An inconspicuous Jewish country club just became the site of Canadian sports history

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TORONTO — Here’s a dreaded 1926 Toronto Star headline: “Hebrews Buy Farms; Build Golf Courses.”

Ninety-seven years later, one can only imagine those “Hebrews”—a group of Jewish businessmen who founded Oakdale Golf and Country Club—because all private golf clubs at the time adhered to a strict “no Jews” policy— — what would have thought of today’s headlines about their club.

Oakdale made front-page news in Canada on June 5 as it hosted the PGA Tour’s Canadian Open golf tournament for the first time – the third longest-running national championship in the world behind the US Open and the UK The Open — what would go on to become one of the biggest moments in Canadian sports history.

With its immaculate greens and fairways, thousands of fans lined the club as Nick Taylor miraculously sank one of the longest droughts in Canadian sports in a playoff to become the first Canadian champion since 1954 .

Still largely Jewish today, the club went from virtually invisible to now part of Canadian sports lore almost overnight.

“Our club is really excited and honored to host this event and show the world who we are,” said former club chairman Mark Sadowski, who played a key role in bringing the Canadian Open to the club . “I dare say we’re a little bit proud.”

9th hole leading to the clubhouse at Oakdale Golf and Country Club in Toronto. (Courtesy of the Canadian Golf Association)

From the day it opened, Oakdale has firmly opposed discrimination of any kind. While membership in the club passed down the family line—making it as Jewish as ever—anyone could join, so the club also included a large number of non-Jews. There was never — and Sadowski insists there never will be — a question on the application form about religious affiliation or any other identifier.

To join the luxury club, however, Sadowski described in the application as “a very specific piece of Jewish DNA”.

“its about Tedaka,” he said, using the Hebrew word for charity. “Do you donate to the community—not necessarily financially, but do you have a sense of community? So the two pillars of our club are that we are a family centered club and we want our members to give back in some way. “

Photo taken during the final round of the Canadian Open at Oakdale Golf and Country Club in Toronto on June 11, 2023. (Bernard Brault/Canada Golf)

Sadowski also noted how the club — which is surrounded by mostly economically disadvantaged citizens in northwest Toronto — has prioritized hiring the majority of its staff within walking distance or a short commute. In addition, the club hosts various events where local children learn the game of golf.

Meanwhile, conservative, attention-hating members of the club want to stay out of the spotlight.

“The club has been very low-key,” said Molly Jagroop, the club’s general manager and a Guyanese immigrant, emphasizing that from her first day at Oakdale more than a decade ago, She just felt very comfortable.

“We don’t get noticed because it’s not what our members are primarily interested in. But we’re going to be our 100th birthday in 2026, so we felt it was time to raise our profile and let the world see us, if you will.” ,” Jagroop said. “When you look at the golf course and the state of it, the clubhouse, and all the work we’ve done to our facility over the years, we’re sitting pretty well. So why not open it up? Now’s the time to do something big, Like hosting the Canadian Open.”

Oakdale Golf and Country Club general manager Molly Jagroop with former president Mark Sadowski in June 2023. (Ed Klajman)

That required contacting the Canadian Golf Association — the governing body of the Canadian Open — to see if they were interested. Many officials and elite players have never even heard of the club. But Canadian Golf CEO Lawrence Applebaum is not one of them. He knows many Oakdale members and he first attended the course as a guest more than 30 years ago.

“We went through a multi-year, multi-layered process to see if a potential host had all the aspects of what we wanted on the PGA Tour,” said Applebaum, who joined Golf Canada as CEO in 2017 after spending spent most of his time in the sporting goods industry. “And Oakdale continues to surprise us on every level. Do they have a strong membership? Yes, 1,000 families. Do they have a golf course that can be refined within the ropes? Yes, we Using the best 18 of their 27 holes to create a composite course.”

Canada Golf CEO Laurence Applebaum speaks during a press conference ahead of the Canadian Open at Oakdale Golf and Country Club in Toronto on June 6, 2023. (Bernard Brault/Canada golf company)

Applebaum added that as the Canadian Golf Club completes the rest of its list, which includes the ability to host live concerts and offer food, beverage and hospitality options, the club has consistently delivered.

“Every time we asked for something we needed, Oakdale stepped up and worked with us,” Applebaum said. “This club has just welcomed the world with open arms, showing a truly inspiring spirit of togetherness.”

Membership support was around 75% – one of the highest for any club hosting the event.

After completing all preparations and allowing free time, the club was handed over to the Canadian Golf Club before the game. Despite wildfire smoke, rain, and a highly controversial bombshell announcement about Saudi Arabia’s investment in the PGA Tour, all went well over the course of four days. Taylor’s historic win was just a windfall.

Nick Taylor competes in the first round match of the Canadian Open in Toronto on June 8, 2023. (Bernard Brault/Canada Golf)

Members do have to make a lot of sacrifices, most notably giving up their clubs for a few weeks during high season. But Sadowski believes that when the review is fully completed, members will see that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. And, assuming membership is approved for the next round, the club will celebrate its 100th anniversary again in 2026.

“It’s a step out of their comfort zone, but their attitude is: ‘Can we do it? Do you think we can do it?'” said Applebaum. “They gain confidence that they can do it, and then they Blow it out of the water. So, I just think we’re lucky to have found this gem of a club called Oakdale, and we’re looking forward to returning in 2026. “

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