Here's one way to start a Friday morning in advance of the weekend: Chat with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and PGA Tour Canada president Jeff Monday. That's what I and three other Canadian golf writers did, six days before PGA Tour Canada's maiden season begins with the Times Colonist Island Savings Open at the Uplands Golf Club in Victoria, B.C. The purse for each of the nine tournaments is $150,000, the minimum that PGA Tour Canada mandated.
I was particularly interested in the quality of the courses that the golfers will play. By the way, Finchem said that one-third of the tour's members are Canadian – about 75 in all. It's clear to me that the players are pleased that the PGA Tour has assumed control of what we once knew as the Canadian Tour. The PGA Tour knows how to run tournaments. That said, I thought that the Canadian Tour folks did a very good job as well. The Canadian Tour's reputation was that it conducted its tournaments in a professional manner.
Anyway, the courses. The stronger the courses that host the tournaments, the more appealing they'll be. One of the primary objectives of PGA Tour Canada is to provide a means for players to get to the Web.com Tour, and, ultimately, to reach the PGA Tour. Golfers who have competed on challenging courses will be better prepared as they stretch themselves to the higher levels of the game. I asked Finchem about the matter of the courses.
"That's an important part of the equation," Finchem said. "If you consider what was originally the Hogan Tour and is now the Web.com Tour, it's been a constant evolution of courses. You want to make every effort you can to create the competitive environment players will face when they get to the next level."
Finchem made it clear that he was referring to many elements of how a tournament is conducted, as well as the quality of the courses. Canada has many strong enough courses that could host a PGA Tour Canada event. I'm writing from Toronto, and there must be 50 courses within an hour of my desk that would test the players. Other cities, and not only the big cities, have fine courses worthy of a PGA Tour Canada event. Still, as Finchem said, it took time for the PGA Tour to get to where it is in terms of the quality of courses on the Web.com Tour.
"We're quite comfortable now," he said, in terms of the courses. The implication was that patience will be a virtue. This, after all, is only the first year of the Canadian Tour being taken over by the PGA Tour, and rebranded as PGA Tour Canada.
Monday, for his part, said that the quality of the courses is "critical for what we're trying to provide for players to get to the next level. We want to get the best courses."
Monday referred to the "short season" in Canada. I never quite get that statement. The season in most of the Canadian spots where a PGA Tour Canada event might go isn't much different from anywhere in the northern U.S. But this isn't about a geography lesson. Monday's point was that private clubs especially aren't always keen to host a tournament and take away time from their members. Fair enough.
Meanwhile, the first year for PGA Tour Canada does include some very good courses. Uplands, the site of the first tournament, is a good test. I've heard positive things about the Dakota Dunes course in Saskatoon, site of the Dakota Dunes Open the first week of July. I've played Pine Ridge in Winnipeg, and thought it was a solid track. The Players Cup will be on there from July 18-21. I understand that the Wildfire Golf Club in Peterborough, Ont., the site of The Wildfire Invitational from Aug. 29-Sept. 1, is a challlenge.
Meanwhile, I'm glad that PGA Tour Canada will visit Cape Breton the week of Sept. 2nd for the first Cape Breton Celtic Classic. I don't know anything about The Lakes Golf Club, but again, reports are that it can handle tour players. Montrealer Graham Cooke, a winner of just about everything in Canadian amateur golf except the Amateur itself - he was runner-up twice - designed the course. It's 15 minutes west of Sydney.
Finally, the Tour Championship of Canada, the final event, will be held at the Sunningdale Golf and Country Club's Robinson course Sept. 12-15. Back when I could play golf well enough to enter amateur tournaments, I played the Sunningdale Invitational – always a main event on the Ontario amateur scene. The club has two courses, one designed by Stanley Thompson and the other by Robbie Robinson, who worked with Thompson.
Sunningdale has hosted many Ontario and Canadian tournaments. The 1984 Canadian Amateur was held there. It has a rich history in Canadian golf and its members have, historically, wanted to contribute to the game. The Tour Championship of Canada will end PGA Tour Canada's inaugural season at one of the country's top clubs. Let's hope that, when PGA Tour Canada reaches 12 or 13 tournaments – that's the objective – more tournaments are held on courses rich in history. A complement of the old and the new would be ideal, as long as the courses also challenge the players.
One further note: A highlights show called This is PGA Tour Canada will air this season on TSN2 and Global. The first show is Friday at 2:30 PM (ET) on TSN2, and will preview the season. Set your PVRs. I frequently hear from Canadians who want to know if there are any up and coming players from our home and native land. Here's your chance to learn about them.
It's also a chance to learn more about PGA Tour Canada. It's obviously impossible to say where things will go, and whether PGA Tour Canada will prove to be successful. Who wouldn't wish it well? I sure do, and I look forward to seeing what transpires.
RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein
Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association's first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada's Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round's on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at email@example.com. You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein