Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

True North partnering with PGA Tour Canada

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For nearly 30 years, there's been no more friendly ground than in Winnipeg for Canada's professional golf tour.

In its new form as PGA Tour Canada, the tour strengthens that relationship today when it will announce a new partnership, via The Players Cup, with the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation.

The Players Cup, the annual tour stop here, will be played July 18-21 at Pine Ridge.

Tournament executive director Ryan Hart and PGA Tour Canada president Jeff Monday were tight-lipped about their announcement on Tuesday but it's clear the Canadian tour's new synergies with the PGA Tour have led to progress.

PGA Tour Canada just completed its qualifying school with a record entry. There were 312 players vying for 40 cards last week in California and Monday said the total entry was 345.

That's a long way from past Canadian Q-schools which were commonly less than 100 players.

"It really says two things," Monday told the Free Press Tuesday night. "One is that the connection to the PGA Tour and the access to the Web.com Tour is, given the new structure we have in place with Web.com Tour being the pathway, that knowing that PGA Tour Canada is the pathway to the Web.com Tour, players are saying, 'That's where I want to play.'

"The second element is that word has gotten out about the quality of each tournament in the markets and playing in Canada and the experience you can have and the structure of the tour itself will best prepare you for the Web.com Tour."

The quality of Canadian events has always been better than most fans suspected but an over-subscribed Q-school likely means one thing -- the competitiveness of events is about to go up again.

"I think the calibre of player now will continue to get better and better," Monday said. "There have been some very good players but now, the better young players will migrate towards here to try to earn their way to the Web.com Tour.

"So our job is to make sure that we provide a PGA Tour-level experience both inside the ropes and then work with all the tournaments to provide a PGA Tour-level experience outside the ropes, and not just for the players but for sponsors and fans."

This summer, the Players Cup will be the fifth of eight events in Canada. The recent addition of the Cape Breton Celtic Classic in early September in Nova Scotia gives the tour a coast-to-coast footprint, but Monday said the short-term goal will be to expand the schedule modestly as early as 2014.

He said another event in the Maritimes would be ideal and the tour is prioritizing that. Similarly, finding a location in Quebec and on the West Coast to partner with the Victoria event -- Monday has recently been to Vancouver to gauge interest -- will be a focus.

"We're really focused on working with Ryan and all the other tournaments to get launched and be successful this year," Monday said. "We're have just as serious of discussions trying to identify new markets so that we truly can be across Canada."

Other early signs that PGA Tour Canada's stability is improving include a new weekly highlights show that's been packaged with its bigger partnership between Shaw/Global for PGA Tour events for the next number of years. The weekly show will be seen Sunday just before regular PGA Tour broadcasts.

PGA Tour Canada is also going to produce a daily highlights package to be made available nationally from each tournament this season, as well as start making bigger connections between fans and the long list of former Canadian tour players who have gone on to great success.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 17, 2013 D5

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