Freedom 55 Financial Championship Building Legacy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilson Golf Reed on the Greens
by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioGolf.com

Looking back at the 2017 Freedom 55 Financial Championship, anyone would be hard pressed to find faults with the Mackenzie Tour PGA Tour Canada’s season-ending championship.

Sure, attendance at Highland Country Club was down slightly on championship Sunday, despite ideal weather. But with the host club firmly gripping the tournament reigns formerly held by Golf Canada, there’s now a local template in place to grow not only the fan experience, but also the legacy of supporting local charities.

This year, the event September 10-16 has a new official charity: Childcan, which raises funds to provide responsive and compassionate support services to families facing the journey through childhood cancer – from diagnosis, through treatment, to recovery or bereavement.

Following the leader at F55F Championship. Photo: Claus Andersen/PGA TOUR.

This year marks the sixth straight Mackenzie Tour championship in London, formerly held at Sunningdale Golf and Country Club in 2013 and ’14. In its fourth year as host, Highland CC will (for a second year) assume many of the tournament responsibilities formerly on Golf Canada’s lap. That means the host committee, with a keen eye on London and Southwestern Ontario, can further embed itself in the community.

Tournament ambassador Mike Silver has emphasized that “this isn’t just Highland’s tournament. It’s London’s tournament. When you think about how Augusta National stages the Masters Tournament year after year, that is the kind of legacy we are building here at Highland. It’s all about the community.”

In fact, when you look past the relatively small Sunday gallery of 1,000 and the championship field of 60 golfers and their supporters – caddies, family and friends – then you realize how inseparable this tournament and the community are as a sixth event prepares to tee off in September. It’s not delivering the economic spinoffs of a Memorial Cup or World Figure Skating Championship. But according to Mackenzie Tour vice president Scott Pritchard, the tournament and the city of London are now inseparable.

“The numbers aren’t as significant in London (as they are with full fields at regular Mackenzie Tour stops),” Pritchard said. “(But) there are economic spinoffs for companies, for example people we buy signage from, or rent a stage or a tent from, or where we order food. And we are accommodating (for example) participants, players (and) VIPs.”

In addition, Pritchard points to charitable dollars, and the Mackenzie Tour getting that message out via traditional and new media which raises the profile of the community and, in London’s case during previous tournaments, Thames Valley Children’s Centre.

Scott Pritchard. Photo: Jeffrey Reed/LondonOntarioGolf.com.

“With our clinics for junior golfers, it’s hard to put a value on that,” Pritchard added. “It will be interesting to see if there’s a London kid who watched the tournament, or caddied for one of the players, and is playing on our Tour in 2025. You never know. But those are the kinds of experiences that community members would not have if the event wasn’t in London.”

Highland Host Committee Builds On Strong 2017

Highland’s tournament committee, with club members Justin Wismer as tournament director and former director of golf Silver filling many shoes as tournament ambassador, is now responsible for a myriad of host club duties. Those include: advertising and promotions; media relations; ticket sales; fan experience; food and beverage; corporate/hospitality involvement; the pro-am tournament; filling and overseeing parking, volunteer and caddy positions; organizing clinics; promoting need for player billeting; working with the tournament beneficiary; working closely with the Mackenzie Tour, and title sponsor Freedom 55 Financial; and working with the community as a whole so that it, too, embraces the event.

“We couldn’t ask for a better week,” Mackenzie Tour president Jeff Monday said following a highly-successful 2017 tournament. “When you put our best players here, on a golf course that is in perfect condition and fast, you have exactly what you are hoping for. You put on top of that perfect weather. Then you have the effort and organization the club has done in their role now as the tournament organization, is just phenomenal. We had built a pretty good foundation and they’ve taken it to a whole new level.”

American Rico Hoey, who was born in the Philippines, shot a 3-under-par 67 on Sunday to finish the tournament at 19-under-par (66-66-62-67 – 261). It was good for a one-stroke win over fellow American Jordan Niebrugge, who shot a 64 on Sunday. Hoey finished strong as the gallery sensed excitement, making a 20-foot putt for birdie on the tricky 17th green, and then chipping from gnarly rough behind the 18th green before making a one-foot putt for par and the one-stroke victory.

2017 F55F Championship winner Rico Hoey. Photo: Claus Andersen/PGA TOUR.

It was Hoey’s first win of 2017, and handed him a $36,000 winner’s cheque along with the final spot on the Order of Merit, which awards five Web.com Tour cards to the Top 5 finishers.

The race for the Dan Halldorson Trophy and Canadian of the Year was a thriller, too, with Kimberley, B.C.’s Jared du Toit finishing T17, good enough to clinch hardware and $25,000 prize. In fact, du Toit was the closest thing this tournament had in terms of a household name – at least, a name with which the average golf fan would be familiar. In 2016, du Toit played in the final group on Sunday at the RBC Canadian Open, thrilling Canadians from coast to coast with an eventual finish three strokes behind winner Jhonattan Vegas.

How good is the field at Highland each year? Listowel’s Corey Conners played here in 2015. Last month, he held the 54-hole league and had Tiger Woods watching the leader board at the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship.

“My saying is that this tour is like seeing The Beatles before they were The Beatles,” said Monday of the stars of tomorrow.

The real winner this year, of course, will be Childcan. The 2017 tournament raised almost $52,000 for Thames Valley Children’s Centre, bringing a three-year Highland total to more than $164,000 for the centre.

Highland has committed to hosting the championship through 2019, while title sponsor Freedom 55 Financial is on board through 2020. The template for success is in place. It’s not easy securing corporate sponsors, and it’s nearly impossible to grow the gallery. But it’s important to see a glass half full, and build on it.

2018 Freedom 55 Financial Championship
September 10-16, 2018
Course: Highland Country Club
Format: 72 holes, stroke play
Field: Top 60 players on Order of Merit
Purse: $225,000, winner’s share $40,500
For More Information
Pro-Am, Volunteer, Sponsorship and Ticket Information at https://freedom55financialchampionship.com

-30-

About Wilson Golf

For a century, Wilson Golf has designed, manufactured and distributed premium and recreational golf equipment throughout the world. Since 1914, Wilson Staff irons have won 61 major championships, more than any other iron manufacturer in history. That winning tradition continues today by delivering the highest quality golf equipment to all golfers to enhance performance on the course and overall enjoyment of the game. Wilson Golf is a division of Chicago-based Wilson Sporting Goods Co., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sports equipment by Amer Sports. Consumers can log onto wilsongolf.com or call (800) 622-0444 for more information.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

About jeffreyreed

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

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!