‘NO­BODY RE­ALLY KNOWS WHAT TO DO’

Golfers left look­ing for tour­na­ments af­ter can­cel­la­tion of Macken­zie Tour sea­son

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - TODD SAELHOF tsael­hof@post­media.com

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.”

VAUGHN RI­D­LEY/GETTY IM­AGES FILES

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.”

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