Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A historic golf tournament will be held later this year.
The inaugural Indigenous Ontario Golf Championship is scheduled for Sept. 19 and Sept. 20. The 36-hole event will be held at the MontHill Golf and Country Club, an Indigenous-owned private golf course located in Caledonia, Ont.
The event is being launched in conjunction with Golf Ontario, the governing body for the sport in the province. The tournament is meant to uphold Golf Ontario’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion principles.
“It is our honour to play a role in this inaugural championship event,” said Golf Ontario president Susan Vail.
The tournament will be open to those who are living in Ontario and are First Nations, Métis or Inuit.
The event is expected to feature categories for juniors, women and men. Additional details on player eligibility and registration information is expected to be made available in the coming weeks.
“Step by step, we are transforming the face of golf,” Vail said. Golf Ontario had previously started the Ontario Disability Championship in 2019.
Mike Kelly, the CEO of Golf Ontario, is also thrilled his organization has a role in September’s tournament.
“We have made significant strides in championing the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Kelly said. “And this new championship will be another great example of new opportunities for all golfers and platform to build relationships with Indigenous communities for years to come.”
Brendan Painter, the director of golf at the MontHill Golf and Country Club, said he’s unsure why a provincial Indigenous tournament had not been held in the past.
“I’m glad it’s started and everybody is starting to bring light to it,” he said.
Painter is not sure how many golfers will enter this year’s competition. But he believes it is a significant event.
“I think it’s exciting for the Indigenous community,” he said. “We are on Indigenous land. And this is a big deal for our ownership group.”
The Six Nations of the Grand River Territory will host the tournament.
Painter said there are numerous hotels in nearby Hamilton and Brantford that would be able to accommodate out-of-town golfers that will compete at the tournament. He also believes some participants would also stay with family or friends that live in the Six Nations community of Ohsweken.
Painter is hoping the 2022 tourney is the first of many to come.
“I hope it is an annual event,” he said.
And Painter said he would welcome the opportunity if the tournament returned to the MontHill Golf and Country Club year after year.
“We’d be happy to host it every year,” he said. “But if they want to go to different courses, there would be no hard feelings. It’s all about growing the sport.”
Jesse Smith, a Six Nations member and the head golf pro at the MontHill club, will serve as a co-chair for the Indigenous championship.
“Our 27 holes and world-class facilities will provide a great setting for this special tournament,” Smith said. “We look forward to an event that not only showcases great golf, but also leads to introduction, access, and growth of the game in First Nation communities.”
Also serving as co-chairs will be the brother and sister tandem of Steve Tooshkenig and Cheryl Mitchell, members of Bkejwanong Territory in southwestern Ontario. Both became golf pros themselves.
“We want to thank Golf Ontario for their commitment to growing the game of golf, and for launching the new Indigenous Ontario Golf Championship,” Tooshkenig said. “This new championship represents an amazing opportunity for people of all Indigenous backgrounds to play in a true provincial championship and test their games against some of the best Indigenous golfers in the province.”
MontHill is considered one of the top courses in Ontario.
Painter said it has yet to be decided which 18 holes at the facility will be utilized during the two days of competition.
Watch for further information at Official Website - Golf Ontario (gao.ca)
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