Oakdale's spirit adds sense of community to upcoming RBC Canadian Open
One of the biggest moments of Ben Silverman's golf career was thanks, in part, to the efforts of a member at Oakdale Golf and Country Club.
Now he has an opportunity to return the favour by shedding a little light on the Toronto-area club as it prepares to host this year's RBC Canadian Open.
Silverman, from nearby Thornhill, Ont., had only recently turned pro when he qualified to represent Canada at the 2013 Maccabiah Games. He didn't have the funds to fly out to Israel for the multi-sport event for Jewish athletes, but an Oakdale member stepped up to pay Silverman's way for the event.
He went on to win gold by 11 shots at Caesarea Golf Club, while Canada earned bronze in the team event.
"Oakdale members are a big part of my support group that has been helping me along the journey of professional golf," said Silverman, who has gone on to win two Korn Ferry Tour events, most recently The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic on Jan. 25.
"It'll be nice to be able to go play at Oakdale where a bunch of (Maccabiah Games teammates) are members. (...) I think it's amazing that they are getting to showcase their club at the national championship."
Silverman was named to the Canadian Open field on Monday, earning an exemption along with Aaron Cockerill of Stony Mountain, Man., who plays on the Europe-based DP World Tour. Silverman has only played at Oakdale once before, ahead of the Maccabiah Games back in 2013, but said he's excited to compete on the composite course from June 6-11.
"It's just more special that it's closer to where my friends and family are, that are going to be able to come watch," said the 35-year-old Silverman. "So I'll be able to have more hometown support than I would traditionally anywhere else for the Canadian Open.
"But man, I've always just been excited to play in any Canadian Open."
Founded in 1926 in an agricultural area northwest of Toronto — the course has long since been subsumed into the city — Oakdale was born out of necessity as most country clubs at the time did not allow Jewish, Black, or Asian people to join. The club was founded seven years before the infamous Christie Pits riot, when Nazi-inspired youth flew a swastika flag to antagonize and provoke Jewish Canadians playing baseball at the public park in downtown Toronto.
"There were a number of members of the Jewish community who said, 'Well, if we can't play anywhere, let's create our own place,'" said Mark Sadowski, a past president of Oakdale on the club's origins. "That was the spirit of, what started, the journey towards establishing Oakdale."
The club's membership is still predominantly Jewish but, as it was created in reaction to antisemitism, faith is not a barrier to anyone joining. Membership is sold to families rather than individuals and philanthropic work, either through donation or service, is the most important requirement for joining.
Sadowski said that charitable component to membership has its roots in the Jewish faith.
"That's the sort of mindset of our club and I think that's always been the case," said Sadowski. "Since its origination it was expected that if you could afford to join a club like Oakdale you could afford to give to the community and that's the standard that exists today."
Golf Canada CEO Laurence Applebaum said that growing up in Toronto he was aware of Oakdale's reputation as a family-first club. He hopes that spirit will inhabit this year's Canadian Open and again in 2026, when Oakdale will celebrate its centennial by hosting the men's national championship a second time.
"It's about community. It's about culture. But the broader sense of culture, a culture of a club, culture of togetherness," said Applebaum on Monday after the Canadian Open's media day at Oakdale. "I think what the membership is probably most proud of is welcoming people into their club like they'd be welcoming them into their homes.
"That probably is what makes it so enjoyable for us to bring the RBC Canadian Open to Oakdale."
PGA TOUR — Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C., leads the Canadian contingent into this week's Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C. He's the highest ranked Canadian in the field, sitting 25th in the FedEx Cup standings. Mackenzie Hughes (26th) of Dundas, Ont., Corey Conners (27th) of Listowel, Ont., Adam Hadwin (47th) of Abbotsford, B.C., and Taylor Pendrith (110th) of Richmond Hill, Ont., are also in the field.
CHAMPIONS TOUR — Calgary's Stephen Ames is the lone Canadian in the field at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, Ga. He's eighth in the Schwab Cup rankings heading into the event, which tees off on Friday.
LATINOAMERICA TOUR — Myles Creighton of Digby, N.S., is the top-ranked Canadian on the Latinoamerica Tour's Totalplay Cup. He's in the field at the KIA Open in Quito, Ecuador. Joey Savoie of La Prairie, Que., Max Sekulic of Rycroft, Alta., Vancouver's Stuart Macdonald, Blair Bursey of Gander, N.L., and Toronto's Matt Kang will also play at the Quito Tenis y Golf Club.
EPSON TOUR — Selena Costabile of Thornhil, Ont., is 70th on the second-tier Epson Tour's Race for the Card money list heading into the Garden City Charity Classic at Buffalo Dunes in Kansas. Josee Doyon of St-Georges-de-Beauce, Que., Quebec City's Sarah-Eve Rheaume and Kate Johnston of Ayr, Ont., will also play in the event.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2023.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press