Lethbridge preparing to host Mackenzie Tour golf event
PARADISE CANYON OPEN SET FOR JUNE 18-24
Lethbridge is going to get a start to the summer by hitting the links.
The Mackenzie Tour, part of PGA Tour Canada, announced their new event, the Lethbridge Paradise Canyon Open, is set to begin this year as the first in a three-year agreement.
The 156-player event, featuring a $200,000 purse, will take place June 18-24 and is the fourth event on the 2018 schedule.
Lethbridge Open Limited will serve as the host organization and has retained Hugh Vassos to serve as tournament director.
Ron Sakamoto, Paradise Canyon owner and general manager, said work has been ongoing for the past two years to bring the event to Lethbridge.
As many as 300 volunteers may be needed to host the event. Sakamoto said the city enjoys a high level of community support when it comes to large-scale sports events, and that organizers feel they should be able to secure the help they need.
“We have lots of communityminded people,” Sakamoto said. “That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.”
Jeff Monday, president of the Mackenzie PGA Tour Canada, said Lethbridge has a number of important pieces in place for hosting a large-scale golf event. This includes community support and enthusiasm for golf, a strong volunteer base and sponsorship base.
“All the pieces are there to make it a really successful event,” he said.
He added the goal of the event is to create a fun, social atmosphere for families which caters to more than just avid golf fans.
“More importantly is having a lasting impact on the community,” he said.
This second goal would be accomplished through the expected economic spinoff from the event, as well as support for local charities. The official charitable partner for the event is Lethbridge Family Services.
Monday described Lethbridge as a place where the tour could be a “big fish in a medium-sized pond” and that the community will likely rally around the opportunity to host.
Paradise Canyon is a 6,810-yard Bill Newis design and previously hosted the 2008 Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship.
Fees that would have been collected in order to secure the event for the week were waived — as much as $50,000 by some media accounts. Sakamoto said it was important for everyone involved to “chip in” to make the event happen.
“It’s a pretty costly thing,” he said. “There’s $200,000 in prize money. And if you don’t work together, it’s not going to happen.”
Monday said the calibre of golf fans can expect to see is on par with the PGA, as many Mackenzie Tour players are likely to be PGA golfers in the near future.
“The level of talent that exists in the world of golf right now is phenomenal,” he said. “So the calibre of play you’ll see here is tremendous. You just don’t know them yet, but at some point, you will.”
There is a qualifying system to get to the tour. But locally, there are six sponsor exemptions which can be given out to whomever the sponsors wish, as well as 10 spots available for local players in an open qualifier.
“If you’ve been working on your game, you might have a shot,” Monday said.
Mayor Chris Spearman said the event will showcase Lethbridge and its ability to host large-scale sports events.
“Anyone watching this tournament from elsewhere (will learn) what great things this city has to offer,” he said.
In August last year, city council voted to support the tour for three years at $250,000 per year in funding and in-kind support.
“We’re spending City dollars on this,” Spearman said. “And the idea is that while we do spend tax dollars, some of the beneficiaries are going to be taxpayers. People who operate businesses, (and) hotels are going to see a mini boom that week, and I think everyone is a winner.”
The 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire resulted in the cancellation of that city’s Mackenzie Tour event due to damage to the facilities.
Monday said organizers had a goal of providing three tour events in Alberta, and that the Lethbridge event ties in well with early season golf.
“The popularity of golf in the province is tremendous,” he said.
Mackenzie Tour president Jeff Monday points to his Paradise Canyon golf shirt after announcing the multi-year agreement for the Lethbridge Paradise Canyon Open on Tuesday.