Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

PGA Tour's backing boon to Players Cup

Hart reports business heating up, title sponsorship in the works

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He estimates he's already half-way to his goal and many steps ahead of 2012.

Players Cup executive director Ryan Hart is now trying to capitalize on last week's major announcement, though not much of a secret, that the PGA Tour has taken over the Canadian Tour and will make it PGA Tour Canada in 2013.

Hart, the president of local marketing firm mf1, spent much of the time leading up to this year's Players Cup trying to get the pieces in place. The Canadian Tour went through some serious debt troubles a year ago and even the bailout to the rumoured tune of as much as $800,000 in exchange for the option on the just-executed takeover, while a lifeline, did not enhance business in the short term.

But Hart now has a three-year contract with the PGA Tour and has secured several three-year sponsorship deals for the 2013 Players Cup at Pine Ridge (which will be kept in the schedule ahead of the Canadian Open).

"There was some cautious optimism to wait until (the) announcement was official," Hart said upon returning from four days in Florida at PGA Tour headquarters last week. "We're about 50 per cent of the way there with three-year commitments. And we've got a couple of companies with interest we're going back and forth with in the title spot."

"I think the interest post-Thursday, well there have been a lot more calls."

In its new era, PGA Tour Canada will be at least eight tournaments (the big tour hopes to grow it to 11 or 12 in the near future, but we've heard that before) with minimum purses of $150,000.

It, along with PGA Tour Latinoamerica, will operate as a feeder system to the Web.com Tour, defining the advancement ladder more clearly.

The top player on next year's PGA Tour Canada money list earns an all-exempt card to the Web.com Tour; the next four earn conditional status. And the next five will reportedly earn a pass to the final of Q-school, which starting in 2013 will be for Web.com Tour cards only under the PGA Tour's new promotion structure.

PGA Tour Canada has two challenges in front of it.

One will be to shore up the existing eight-tournament schedule, including several events in medium-sized markets that have been the backbone of the tour for decades.

The other will be to expand the schedule and somehow, some way garner more attention (including sponsorship) from major markets like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver where the Canadian Tour has been a near-zero in recent years.

Was it telling that during last Thursday's conference call, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem didn't acknowledge a single question from any of those existing medium-sized Canadian markets that have carried the mail for so long?

"I'm sure the tour sees the growth and strength and value in the small- to mid-market sizes," Hart said. "And I think they see some opportunity in a big way on the periphery of the major centres. I know from speaking to them they see both in their approach to Canada."

While Hart works diligently to re-align the PGA Tour Canada's Winnipeg property, there's an interesting bellwether out there for the future.

MTS, which was the title sponsor of the local tour stop for about eight years, more or less walked away from the venture in 2007, not long after CEO Pierre Blouin came on board.

Yet Blouin has been on the Canadian Tour board of directors for several years and was its chairman this year, and there he was on Thursday's conference call trumpeting the PGA Tour takeover as exciting for the future.

So we asked Blouin via email if that future included his company?

He responded promptly: "Without question, the association with the PGA Tour will make PGA Tour Canada much stronger and attractive for sponsors. This bodes well for the tour stop in Winnipeg and should provide potential sponsors such as MTS, more value for their sponsorship dollars.

"It is too early to speculate on MTS involvement as this time prior to having the calendar of events finalized and sponsorship packages available by PGA Tour Canada."

Hart has confirmed he's been talking to Blouin and MTS.

Certainly, the company isn't the only one out there that's been approached or might consider it for 2013 and beyond.

Those are the kinds of decisions that will say much for the event and for the new iteration of the Tour, one way or another.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Four finalists vying

for top amateur

CHARLIE Boyechko of Southwood, Garth Collings of Breezy Bend, Jenna Roadley of Glendale and Josh Wytinck of Pine Ridge are the four finalists for the 2012 Amateur Golfer of the Year Award, Golf Manitoba announced this morning.

The award will be handed out at next Monday's annual meeting and awards dinner at Glendale.

Boyechko was a runner-up (via playoff) at the Nott Autocorp Manitoba Men's Amateur this summer and has been a key member of the University of Manitoba Bisons golf team this fall, winning or sharing low individual three times. The Bisons have captured five team titles, four of them in the U.S.

Collings, also a runner-up at the Amateur via playoff, has won the award five times. He also won the provincial mid-amateur this summer.

Roadley, a student at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., won the Manitoba junior by 16 shots and lost the Amateur in a playoff.

Wytinck was the Amateur champion in a four-man playoff just two weeks after having made the cut at the Canadian Tour Players Cup. He is the captain of the Bisons golf team, which has been so successful this fall and is currently ranked 13th on the National Order of Merit.

Three players were given honourable mentions: Derek East of St. Charles, Aaron Cockerill of Teulon and Bri-Ann Tokariwski of Elmhurst.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 24, 2012 C14

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