Highland, Mackenzie Tour, Canada Life Look Beyond 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reed On The Greens September 8, 2019
Highland, Mackenzie Tour, Canada Life Look To Future
by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioGolf.com

The seventh edition of the Mackenzie Tour PGA Tour Canada’s season-ending championship – now known as the Canada Life Championship – tees off this week at London’s Highland Country Club.

But as is the nature of sports, many are already wondering what the future holds for the Mackenzie Tour’s flagship event. Even before a new champion is crowned next Sunday, and the top five finishers on the tour’s Order of Merit are awarded Korn Ferry Tour cards for 2020, Londoners wondered aloud if the tournament would call Highland home after its hosting duties expire after next year’s tournament.

Think that’s unfair? Consider that just minutes after Mississauga’s Bianca Andreescu became the first Canadian to win a tennis grand slam title at yesterday’s U.S. Open women’s final, former champion turned TV analyst Chis Evert quipped that the 19-year-old would win more titles in the near future.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a teenager, but that’s professional sports. And considering attendance at the Canada Life Championship has been dismal during its six-year stay in London – the last four years at Highland – those wondering about the tournament’s future in London have a right to do so.

But anyone who truly understands professional golf knows that you can’t judge the success of a golf tournament by the size of its gallery. If that were the case, then even some events on the LPGA Tour would be considered flops.

F55F Championship, now Canada Life Championship, raised $40,000 for Childcan. Photo: Jeffrey Reed/LondonOntarioGolf.com.

The 2006 CN Canadian Women’s Open at London Hunt and Country Club attracted 65,000 fans, but just eight years later at London Hunt the 2014 CP Women’s Open saw only 16,500 fans watch the best women golfers in the world. Yet the 2014 tournament was a huge success in the eyes of those who attended the tournament, and in how it raised money for Children’s Hospital and raised awareness of the Golf in Schools program.

Since 2013, the now-named Canada Life Championship has raised more than $172,000 for various charities in the London area, with Childcan becoming the official charity in 2018. It returns as official charity this year after receiving $40,000 from Highland last September. Childcan 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.

“Highland has done an amazing job with engaging with other private – and public – facilities in the region, not only helping grow awareness of the event, but also awareness of Childcan. So from my perspective, it has been a great partnership (with Highland),” said Mackenzie Tour vice president Scott Pritchard.

“But we’d love to have a lot of people there, and we’re doing our best. As it is with the Korn Ferry Tour and other tours that struggle with attendance, we keep trying to grow through word of mouth. And we like to think that with this being our flagship event, we’re doing a good job.”

Contracts binding the Mackenzie Tour, title sponsor Mackenzie Investments, host club Highland and tournament title sponsor Canada Life all expire after the 2020 event. Pritchard said contract talk would not resume until after this year’s tournament.

Last year’s final-round attendance by multiple estimations was about 500, with about 300 gathered around the 18th green during the trophy presentations. The ceremony gallery numbered about 1,000 in 2017, and 1,400 in 2016.

Canada Life Championship tournament chair Justin Wismer (left) and Highland CC ambassador and former head golf professional Mike Silver (right) with 2018 top-five Order of Merit finishers who graduated to Korn Ferry Tour. Photo: Jeffrey Reed/LondonOntarioGolf.com.

But with corporate hospitality sold out, pro-am numbers up, a Million Dollar Shootout on Saturday giving local golfers a chance to win a European cruise and a million bucks, and with Childcan again the official charity – not to mention world-class golf on the tee – this tournament is nothing but a success.

The training wheels are off for the Highland host committee, who assumed many of the tournament hosting duties from Golf Canada in 2017, and thus there’s a noticeable difference in the way they are going about their business.

All parties – the host club, the tour and Canada Life – say they are invested in keeping the tournament at Highland.

It says here that despite low attendance, that would be the smart move.

If You Go:
2019 Canada Life Championship
September 9-15
Highland Country Club – free admission
Top 60 players on Order of Merit
Purse $225,000, winner’s share $40,500
canadalifechampionship.com

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Reed On The Greens is a three-time writing award winner presented by the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Jeffrey Reed has been covering the Canadian golf scene since 1980. His third book, The Canadian Seniors’ Golf Association, Celebrating 100 Years of Seniors Golf 1918-2018, was published in 2018. He’s currently writing a biography of Sandy Somerville. Reach him at jeff@londonontariogolf.com.

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About jeffreyreed

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