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National Post column: Canadians Skip CanTour Q-School

Here’s my National Post golf column that appeared while I was away in British Columbia:

Natives bypass Canadian Tour

Seeking success Through Gruelling U.S. mini-tour circuit

Robert Thompson
On Golf

The Canadian Tour has long been the proving grounds for the
country’s best golfers. The likes of Mike Weir, Ian Leggatt and
David Morland all played on the tour before moving on to the
spotlight of the PGA Tour.

Given the tour’s pedigree, it surprised many to see two of Canada’s
former top amateurs — three time Canadian Amateur winner Richard
Scott and Ontario Amateur champion *Andrew* *Parr* — skip its
qualifying school last fall and again at the start of April.

Instead, the pair are banging it around on the U.S. mini-tour
circuit, tour’s with names like Gateway and Hooters, instead of
playing Canadian Tour events in California and Mexico.

“Playing the Hooters Tour and Gateway is really easy when it comes
to travel,” says Parr, who made US$16,000 in his first event on the
Gateway Tour. Less travel means fewer expenses, an issue even for
someone like Parr, who reportedly raised $100,000 from supporters in his hometown of London, Ont.

But the move away from Canadian Tour qualifying school is also
reflective of the 2006 success of Chris Baryla. The Vernon, B.C.,
golfer last season took the more difficult route of playing Monday
qualifiers on the Nationwide Tour rather than play on the Canadian
Tour. Though more than 200 golfers would regularly compete for 14
spots each Monday, Baryla managed to crack the field and finish in a
tie for ninth in his first attempt at the Livermore Valley Wine
Country Championship last April. That put US$16,200 in his pocket
and allowed him to continue his Monday quest.

He recorded three more top-10 results and his 51st-place finish in
the money list earned his full privileges on the Nationwide Tour for
this season.

That was the model Scott has followed, his agent George Sourlis
said. Scott has tried to Monday-qualify for three Nationwide events,
using tournaments on the Gateway and Hooters tours, where he is a
full member, as backups. To this point he has had little success.

Sourlis admits costs and timing prevented Scott from making the
trip to California to play the Canadian Tour’s qualifying school.
Scott and Parr could both head to the Canadian Tour’s third
qualifying school in June, but there’s also the cost –$2,750 — to
consider. For young Canadians already trying to cover the expenses
of pursuing professional golf, the entry fee is steep. Both Parr and
Scott are considering using sponsor’s exemptions to play the eight
Canadian Tour events that are held in Canada.

Scott was hoping to play the four Canadian Tour events in Mexico,
but could not secure any sponsor’s exemptions.

“Believe it or not, but the Canadian Tour is a big part of
Richard’s plans,” Sourlis said. Scott’s goal for this season is to
gain more professional competitive experience before trying his hand
at the PGA Tour’s qualifying school at the end of the year.

Canadian Tour commissioner Rick Janes said he has mixed opinions on whether his tour should offer immediate playing status to Canadian Amateur winners. Janes said he is disappointed Scott couldn’t land a spot in the Mexican events, but notes the fields were already full.

“As a Canadian, I’d love to see [Scott] out here,” Janes said of a
free pass for Canadian Amateur winners. “But I have a general
membership that qualified to play. ”

Janes said each player needs to make his own decision on how to
pursue their career. If that means skipping the Canadian Tour to try
to play in the U.S., that’s fine with Janes.

“No one is going to begrudge these players attempting to play in
the U.S. or trying to play the Nationwide Tour,” Janes said. “All I
care about is that they have a place, regardless of where it is, to
play.”

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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.

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