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Do We Need to Spend $4.7M On A Champions Tour Event?

Which way to Rue-Sainte Catherine? Champions Tour golfer Peter Jacobsen, in Montreal yesterday for the introduction of a new Champions Tour event, asks about locating evening entertainment in the city.

I spent some time on the phone yesterday with David Skitt, the founder of Synchro Sports in Montreal, which formally announced the Champions Tour event yesterday.Skitt will be the tournament director for the event.

“I don’t know how you found out about it, but nice job,” he joked at the end of the call, referencing the story I did on the event a couple of weeks back.

So here are the salient details:

  • Discussion on a Champions Tour event started in 2006.
  • $4.7 million in funding, split between the Quebec and Federal governments over three years.
  • Expected to generate more than $22-million in revenue for the region.
  • Being played at Le Fountainebleau, a ClubLink course in Montreal. But Skitt expects it to move to different venues — and is looking at some classic courses in Montreal. They need to be about 6,800 yards long.
  • Skitt plans to lobby for players, including Fred Couples, Lee Trevino (who I thought was basically retired), Greg Norman, Gary Player and others.
  • He would not speculate on how many spectators would show up.
  • There is a French telecast for Quebec, while the English telecast will be time-delayed by Golf Channel.
  • Only one sponsor’s exemption for a Canadian player — at least that’s how it appears to Skitt. One Quebec player will gain access to the field through a qualifier. There are other exemptions, but they’d go to former champions, etc. Strikes me that Richard Zokol, Dave Barr, or Jim Rutledge would seem like obvious choices. Or what about a Quebec amateur like Graham Cooke?
  • Synchro had run the Canadian Tour event in Montreal for the past six years — and hopes to do so this year, though on a lesser scale than in the past.

I do have some questions:

  • In the announcement, Quebec provincial ministers involved in the funding cited golf’s position as an Olympic sport in 2016 as a reason for pumping cash into the event. But there’s a better chance that some of the golfers in the field in Montreal will be in a seniors’ home than in Brazil in 2016. I guess I just don’t see the connection.
  • Skitt said budgets for the event involved a conservative number of spectators. He wouldn’t say how big or small that number was.
  • No title sponsor was named, and that was part of the reason for the need for government cash. But Skitt said he’s close to landing a sponsor. Will they then give part of the gov’t cash back? (Yeah, I know, pretty unlikely…)
  • I asked Skitt about getting gov’t cash for a one-week tournament when the economy is delicate and all levels of government are running deficits. He pointed to the Olympic thing, as well as the interest this will bring to golf in Quebec. I hope the event attracts more people to the game, but I can’t say I’m convinced.
  • Would Greg Norman really come to play in Quebec? He really only plays a couple of Senior Champions Tour events each year.

One of the things that struck me was the insistence that the players are the Champions Tour are more fan-friendly than those on the PGA Tour. Why would that be? After all, these are the same guys that graduated from the PGA Tour and no one can tell me Hale Irwin was a lot of fun to be around back in the day. The suggestion the Champions Tour is the male equivalent of the LPGA Tour is kind of hard to fathom.

That said, there are some interesting potential players. Tom Lehman, Fred Couples, and Corey Pavin and are all on the Champions Tour this year, though Lehman may still play PGA Tour events and Couples’  back provides no guarantees. Still, the likes of Nick Price, Mark O’Meara and Ben Crenshaw make the event potentially intriguing. Hell, I’d like to sit down with Crenshaw and just talk about his golf design efforts.

Hopefully Synchro can pull this off despite my concerns. By all accounts they’ve run a top-notch CanTour event in Montreal, arguably the best on the tour. There’s no reason to think they can’t make that translate onto the Champions Tour.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I had the same answer for Weeksey, RT about this very subject.
    The guys on the Champions Tour tend to be happier and smile more for the tv audience. They basically enjoy themselves more than the perpetually serious PGA Tour guys. Easy to figure out why also. No cuts out there, lots of money, warm weather, cigars, and they ride in carts! Most of them are damn good players too, and with the shorter courses they play, that will translate into lots of birdies which the general public usually likes!
    Myself included. Even the big boys on the Euro Tour are more fan friendly and entertaining to watch than the big boys on the US Tour.

  • Give these guys some credit for at least making it happen…which is more than we can say for other organizations…should me like no other CT event in Canada…

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