October 21, 2012
Tour increases 'credibility'
By Ian Hutchinson, Special to QMI Agency
The Canadian Tour was looking forward to its new life as PGA Tour Canada when commissioner Rick Janes, yet to have his own future defined, honoured the past.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t extend my appreciation to those who, over the past 40 years, helped build the foundation of the Canadian Tour,” said Janes as the Canadian circuit became a feeder to the Web.com Tour.
It was a classy move to recognize the contributions of many, including ex-commissioners Bob Beauchemin (1985-93), Dick Grimm (1993-97) and Jacques Burelle, who replaced Grimm and negotiated a huge deal with the Golf Channel in 2000 that sustained the tour for 10 years.
Until last Thursday, that Golf Channel deal was the biggest in tour history, but then, as now, it was hoped an American organization contributing so much would allow the tour to keep its unique Canadian identity.
“I don’t know how the players are going to look at it, but I think they’ll look at it positively because I think and pray they put together something in Canada and don’t keep running all over the world because I don’t think that has any merit at all,” Grimm said.
That doesn’t appear to be the case.
While the Canadian Tour has made past ventures into places such as Mexico, the PGA Tour is also operating PGA Tour Latinoamerica the same way it’s running its new Canadian operation, so South and Central America won’t enter into it.
The odd U.S. event might appear but the focus will be on Canada.
“(The PGA Tour deal) has to be a positive if you knew the other side of the coin, which is the disappearance of the (Canadian) Tour,” said Grimm, better known as “Mr. Canadian Open,” for his role in building that PGA Tour event.
“They also have connections, financial and otherwise, beyond what we have and God knows we need some help in getting sponsorships of events and so forth. I think the (tour) now has more credibility in the eyes of the average guy,” Grimm said.
“That title, PGA Tour, has got some meaning, for sure,” he added.
Ian Leggatt, who played on the Canadian Tour from 1990-99 before moving on to the PGA Tour, where he won the 2002 Tucson Open, agrees.
“I think the brand alone speaks for itself,” said Leggatt, now the director of golf for Summit Golf and Country Club near Toronto.
“In Canadian golf, I think it’s a huge piece of the puzzle financially, going forward. Individually, it has always been local activation and sponsorship build. Now, I think they’ve got a better opportunity to create a national presence with a national sponsor,” he said.
That national sponsor may come “sooner than you think,” Leggatt said. “I think now, it’s more appetizing to be in partnership with the PGA Tour.”
That national sponsor and the influence of the PGA Tour would complement traditional pockets of popularity for the Canadian circuit. There are no guarantees, but the future is looking rosier than a week ago.
“I don’t know if it was going to die. It definitely wasn’t going to grow. I think there are some key markets in Canada where the Canadian Tour is very important to them, like Winnipeg and Victoria,” Leggatt said.
STAKING THEIR TURF
Former PGA Tour player Dick Zokol points out the introduction of PGA Tour Canada also works for the big tour,.
Just as the European Tour expanded beyond its traditional area over the past few decades and now plays in many countries outside Europe, the PGA Tour has now put a solid footprint on this side of the ocean between Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamerica.
“There’s no doubt that the European Tour is conquering a good portion of the global market,” Zokol said.
“With the Olympics coming into South America, you can tell by the actions of the PGA Tour, the fact that they went down there and got control and created PGA Tour Latinoamerica,” he added.
“That’s an emerging market,” said the 1992 Greater Milwaukee Open winner. “It was very evident in (PGA Tour commissioner Tim) Finchem’s quotes that they want that and North America, as well.”
Zokol never played regularly on the Canadian Tour, but he was a member and won the British Columbia Open in 1982.
He points out, for example, there have been rumbles over the years that the Canadian Open should be played on the European Tour. Not that it would happen, but it’s less likely with the PGA Tour all around it.
“It’s no different than the NHL, a new owner coming into, say, Hamilton. Now, they’re infringing on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ territory,” he said.
“That’s their market and if somebody comes in, they control that and control is a very important part of sharing the pie and everyone wants a bigger share of the pie,” said Zokol.
It may sound like an attempt at world dominance, but Zokol commends Janes for getting it done because it opens opportunities for players.