Hlady heads the Nation

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

Mark Hlady would be the first to admit he's spent most of the last decade taking too many shots.

Not just on the golf course -- thanks to a lax short game -- but as a conservative MLA for Calgary-Mountain View.

All that is about to change as the former politician embarks on a new course that finds him heading up the Nationwide Tour's Alberta Classic, set for Redwood Meadows Sept. 1-4.

And his No. 1 goal is to see the world's best development loop disappear three years from now in favour of a PGA or Champions Tour event.

"Calgary is golf crazy and my long-term goal is to see a PGA Tour event in Calgary but it doesn't happen overnight," said Hlady, unveiled as tourney president yesterday by PGA Tour VP Michael Stevens.

"This tourney is a great showcase for Calgary and the Nationwide Tour so Calgary needs to show support for this."

Attendance improved last year from GlenEagles in 2003 and more than a dozen skyboxes for the second annual tourney last year added to the corporate support Hlady will try to build on through his long list of contacts made while overseeing his Calgary ward from 1993-2004.

"With his experience and connections, we have a real opportunity to build on what we've already been pleasantly surprised by," said Stevens, who noted the upcoming announcement of Calgary's augmented purse should ensure the tour's top players will return this year.

"The course showed really well on the Golf Channel and the players fell in love with it. We've said all along this could lead to a PGA Tour event here."

More than 65% of the PGA Tour's players are Nationwide graduates, solidifying the 31-stop tour that now plays in five countries as the big loop's official talent feeder. Stevens is happy with the Calgary market.

"We already have good corporate support for this event but now with Mark here we're really going to see what this market is capable of," he said.

"Personally, we'd really like to be here forever but if support from the city gets big enough we'd happily give way to a Champions Tour event of a PGA Tour event."


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