Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Will Pine Ridge be out of bounds for 2011?

Tour won't say, but it is scouting courses

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SDLqIF it ain't broke, don't fix it," works well for those inclined towards common sense.

In that vein, there must be something awry with the Canadian Tour Players Cup considering all the rumblings that this will be the event's final year at Pine Ridge Golf Club.

In recent times, the Tour has conducted the event here with year-to-year agreements but with a good feel of continuity. After last year's Players Cup, though, there was a sense of uncertainty and bewilderment about the future. That was disputed by the Tour until it pulled the plug on old management and installed new local leadership in Nicole and Rob McMillan.

Again, little if anything is known about 2011, but it says something when at least one Pine Ridge official has shared with others that he believes the jig is soon up.

Did he know something that everybody else doesn't? It's no secret that since rebranding Winnipeg's tournament as a Tour flagship event, the Tour has sought a more accessible course for spectators. Pine Ridge, something of a hike from the centre of town -- never mind if you live anywhere in the city's west half and have to deal with Bishop Grandin construction, Perimeter projects or the debacle the city has made of south Waverley's Perimeter access -- is not a prime spot for Winnipeggers, many of whom have a reputation of being simply unwilling to drive out of town for golf.

Tour officials are known to have kicked some tires. They've put out feelers at Niakwa, but the club is unlikely interested in the short term, especially in 2011 when the Canadian men's amateur will take up a week.

There have been multiple meetings at Glendale and the Tour even conducted its Monday qualifier there this year for the first time, just to see what it's like. And there is a great desire within some factions of Tour leadership to strike up a relationship with St. Charles. That love, though, seems to be unrequited, which is not surprising given that the grand old club only seems interested in hosting a big outside event every decade or so.

Adam Speirs, a player member of the Tour's board, Tuesday pleaded ignorance on the future but he knows what's important to the Tour.

"It's an awesome tournament here, the volunteers love it and the players love it," Speirs said. "What is missing is more spectators coming out. If we do move it into the city, more people would come out.

"So is it more important to have thousands of people watching at whatever course we're at, or is it more important to have it at a great golf course like Pine Ridge where it's established and I know the members love it here?

"I don't know, and that's what everybody has to figure out."

Speirs, who is based at St. Charles, said the most important thing now about the Players Cup is that it's an event going somewhere, whether or not it's going somewhere else. Which is to say the Tour doesn't think it should necessarily stop at a $300,000 purse for one of its top tournaments. It's up from $200,000 last year.

"I don't think it's a hard-feelings answer either way," he said. "If we did move it, I think Pine Ridge might accept that it's been here 11 years and they've done an amazing job.

The Tour's deputy executive director Dan Halldorson also claimed Tuesday to have no crystal ball on 2011.

"I don't think there's any tournament site that runs its course," Halldorson said. "I look at some of the PGA Tour sites they've been using for 40 years. From the standpoint of running our Tour, if you're at the same course all the time, you don't have to reinvent the wheel."

Much will depend on what direction Tour commissioner Rick Janes pushes, but much of the external searching presently taking place is believed to be his doing.

"Is there a facility that can hold a tournament that has all the qualifications that this one has?" Halldorson said. "You look for all the elements, the golf course, the parking, the practice range. Put them together and there are very few places in any city that would work."

The Canadian Tour event's recent history here is that it has only jumped around after multi-year stays, from Southwood to Pine Ridge to Breezy Bend to Elmhurst and now back to Pine Ridge for 11 years.

It seems that change is again in the offing but maybe a better solution this time is a rotation. That could solve the problem of members being reluctant to surrender their course for a mid-summer week. It might provide the city exposure the Tour is seeking without pressuring any one particular membership long-term.

But striking more than one deal in today's Winnipeg golf environment? Parring Pine Ridge's ninth -- both luck and skill required -- might be easier.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 14, 2010 C6

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