PGA Tour may gain Canadian footprint
The PGA Tour is considering taking over the struggling Canadian Tour.
The 42-year-old Canadian circuit that has produced such international stars as Mike Weir, Steve Stricker and Stuart Appleby could be in American hands by this fall.
It would be renamed the PGA Tour of Canada and gain not only financial stability but the clout of one of the world’s most powerful (and richest) sports brands.
The PGA Tour bailed out its Canadian cousin with an operating loan after it lost a reported $700,000 last year and has deepened the relationship this year by offering assistance in sponsor and tournament development. Jeff Monday, a PGA Tour senior vice-president, has travelled to most tournaments this year to evaluate them.
But a takeover wouldn’t be so much about rescuing the Canadian Tour, which has lost tournaments and reduced prizes purses this year, as it would be about the PGA Tour finding a new source of players and another route for them to rise through the golf ranks.
The PGA Tour is overhauling its qualifying system, beginning next year. As part of the changes, its qualifying tournament, or Q-school, will graduate players to the second-tier Web.com Tour (rather than to the PGA Tour directly, as it has done in the past).
The Canadian Tour could become a third tier, with the best performers advancing to the Web.com. It could also dovetail with the PGA Tour’s new LatinoAmerica Tour, another third-tier circuit. Players could compete in Latin America in the spring and fall and in Canada during the summer.
“As a membership organization, our whole objective is to provide opportunities to the membership,” Monday said while visiting the Canadian Tour Championship, which ended Sunday at Scarboro Golf and Country Club in Toronto.
“That’s what they are all looking for, to get to that next level.”
Monday said he was impressed with the tournaments he visited but saw room for some tweaking. “All the discussions we’ve had have been very encouraging.”
He’ll recommend a course of action to PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem within 30 to 45 days. “We’ll always be affiliated [with the Canadian Tour] but the extent of that affiliation is what we have to decide.”
Any takeover would have to be approved by the tour’s board. If the recommendation is to absorb the Canadian Tour and Finchem agrees, a vote could happen in October.
Scott Pritchard, the Canadian Tour’s director of business development, said a takeover is largely contingent on his circuit securing at least eight domestic tournaments with long-term sponsor commitments and community backing. The tour has held seven official events this year and has one more to go.
Pritchard said he is also beating the bushes in Halifax, Ottawa, Vancouver and other cities in an attempt to line up more events for 2013.
He said the circuit would welcome the PGA Tour because its brand would make it easier to attract sponsors and interest from communities and fans.
Players would welcome it, too, because the tour would survive and a new path to higher levels of golf would be created, they said.
“I don’t think anything bad can come of it,” said Cory Renfrew, a rookie from Victoria who is second on the tour’s money list this year. “Hopefully it happens.”
Renfrew said the chance to move to the Web.com more easily would be “an extra kick in the butt to play well” and likely attract better players to the tour.
Third-year tour player Roger Sloan of Merritt, B.C., said the only downside he could think of is that a deeper talent pool could choke out some of the Canadian “journeyman.”
But overall the chance to have the PGA Tour brand behind the Canadian circuit outweighs any negatives. “There’s a ton of potential to make this tour better,” he said. “Maybe they can help.”