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Does adding the PGA Tour logo to the Canadian Tour make an immediate difference?

I think the answer to the question is no.

On its premise, the announcement that the PGA Tour was enveloping the Canadian Tour was not a surprise. The PGA Tour spent too long doing due diligence to walk away from the Canadian Tour. But beyond that, it needed the Canadian Tour — or something like it — to buttress its strategy of reworking the Web.com Tour and PGA Tour qualifying school. So the meagre eight events the Canadian Tour ran last year was at least a starting point.

The details, to my way of thinking, are interesting, though not integral to the bigger picture:

  • Commissioner Rick Janes is on the way out. He’s been assigned a “consulting” role that has not been defined. Looks like a golden handshake to me. I almost always got along with Janes, but he wasn’t widely liked by the players, especially those that wanted him pushed out last year. On the other hand, he had a tough gig — trying to sell a tour with little media exposure in a difficult sponsorship market. As one person told me recently, the Canadian sponsorship market is 15 years behind the U.S. So Janes faced an uphill battle, but wasn’t helped by the fact his players, tournament promoters and even staff didn’t care for him.
  • The top winner on the Canadian Tour will get a spot on the Web.com tour. The next four will get status that’s almost full, at least until the players are reranked. Beyond that, the details aren’t clear. How many will get into second or third stage of Q School, which will now feed into the Web.com Tour? No one seems to have that figured out. (Or as one commentator mentioned on G4G, No. 6-10 on the money list will get into the final stage to get on the Web.com tour — thanks PE.)
  • There will be a minimum of eight events next year with purses of $150,000. That’s a nice improvement over this year.

But beyond PGA Tour commissioner’s platitudes about “finding the next Mike Weir,” is there much meat to this announcement? Sure the Canadian Tour survives, and a handful of employees keep their jobs — that’s the good news.

On the other hand, this was almost a lost year. The tour needs to grow, but no new tournament sponsors were going to step up without knowing the tour’s future. They simply sat and waited. Are they going to sign on now that the PGA Tour is involved?

That seems to be what one promoter feels — though I think he’s wrong. Here’s David Lee-Fay from Linx Marketing on the Vancouver market in a story by Brad Zeimer: 

“It’s always harder to sell something when it’s ‘this might happen’ as opposed to ‘now it has happened,’ ” Lee-Fay, a partner in Linx Marketing, said after Thursday’s long-rumoured announcement. “Hopefully there will be a lot of enthusiasm around the fact it is PGA Tour Canada and companies will be more interested in getting involved.”

Maybe, but there are a lot of unanswered questions. Where’s the value for a company? On one hand there is local value to sponsors, but finding a title sponsor, one with national aspirations, might be tough. Everyone immediately talks about RBC, but only because they are too obvious to ignore. And there’s an assumption they are keen on more Canadian golf assets. And what would they be sponsoring? Eight tournaments in mid-sized markets (with the exception of Edmonton)?

It strikes me that PGA Tour Canada now needs to define itself. Is there a TV deal for even a weekly magazine show? Surely the PGA Tour could lean on Golf Channel for that.

But Finchem seems to suggest there’s more in the works:

Again, the goal is to build upon a foundation that’s been established and strengthen PGA TOUR Canada.  We plan to work with all Canadian media, and our current television partners, Shaw GlobalTV and TSN to broaden coverage of this TOUR.

 Okay, they “plan” to work with all Canadian media. Doesn’t mean it will amount to much. And if there’s an American TV assets to sell to a Canadian sponsor, that sponsor would have to have interest in the U.S. market. That’s a limited number of Canadian companies, as Golf Canada found when it went searching for a sponsor for the Canadian Open.
There’s a lot of unanswered questions. I expect some of those will have answers in coming months. But I think anyone who feels simply slapping the PGA Tour name on the Canadian Tour will suddenly make it a more attractive audience is being naive. They need to tell a more compelling story — one complete with television coverage — and they need more tournaments. Maybe 14 or 15 events covering the scope of Canada, from Victoria to Halifax. That, coupled with a weekly television show on Golf Channel and TSN, might capture the imagination of a potential sponsor.
On the other hand there are the players. The pitch I’ve heard is that sponsors might want to saddle up to golfers like Weir, Stuart Appleby, Steve Stricker, etc. before they hit the big time on the PGA Tour. That might be true, but the new qualifying system — Canadian/Latin Tour to Web.com to PGA Tour — will have to demonstrate its merits before that becomes a factor. That means a player or two will have to rise through the ranks — from Victoria to Augusta, so to speak — before anyone is going to buy into that notion. Sure, it should happen, but most companies will want proof before plunking down their cash. They will want to see the potential ROI. Until then it is all conjecture.
PGA Tour Canada sounds great. But at the moment that’s all it is — there’s a lot of hard work that will have to go into it before it becomes a success. New sponsors will have to be cajoled. Tournaments will need to be added. It’ll take time — even years. A Tim Finchem press conference and a new logo won’t fix all the problems that have been mounting for years on the Canadian Tour.
Other stories on PGA Tour Canada worth looking at:

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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.

6 CommentsLeave a comment

  • This is the best thing to happen to Pro golf in Canada for quite some time.
    Very positive development…couldn’t get much worse.

  • RT – this was straight from the PGA TOUR Release. Did you not read it?

    Moving forward, the new PGA TOUR division will provide direct access to the Web.com Tour for its leading money winners, based on the final Order of Merit. The top five players will receive playing privileges on the Web.com Tour, while the next five will be exempt into the finals of the Web.com Tour qualifying school.

  • RT has it bang on!
    1st on Order of Merit will be fully exempt on the Web.com Tour where positions 2-5 will have some status. They will be placed into the priority ranking list that gets reshuffled. So if they do not play well in the first 5-10 events they will be struggling to get another start unless it is through a Monday Q. But again this is still very attractive to players and should help bring a lot more competition to the tour. I guess we will see when QSchool is held in the spring.

  • The Canadian Tour and the Latin Tour both have limited schedules. I wouldn’t be surprised to see either U.S. events added to both or a PGA tour takeover of the NGA Tour.

    • I can see US events being added to either schedule since the Canadian Tour had roots is California, Michigan and a east coast swing in previous years. I cant see the PGA Tour take over the NGA Tour because of their funding model. Those events cost above $1000 to play in wear the Canadian Tour and PGA Tour keep entry fees around $400 and rely on sponsors/event organizers to fund the purse rather than the players. I think you might see the Alberta Open or a Great Lakes Tour event being co-sanctioned or being a part of the PGA Tour Canada Schedule.

  • There are good companies with US and Canadian operations, TARGET, NORDSTROM, GOLFTOWN, TIM HORTONS, etc.

    I think it will be good news for young Canadian professionals, and others hoping to gain experience. Hope consultant Rick Janes is involved.

    My dream would be to have Provincial Opens, AGAIN! Love to see youngsters trying to qualify for the Ontario Open to “play with the pros, like Cowan and Weslock and Kern did”.

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