for Lachute, Vancouver Golf Club, St. Charles in Winnipeg, London Hunt, Essex in Windsor, Priddis Greens, Royal Mayfair, Royal Ottawa, Point Grey, and even Wascana in Regina. Call it perks of a smaller footprint and the golf ball going too far, but these days, the women’s game has much more options for hosting than the men do. The LPGA and Golf Canada have done an excellent job spreading the event across the nation. In the past ten playings, the event has been to Montreal, Vancouver twice, Edmonton, Ottawa twice, Toronto, Calgary, London, and Regina. In 2023, the CP Women’s Open will be at Shaughnessy in Vancouver for the first time.
Which brings us to Earl Grey, not a usual suspect for such events, but nonetheless, an exciting location. Spectators, media, players and Golf Canada/LPGA officials will get a true taste of Calgary, located in the heart of the city. Crowds should be large and exciting, especially for Brooke Henderson. Calgary tends to show up for events when they come to town. It might be hard to top Brooke’s support in Ottawa at her honorary home club in 2022, but if anyone is up to the challenge, Calgary should be. With a new date in July typically a week removed from Stampede, the city will be recovered and those who are looking for things to do will be in full relapse. It should be the perfect storm for a successful event.
Following renovations from Wayne Carleton in 2018, Calgary-area fans and golfers who have not seen the changes will be exposed to the new layout. While I have not seen the updates, I anxiously await to see it on TV or in person. For anyone planning a trip to Calgary, this will be a great time to go. The Rocky Mountains are only an hour or so away, Banff, Stewart Creek, Kananaskis, and more will be in prime, mid-season shape (late July is the least-likely chance for snow), and the city will be bumping. If you’re looking for a reason to go to Calgary for the first time, this is a great excuse. If you’ve been before, why not go again? I’m already planning a homecoming on what will surely be an exciting, energizing week.