Pro-Am Puts Premium On Fun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioGolf.com

When you closely examine the game of golf, your biggest find is the multiple layers of dividends the game delivers. One of those returns is the pro-am experience, which brings fans of the game like you and me up close and personal to the game’s real stars, like those who compete on the Mackenzie Tour PGA TOUR Canada.

The golf industry’s philanthropy is well documented. Since its first-ever charitable contribution of $10,000 at the 1938 Palm Beach Invitational, the PGA Tour has surpassed $2.5 billion in charity dollars. In fact, of that total, more than $1.4 billion has come since the Tour surpassed the $1-billion plateau in 2005.

Here at home, the Canadian Open, through its history, has generated more than $50 million in charitable proceeds. Since coming on board as title sponsor of the Canadian Open in 2008, RBC, along with Golf Canada, has raised more than $8.78 million for charitable organizations across Canada in support of children’s wellness initiatives.

2017 Freedom 55 Financial Championship raised more than $70,000 for Thames Valley Children’s Centre. Photo: Jeffrey Reed/LondonOntarioGolf.com

Since arriving in London in 2013, the Mackenzie Tour PGA TOUR Canada’s season-ending championship, the Freedom 55 Financial Championship, has embedded itself into the community through support of local charities. For a second straight year in 2016, Thames Valley Children’s Centre was the F55F Championship beneficiary, receiving more than $70,000.

No game gives back more than golf, and one way the Mackenzie Tour returns the favour to its supporters is the pro-am experience. One of the most enjoyable rounds of golf of my career was competing in the Tour’s 2014 championship pro-am at Sunningdale Golf and Country Club with Baddeck, Nova Scotia’s Peter Campbell, now a competitor on the Latinoamérica Tour.

This year’s F55F Championship – the third for Highland after 2013 and ’14 tournaments at Sunningdale – includes the staple of all men’s professional golf tournaments: a championship pro-am, this year sponsored by GoodLife Fitness. A scheduled women’s pro-am saw low numbers, so it has now been combined with the championship pro-am on Tuesday afternoon. All participants are invited to attend a pro-am draw night and social at Four Points by Sheraton London, 1150 Wellington Road South.

 

Kelowna, BC – 18 June 2017 – Final round action of the GolfBC Championship at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf and Country Club in Kelowna, BC. (Photo: Chuck Russell/PGA TOUR)

One of the Mackenzie Tour pros who will compete in London at the F55F Championship is Cody Blick of San Ramon, California. The former San Jose State University standout has had a solid year with two top-3 finishes, and he sits ninth on the Order of Merit which will eventually decide the five players receiving Web.com Tour cards following the Championship at Highland.

“I think from an outside perspective, people know professional golf is an awesome job and an amazing opportunity, but for the (amateur golfer), it seems like something they’d never get to experience. Getting to play inside the ropes with the leaderboards and signs and everything, it’s not something the average amateur gets to play in, so it’s an amazing opportunity,” Blick said.

According to Blick, all who enter the pro-am fields are also benefiting the Tour and the pros. He said, “It’s everything for us to be able to share a round with them, have a great time and enjoy an amazing golf course (like Highland). We owe these people a lot, and for me it’s great to hang out, make some jokes and have a great time on the course with them.”

Golf Channel analyst and golf’s resident comedian, David Feherty, has offered some sage advice on enjoying the pro-am experience – you can read his column here.

“The first thing to remember is that your pro requires one thing from you: that you enjoy yourself. The reason we play for so much money these days is that you do enjoy the game, you do buy the equipment that you don’t need, and you do love to watch us on television,” Feherty wrote.

According to Blick, “(Mackenzie Tour PGA TOUR Canada) players are getting better and better every year. When (American) Robby (Shelton) was leading after the first round of the GolfBC Championship, he said something that really stuck with me, which was that there are a lot of players out here who are good enough to play on the PGA TOUR right now.

Kelowna, BC – 18 June 2017 – Final round action of the GolfBC Championship at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf and Country Club in Kelowna, BC. (Photo: Chuck Russell/PGA TOUR)

“I’ve never played in a PGA TOUR event, but for me that was pretty meaningful,” Blick said. “The difference between a PGA TOUR player, a Web.com Tour player and a Mackenzie Tour player isn’t that much, and you’re seeing more and more of these guys make their way to the PGA TOUR all the time. It’s all because of guys like J.J. Spaun and C.T. Pan and Nick Taylor – guys who I look up to, as I know so many players on the Mackenzie Tour do as well. They’ve done and are doing what we ultimately want to do.”

Spaun, of Los Angeles, California, and Pan, of Miaoli County, Taiwan, competed at Highland in 2015. Spaun was Player of the Year, while Pan finished second behind Spaun on the Order of Merit. Both have had three Top-3 finishes on the PGA Tour this season. Abbotsford, B.C.’s Taylor competed in the Mackenzie Tour’s Championship at Sunningdale in 2012. He has four Top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this season, and won his first PGA Tour event, the Sanderson Farms Championship, in 2015.

And who knows? Maybe one of your pro-am partners at Highland September 12 will someday be competing on the PGA Tour.

For more information, plus information on sponsorship, volunteering and tickets, visit freedom55financialchampionship.com.

If You Go:
Freedom 55 Financial Championship
Highland Country Club
September 11-17, 2017
72 holes stroke play
Top 60 players on Order of Merit
$200,000 purse, winner’s share $36,000

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Jeffrey Reed is a back-to-back winner of the Best Website Feature Column Award from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. A member of the London sports media since 1980, Reed is also a long-time nationally-published golf writer, and is currently writing a book on the history of the Canadian Seniors’ Golf Association, as well as a biography of Sandy Somerville, Canada’s Golfer of the Half Century 1900-1950. Write him at jeff@londonontariogolf.com.

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989.

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