Classic attracting plenty of top talent

SCOTT UNGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

The Canadian Professional Golf Tour makes its annual stop in Winnipeg for the Manitoba Classic next week from July 12-15 and it's an event that continues to grow.

The event has one of the biggest purses on the tour and is seeing golfers from around the world flock to Winnipeg each summer for a July visit.

"The corporate community has always been very good to us," local tournament organizer Mitch Zalnasky said during a press conference at Pine Ridge yesterday.

"I remember in the '70s when the tournament looked like it might fold. I got three sponsors at $5,000 so that we could have a $15,000 purse."

Now the purse is $150,000 and a $24,000 first prize is attracting all kinds of talent.

Over 140 golfers from the Canadian Tour have committed to come to Pine Ridge, although Zalnasky doesn't expect them all to attend.

Order of Merit leader Spencer Levin has qualified for the British Open, which runs from July 19-22, and is not expected to be in the field.

But, the bottom line is that the Manitoba Classic is a key event for the players on the Canadian Tour.

"Players want to come here to play," Zalnasky said. "They love the course and they love the event. It's one of the best stops on the tour.

"I have guys calling me all the time wanting to get a sponsor exemption so they can play here."

Speaking of exemptions, eight local players and four qualifiers will get a pass into the event. Golf Manitoba amateurs Garth Collings, Brad Kirton, Peter More and defending Manitoba Men's Amateur champion Matt Johnson will all tee off on Thursday morning. Four local club pro's have also been given a spot, including Dean North, Geoff Kehler, Glen Mills and Mike Coghill.

The one-round qualifier that has four spots up for grabs will be played just across the street from Pine Ridge on Monday at the Elmhurst Golf and Country Club. After the low four players, six alternates will be chosen to fill-in any open spots come Thursday morning.

Manitobans will be able to cheer on local tour players throughout the week, as Dauphin's Ryan Horn and Winnipegger Adam Speirs are in the event. Speirs is currently 22nd on the tour money list and Horn is sits at 107th.

Former Manitoba Classic champion Rob McMillan is in the field because he has Tour status from last season.

A full weekend pass is $20 and all members of the Canadian Armed Forces will be admitted free to the event.

"They love the course and they love the event."

Mitch Zalnasky


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