Freedom 55 Financial Championship Story Of The Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioGolf.com

Almost 40 years ago, when I wrote my first high school newspaper column – a Montcalm Tribune piece calling for the formation of local high school baseball – Londoners were always taken by surprise when their athletes tasted victory on a national or global stage. The same went for anytime the Forest City was even mentioned anywhere outside of Southwestern Ontario. A YouTube video of TV’s Archie Bunker talking about London, Ontario still catches Londoners by surprise.

In the late-1970s, Londoners were the quintessential Canadians: polite to a fault but still fiercely proud of their successes. Fast track to 2018, and the shock value is long gone when it comes to our sports heroes. In fact, today, Londoners expect success at all levels, whether that means a minor baseball championship for the London Badgers, a Vanier Cup win for the Western Mustangs or an Olympic gold medal from rowing cox Lesley Thompson-Willie.

And while there are plenty of success stories from the likes of decathlete Damian Warner, and ice skaters Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, one story in particular jumped off the pages of this column in 2017: the enormously-successful Freedom 55 Financial Championship, the Mackenzie Tour PGA Tour Canada’s season-ending tournament at London’s Highland Country Club.

Highland Country Club’s No. 9 hole. Photo: Jeffrey Reed/LondonOntarioGolf.com.

London has a well-earned reputation for hosting big-time sports events like the Memorial Cup, World Figure Skating Championships, and our latest coup – 2018 World Financial Group Continental Cup curling at Western Fair Sports Centre January 11-14. But no other event in recent history has established local roots as deeply as F55F Championship golf. And with the world looking in on London for one week in September for five straight years, the spinoff value is perhaps immeasurable. In fact, it’s not yet completely measurable as dividends will continue to materialize for years to come.

When Highland took hold of the tourney in 2015, the tide turned for this marquee event showcasing some of the world’s best golfers. Within the friendly confines of the inner-city private club, local golfers – and now, even some casual fans of the sport – finally have acknowledged where these golfers fit in the grand scheme of the game.

With the top five money finishers on the Mackenzie Tour’s Order of Merit receiving full status on the Web.com Tour – one level below the big show on the PGA Tour – then even on paper it’s easy to understand how good the golf is at the F55F Championship. Ask the 1,000 patrons who attended the tourney on championship Sunday last September how amazing the golf was, and many are lost for words. Members like yours truly have no problem telling stories about the driving, chipping and putting prowess of the Mackenzie Tour stars.

The PGA Tour is littered with Mackenzie Tour grads. When the F55F Championship first teed up in London at Sunningdale Golf and Country Club in 2013, Dundas, Ontario’s Mackenzie Hughes – now a PGA Tour winner – was crowned Order of Merit winner. And 2015 Order of Merit winner, American J.J. Spaun – who played at Highland that year – thrilled galleries and TV audiences with his play this past season on the PGA Tour. The list goes on.

2015 Mackenzie Tour Player of the Year J.J. Spaun. Photo: Jeffrey Reed/LondonOntarioGolf.com

With Highland members assuming most of the tournament hosting duties from Golf Canada in 2017, there is much more responsibility attached to staging this world-class event. In particular, securing sponsorship and attracting larger galleries are at the top of the list. Those are two areas already being focused on by the organizing committee.

Indeed, it’s important to feed the club coffers. That’s a black and white issue. But just how many people this tournament can attract is a grey issue. And what’s an even cloudier issue is, just how important large galleries are to the overall success of this tournament. Rest assured, the host committee and the Mackenzie Tour are anything but complacent when it comes to growing this event which has become a staple of the local sports calendar.

The 2017 tournament raised almost $52,000 for Thames Valley Children’s Centre, bringing a three-year Highland total to more than $164,000. The club has committed to hosting the event through 2019, while title sponsor Freedom 55 Financial is on board through 2020.

Nothing lasts forever – not in life, nor in sports. But a long-term commitment to the Freedom 55 Financial Championship in London is a great thing for our community, for local golf fans and for charity. And with a five-year history in the Forest City, the F55F Championship continued to be the local sports story of the year.

Here’s hoping the best is yet to come. After all, Londoners expect nothing less.

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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.

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About jeffreyreed

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

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