The Canadian Tour is set to become the PGA Tour Canada in 2013.
The newly renamed Canadian circuit will essentially become a third tier, with the top performers advancing to the developmental Web.com Tour. It will also dovetail nicely with the PGA Tour's new LatinoAmerica Tour, another third-tier circuit which began play this past September. Players will be able to compete in Latin America in the spring and fall and in Canada during the summer, giving those who qualify for both Tours the opportunity to play a year-long schedule.
Earlier this year, the PGA Tour came to the financial aid of the 42-year old Canadian circuit, providing it with an operating loan after it lost a reported $700,000 in 2011. The PGA also offered its assistance in the area of sponsorship and tournament development.
"This is the logical next step for the Tour's sustainability and growth," said Pierre Blouin, the Chairman of the Canadian Tour Board of Directors. "The PGA Tour provided invaluable assistance throughout the 2012 season and through its evaluation process saw strong potential. Golf is incredibly popular in Canada and PGA Tour Canada will be a very important part of Canada's sports landscape in the coming years."
Under the new structure, the leading money winner on the PGA Tour Canada will have full status on the Web.com Tour while the next four players on the Order of Merit will have conditional status. The next five players will gain exemption into the newly reformed Q-School, which will be used to graduate players to the Web.com Tour. Previously, only the top two money winners earned direct entry into the second stage of Q-School.
PGA Tour Canada will stage a minimum of eight tournaments in 2013 with the goal of growing the schedule up to 13 events with a minimum purse of $150,000. All of the events will be staged in Canada and during the summer months.
Canadian Tour Commissioner Rick Janes will remain with the newly renamed Tour as a consultant for the forseeable future.
"We view this as a win-win proposition that strengthens an established Tour in a country that absolutely loves golf," said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. "We believe that PGA Tour Canada has an important place in professional golf and will continue to help identify and develop talented players who aspire to one day play on the PGA Tour."
Former Canadian Tour player David Hearn welcomed the announcement, saying it should help elevate the status of the Canadian circuit.
"It should be a very good developmental tour. It has been for years. It's struggled a little bit in the past couple of years, I know that. But the PGA TOUR coming in, I really hope that it helps push them over the edge and makes them a top developmental tour again," Hearn said.
Mike Weir, who jump started his PGA career by winning the Canadian Tour Order of Merit in 1997, echoed Hearn's comments.
"I always felt like the Canadian Tour was a good place to play," Weir told Helen Ross of PGA.com. "If you're not on the PGA Tour, it's a much better option that the mini-tours. It has an international flair, you get to play four rounds, you learn to make a cut. It's well-organized with high-quality players. It's different than playing the mini-tours where you're in a cart and play two rounds. The Canadian Tour is a great place to get ready to play a season."
Since its inception as the Peter Jackson Tour in 1971, the Canadian Tour has become a valuable training ground for professionals on their way to the PGA Tour. Its alumni include Canadian players such as Weir, Hearn, Graham DeLaet, Dave Barr, Dan Halldorson and Ian Leggatt along with established PGA Tour stars Steve Stricker, Nick Watney, Stuart Appleby and Tim Clark. Collectively, Canadian Tour players have accounted for 113 PGA Tour titles.