Champions Tour looks to extend Montreal deal
Published on Thursday, May. 09, 2013 12:01PM EDT Last updated on Tuesday, Mar. 27, 2012 03:22PM EDT
MONTREAL - The PGA Champions Tour hopes to have a deal in place this summer to keep the only Canadian stop on the seniors circuit going for at least another three to five years.
Tour president Mike Stevens was to begin talks Tuesday with Synchro Sports, promoters of the US$1.8-million Montreal Championship, on a contract extension.
The third edition of the tournament for players 50 and over is to be held June 18-24 at Richelieu Valley Golf Club southeast of Montreal after two years at Fontainebleau north of the city.
”Crowds have been spectacular,” said Stevens. ”These are some of the largest crowds we get all year, and they're enthusiastic too.
”The guys love coming up here to play. And that's why you're getting guys like Freddy (Couples) coming up here, because this event feels as much like a PGA Tour event as any on our schedule.”
Organizers announced that 1987 Masters champion Larry Mize, winner of the inaugural Montreal Championship in 2010, and last year's winner John Cook will be back, along with Couples, who was forced to pull out last summer with a back injury.
Stevens said that if negotiations go as expected an extension may be announced at this year's tournament or shortly after.
”It's a matter of how quickly we can work out the details,” he said. ”We have Richelieu Valley this year with an option for next year and I hope that they'll want to do it again.
”I think they'll see the benefits. We're golf course friendly. We always say we leave the courses better than when we got them.”
Stevens is to visit Calgary this week to talk to a potential title sponsor, although he added there was no intention to move the event there. The tournament currently has a handful of smaller sponsors, led by the Desjardins credit union group.
”There are only two PGA Tour events in this country (along with the RBC Canadian Open), so it makes sense to explore the national opportunities from a corporate sponsorship standpoint,” he said. ”These are companies that have to market on a national scale. We didn't focus on it the first two years, but then we said ‘Why not see what we can work out.“’
A title sponsor contributing between $2.5 million and $3 million per year would raise the possibility of expanding the three-round tournament to 72 holes and even bringing back a Canadian national senior open, although he said there have been no talks yet with the Royal Canadian Golf Association on that possibility.
But Stevens said the tournament will move to a new city on years when the Canadian Open is held in Montreal, possibly in 2014 when the Open is expected to be played at Royal Montreal. He said it is difficult to sell two events in one market in the same year. A likely destination would be Quebec City, although he also mentioned Toronto and Calgary.
”We want to keep it here,” said Stevens. ”We'd move to another market when that happens. We talked about Quebec City at the time. No specifics. No dates. No course. But we knew the Canadian Open would move into the market at some time.”
They would also consider moving in years when the CN Canadian Women's Open is in the area, which is about once every eight or nine years.
The Montreal Championship will be held a week earlier than its first two editions because the Tour wanted the July 4 weekend in the U.S. for another tournament. However, that event has run into trouble and the Montreal Championship may have the option next year of moving back. It was previously held on July 1 Canada Day week.
Either way, it will be on a long weekend as June 24 is a holiday in Quebec.