Leth­bridge pre­par­ing to host Macken­zie Tour golf event


Lethbridge Herald - - FRONT PAGE - J.W. Sch­narr jwschnarr@leth­bridge­herald.com

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.

Her­ald photo by Ti­jana Martin @TMart­inHer­ald

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.

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