After eight events, from coast-to-coast, PGA TOUR Canada wraps up its inaugural season this week in London, Ontario. Come Sunday, when all the scorecards are tabulated at Sunningdale Golf & Country Club — and the final earnings are calculated — the top five on the Order of Merit will earn their Web.com Tour playing cards for 2014. On the eve of the TOUR Championship of Canada presented by Freedom 55 Financial, PGA TOUR Canada President Jeff Monday reflected on the success of year one and plans for the growth as he spoke with PGATOUR.COM correspondent David McPherson.
Q: Reflecting back on PGA TOUR Canada’s inaugural season, describe some of the highlights?
A: A couple of things jump out at me. We always expect the best because that’s what we strive to do, but the reception we received across the board from all the constituents: the clubs we’ve played at, the fans, the local media, the sponsors, the volunteers, have been everything we could have hoped for and more. The enthusiasm created at each and every tournament has been unbelievable.
We’ve learned an incredible amount. We’ve now got a solid foundation from which to grow and build the impact that this Tour has in so many ways: in the community, as a marketing platform for the sponsors – showcasing the areas outside the community and the economic impact, and just as importantly providing the opportunity for the players to not only showcase their skills, but to move to the next level as they pursue their goal of making the PGA TOUR.
The way the players have conducted themselves on and off the course has been fantastic too; their outlook has been everything that we look for out of a player. The caliber of play has also been excellent. There is no doubt in my mind that two, three, four years down the road, not only the guys that earn their Web.com TOUR cards through their Top five finish, but other players through the Web.com Tour q-school and getting access or playing PGA TOUR Canada or PGA TOUR Latinoamerica in the future, and earning their card that way, they are going to be on the PGA TOUR in a few years and have an impact out there because the level of play has been really solid.
Q: When the PGA TOUR took over operational control of the Canadian Tour, one of its main goals was to give players more chances to reach that next step in their professional golf careers. Can you describe how you witnessed this enhanced level of competition as you travelled to each event?
A: The level of competition and the depth of play have really been impressive. The depth on the PGA TOUR is stronger than ever, the depth on the Web.com Tour is stronger than ever, and the number of good players in the sport is as good as it’s ever been.
That is what this is all about: to provide a way for guys to hone their skills and get in that arena. You walk up and down the driving range and watch guys hitting the ball on the Canadian Tour, the Web.com Tour and the PGA TOUR, and there’s not much difference. The difference is when you get on the golf course and players have to manage their way and handle the mental aspect of it, along with the physical challenge … that takes time.
Q: Looking ahead to 2014, how does PGA TOUR Canada plan to build on the success of its inaugural season?
A: Our key focus is in three areas. One is to add new events to give more playing opportunities in more communities across Canada. Two is to grow the impact and profile that the Tour has in every community where we play. Three is to work hard on the marketing of each tournament by working with all of the media outlets across Canada to build the awareness of the Tour and the level of play out here and enhance the stature of what PGA TOUR Canada is doing and where it fits within the sport.
Q: How do you see the growth pattern?
A: We eventually want to get to 12 or 13 events, but we want to do it properly. We will probably add a couple more next year and a couple more the year after that. We want to make sure we are intelligent on how we bring on new events. We feel pretty good about the direction of that and the conversations we are having on those possibilities. It’s important to get with the right partners and the right markets where we can have the type of impact we are looking to have.
Q: Is Quebec part of these conversations?
A: We would certainly love to get an event in Quebec and another event in the Maritimes as well. There are other markets too in the transition from the west events heading east. We are having lots of discussions. We are optimistic we will be able to get where we want to, it just takes time.
Q: Things are pretty tight on the money list. Less than $7,000 separates fifth and 10th spot on the Order of Merit. Can you share some final thoughts on this pressure the players face this week as they tee off at the TOUR Championship of Canada?
A: It’s really become tight in the last few weeks. We expected that to happen, but it’s even tighter than we thought it would get. Thanks to the support from title sponsor Freedom 55 Financial and the London community it’s going to be a great week. The guys will be feeling the pressure and that’s all part of it; that’s what is great about this Tour from a competitive perspective. It puts you in that arena where there is something on the line. It’s more than just playing for prize money. To get one of those five Web.com Tour cards and to know that you have status on the Web.com Tour gets the adrenaline going and you will have the butterflies in your stomach. Learning how to play with those feelings and that level of pressure is all part of the experience we are trying to provide.
Q: For players who do not earn their Web.com Tour cards for 2014, are you planning any changes to PGA TOUR Canada’s q-school?
A: We are taking a hard look at how we are going to structure that and what is the right way to do it. We should have some type of announcement in the coming weeks. Last year we had 345 players apply and we could only accept 312, even that many on two golf courses is like the L.A. freeways in rush hour … and that was for 20 cards. In 2014, with eligibility changes, there should be more PGA TOUR Canada cards available at q-school. We have to finalize what those various pieces will be and how we can best provide the structure to provide a good experience for the participants.
We are looking at a couple different scenarios to do it and should have something finalized after the TOUR championship. We will sit down, get it all worked out and announce it. I don’t think we will have our q-school in the fall. We want guys to play the Web.com Tour q-school and a number of the PGA TOUR Canada guys will play in some PGA TOUR Latinoamerica events.
We are working really hard so that those two Tours complement each other. Even though we will keep them as two distinct tours, they are both providing access to the Web.com Tour. We want to make sure if players are so inclined they can play both those Tours. For that reason, it makes sense to do our q-school in the spring. It would also be nice if we could have some component of that q-school in Canada.