‘NOBODY REALLY KNOWS WHAT TO DO’
Golfers left looking for tournaments after cancellation of Mackenzie Tour season
It was teed up to be a banner year for the Mackenzie Tour.
After all, the 2020 season — the eighth of the circuit’s existence — was to include a loop-high 13-stop schedule, highlighted by a first-time tournament in Minnesota.
But it was all scrubbed Friday, when the Mackenzie Tour —
PGA Tour Canada announced it has cancelled the entire slate of events for this summer, becoming yet another sporting casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We were really excited for this year,” said Mackenzie Tour executive director Scott Pritchard. “We had a lot of really positive momentum, including going to a few new golf courses we were planning on playing.
“But understanding the complexities that this pandemic has caused, we knew it wasn’t fair to leave our members in positions that might prevent them from pursuing other playing opportunities elsewhere while waiting to see what transpired in Canada.”
Instead, they’ll take a mulligan and regroup next summer.
“It’s definitely a bummer,” said Jared du Toit, a 25-year-old native of Kimberley, B.C., who has spent the last three summers with the Mackenzie Tour, as he tries to climb the ladder in the golf world.
“Nobody really knows what to do, and everybody’s panicking. A lot of guys kind of plan their summer and season around the Mackenzie Tour and Q-schools, and both those are done. I think a lot of guys are scrambling for events right now. A lot of guys are going to be stuck for the summer just playing $20 money games with their buddies or something like that.”
Du Toit is fortunate to have a travel visa so he can play in events stateside, such as Monday qualifiers for the Korn Ferry Tour, the circuit just a cut below the PGA Tour.
“The biggest thing that the Mackenzie Tour provides is a chance to move up and get your Korn Ferry Tour card,” said du Toit, who often calls Calgary home during the summer. “If you miss that by not finishing in the top five, then top 10 still gets you (an exemption into the finals of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament) and then top 25 gets you through to the second stage of Korn Ferry qualifying school.
“That ability to not move up this year is going to hurt a lot of guys. I would say the Korn Ferry Tour card is the carrot dangling in front of you when you’re playing on the Mackenzie Tour.
“You kind of give yourself three, four, five, maybe six years to make that step. If you don’t make it in that stretch, a lot of guys give it up and go get a real job. So this whole year is going to hurt a ton of guys and might cut that four years down to three or something like that. I hope I’m wrong.”
Pritchard says the decision to cancel this year’s tour schedule entirely was made for a number of reasons.
“We were monitoring the border situation pretty closely, not knowing when it would be open, and there has been some speculation about the accommodations for pro athletes,” said Pritchard, who oversees a tour primarily comprised of American talent. “But, ultimately, the 14-day quarantine was really a tough one because a lot of these players are running a pretty tight budget, so to ask a player to come to Canada and quarantine for 14 days and find a place to play and practise and to stay somewhere is tough.”
The Canada Life Open was originally scheduled to kick off the tour schedule this weekend in Vancouver.
What was supposed to follow were stops in Victoria, Kelowna, B.C., and Lethbridge, Alta., before heading to Cardigan, P.E.I., for the inaugural Prince Edward Island Pro-am.
After that, the agenda was taking the Mackenzie Tour to Caledon, Ont., Windsor, Ont., Calgary and Manitoba.
Then it was a much-celebrated swing stateside for the CRMC Championship in Brainerd, Minn. To round out the season, three tourneys were slated for Tottenham, Ont., Blainville, Que., and London, Ont.
“We’re grinding hard for every event that we can get and to ultimately keep them on the schedule,” said Pritchard about what has been an annual challenge for the developmental tour. “The overall impact remains to be seen. But, luckily, we have some great partners currently. So we feel strong about what the season looks like next year. All of the conversations we’ve had have been quite positive.”
Tour status for 2021 will be based on Order of Merit results from the 2019 season, with the top-60 players being granted exemption.
In addition, those golfers having recently earned their way on to the loop through three qualifying tournaments will retain status for the next season.
“With the safety of the communities we play in mind, as well as the well-being of our players, sponsors, tournament-organizing committees, volunteers and golf course staff, we came to the realization that this is the best decision for everyone involved,” Pritchard added. “At least now there’s a sense of finality that now we can just move forward with focusing on 2021.”
Jared du Toit, seen here at the 2016 RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont., says a lot of players plan their summer around the Mackenzie Tour and Q-schools. He says the tour’s cancellation is “definitely a bummer.”