Dorman: PGA TOUR Canada strengthens feeder system

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Plenty of Canadian golf fans -- such as those of Canadian golfer Graham DeLaet -- will enjoy PGA TOUR Canada.
October 23, 2012
Larry Dorman, PGATOUR.COM

Just in sheer geographic terms, the deal was significant. After a year of due diligence that included lending strategic planning and financial support to the Canadian Tour, the PGA TOUR officially announced on Thursday that it had assumed operational control of Canada's 41-year-old professional tour, effective Nov. 1.

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Thus the high-level developmental tour that had sent numerous Canadian graduates to the PGA TOUR through the years -- among them 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir and TOUR winners Dave Barr and Dan Halldorson -- was renamed PGA TOUR Canada.

If adding the professional tour from our northern neighbors had been all there was to it, the acquisition would have been an important strategic move by the TOUR. For one thing, the study produced during the past year revealed that 21 percent of Canada's population of 34.5 million people identify themselves as golfers. That's a large, and very enthusiastic, fan base to begin with.

Short-range plans are for PGA TOUR Canada in 2013 are to play a minimum of eight tournaments in the summer of 2013, each with a purse of at least $150,000, with the top five money winners getting direct access to the Web.com Tour. PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem said the schedule eventually is expected to grow to 12 or 13 events, with a focus on the Eastern portion of Canada.

Of course, what gives all of this the potential to eventually grow into something much bigger is its timing, coming slightly more than a month after the launch of PGA TOUR Latinoamerica. To get the real picture, take a look at a map. Better yet, dust off the old globe and give it a spin.

That extremely large land mass floating in the Atlantic? The rather expansive portion below the permafrost that extends from the Maritimes in the North Atlantic east of Quebec to Tierra Del Fuego at the tip of South America is pretty much where the PGA TOUR will be expanding its brand reach and providing the opportunities for competitive golf to players with PGA TOUR aspirations.

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If the PGA TOUR were a publicly traded company, there's a good chance Wall Street analysts might have a permanent "Buy" rating on its stock, but it's doing just fine, thank you, with its existing structure. The brand building campaign with the "These Guys are Good," theme from a couple years ago could easily be redone with Finchem and his formidable team of suits doing their thing at a boardroom table.

It bears repeating that the PGA TOUR avoided any retrenchment during the economic downturn, was not forced to lower a single tournament purse and is within a couple events of having all tournament sponsors signed through 2016. At the top end of the chain, Tiger Woods heads a field of 48 players playing for a purse of $6.1 million at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this week and Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose will all be among the 78 players on hand playing for $7 million next week at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions on the Olazabal Course at Mission Hills in China.

Back at the inspirational end of the spectrum, where it's easy to see why players dream about making it to the all-caps TOUR, the genius of the two-Tour feeder system into the Web.com Tour is evident. What it accomplishes immediately is to assure that developing talent will have the benefit of a major league organization overseeing the details as they churn away at honing and hardening their games to become battle-ready for the bigs.

"Now there is a way you can go to the Web.com Tour in South America," Finchem said. "Now there is a way can you go in Canada. That will attract players from Australia. Because these two Tours now will come up in stature in terms of the kind of competition they are, and because largely because of the nature of the players.

"Behind that, would be the structure of the TOUR. Then from then on, it's how well a player plays."

The task ahead is for the TOUR to help both Canada and Latinoamerica to secure and retain the type of strong corporate sponsorships and community ties that underpin the events on the PGA TOUR. Jeff Monday, a PGA TOUR senior vice president who teamed with Paul Johnson, TOUR Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, on the Canada effort said that's the focus.

"It all starts with the community, the sponsors and the golf course," said Monday, who has worked at the TOUR for 25 years. "We were very impressed with the foundation of the existing tournaments as well as the potential to develop new markets, particularly with the assets and resources that we have.

"It all goes hand in hand. You elevate the profile of the Tour, you're delivering more value to the sponsors. If you deliver more value to the sponsors you elevate the profile of the Tour. Now it's incumbent upon us to make that work."

Competition for spots on the PGA TOUR just got tougher. That's the driving force behind all this. It always comes down to, as Finchem said, how well a player plays. This week at the Web.com Tour Championship, the top 60 players from the 2012 money list will vie for 25 PGA TOUR cards for the 2013 season.

Each of the 60 has a mathematical chance to move into the top 25 and get their card. That's a competitive formula that works. It should be a tournament worth watching, this year and in the years to come. It's where the future of the TOUR stars of the future will be forged.

Larry Dorman is a freelance columnist for PGATOUR.COM His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR.

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