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Weeks: PGA Tour comes to the rescue of Canadian Tour

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Bob Weeks
10/21/2012 10:15:28 AM
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After more than 30 years, the Canadian Tour ceased to exist on Thursday, at least in the form it's been in. It's now the PGA Tour Canada, saved from the clenches of bankruptcy by the fine folks in Ponte Vedra, Fla.

The PGA Tour will own and operate the Canadian tour, positioning it as a partner with the Latinoamerica Tour, the South American organization it took over last year. Essentially, it's now the Double-A circuit to the Web.com and the big leagues, the PGA Tour.

It's a good thing that Finchem and his gang stepped in too, because the Canadian Tour was dead in the water if they hadn't. Broke and with dwindling purses on a sparse cross-country tour, there weren't any other options.

The last commissioner, Rick Janes, who will stay on in a yet-to-be-defined consulting role, said it was something he and his team had been working towards for some time.

The basics are this: it will start with eight events (likely to grow to at least 10 before the season starts), minimum purses of $150,000 at each stop, top five on the money list at year's end get passes to the Web.com Tour and the next five get spots in the Q-School to get on the Web.com Tour.

For sure, it's a rich prize and it could be enough of an incentive to draw some young talent north to play PGA Tour Canada. We'll know in the spring when a qualifying school will be held in the States.

The biggest issue for the Tour will be whether or not the PGA Tour brand is strong enough to entice sponsors to come on board. In its previous incarnation, the Canadian Tour had up years and down, good markets and bad. But it was not exactly flourishing when Finchem's gang came riding in on a white horse, cheque book in hand.

Can he entice – or possibly strong-arm - the tour's U.S. sponsors to get their Canadian affiliates to shell out? So far, none of the PGA Tour's major backers in the U.S. are involved with golf in Canada even in a minor way. Not FedEx, not Hyundai, not Sony, not Shell or HP. RBC, of course, is an exception.

Or will it be a hunt for new backers, Canadian companies with some spare cash? There aren't too many of those around these days although some are reportedly ready to step up now that the PGA Tour is on board.

Undoubtedly, the biggest job for the PGA Tour will be to sell. To sell not only tournament sponsorships, but perhaps an overall title sponsor such as Web.com, to sell subsidiary sponsorships and to sell fans on the talent.

That won't be as easy as it sounds. This is still minor league golf where all but a handful of players are unknown.

But officials obviously saw something of merit when they came north last summer. They feel they can make it work and add another layer to its circuits.

Overall, it has to be good for the players, primarily because the alternative was, well, nothing. And it has to be a benefit for Canadian golf as the quality of play will likely increase and that means a chance to better Canadian golfers.

It's no secret that when the Canadian Tour was strong, the country produced its best golfers. The Peter Jackson days gave us Dave Barr and Dan Halldorson. The du Maurier-Infiniti days delivered Mike Weir and Ian Leggatt, while the largesse of Golf Channel money fueled players such as Jon Mills and David Hearn.

Will PGA Tour Canada flourish? If nothing else, it will stabilize a circuit that was floundering. Having a place to play is key and that's what this is all about.

David Hearn (Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
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