The Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada was forced to cancel an event in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, this year. All remember the wildfires that decimated parts of the city and region. For the golfers on the tour, having an opportunity to play as much competition as possible was enhanced with the addition of the Niagara Championship. The event will be played at Cherry Hill Club in Ridgeway, Ontario (near Crystal Beach), ten minutes over the Peace Bridge from Buffalo. We had a chance to interview Brian Decker, a Media Official for the Mackenzie Tour, to find a bit more out about this new tournament and the tour that will present it.
1. For those who aren’t familiar with the Mackenzie Tour – PGATour Canada, can you tell us a bit about the tour’s history and its mission?
Originally founded as the Canadian Tour in 1986, the Mackenzie Tour has a long history of producing players who have gone on to compete at the game’s highest level, including Mike Weir, Steve Stricker, Graham DeLaet and Jimmy Walker. In 2013, the Tour came under the umbrella of the PGA TOUR, providing players with a platform to be rewarded for season-long performance and earn Web.com Tour status for the following season. Recent alumni include PGA TOUR winners Nick Taylor and Tony Finau, as well as a host of up-and-coming Web.com Tour and PGA TOUR players. The Tour’s mission is two-fold: to provide players with the best avenue to advance their careers on the path to the PGA TOUR, while creating a positive impact in the communities where we play. Since 2013, Mackenzie Tour tournaments have raised more than $1.5 million for charity.
2. How did the tour come to the Niagara peninsula and what led it to Cherry Hill?
When we were forced to cancel our event in Fort McMurray earlier this year, we immediately began exploring our options to add a new tournament to the 2016 schedule. As a pathway for players to earn Web.com Tour status, we felt it was important to maintain a 12-event schedule and we are thrilled to have added another tournament at a top-quality venue. We have long been looking at the Niagara Peninsula as a host region for a Mackenzie Tour event, and when we had the opportunity to add a new event for 2016, we were fortunate to have discussions come together quickly with the Niagara Sport Commission and Cherry Hill Club to make it a reality. The Cherry Hill Club members and board have been extremely gracious in their support in making this event happen, especially under such a short timeline.
3. The last time that the world’s top players visited Cherry Hill was the Canadian PGA Championship in 1982, won by Jim Thorpe, with Ben Crenshaw and Ray Floyd, among others, in the field. The pace and undulation of the greens proved vexing to many in the field. Do you anticipate green speeds and hole locations to be two of the course’s better defenses?
The Tour’s mission when setting up the golf course is to produce a test of golf that is firm, fast and fair. Given Cherry Hill’s green complexes and undulating greens, we certainly anticipate the course to provide a challenge for Mackenzie Tour players on and around the putting surfaces.
4. Most golf fans are aware of the four tournament days, but what else will take place at Cherry Hill, in the days leading up to theThursday–Sunday championship?
Mackenzie Tour events are about more than just the four days of tournament play, and the Niagara Championship is no different. Extra events include Pro-Ams, clinics and practice rounds, providing fans with plenty of opportunities to get an up-close look at the action and see some of the world’s best up-and-coming players as they make their way to the next level.
5. How enjoyable is it for the players to tee it up on a golden age course, designed by a fellow like Walter Travis?
Playing Cherry Hill will be an absolute treat for Mackenzie Tour players. Though the Niagara Championship will be an intense week of competition, with the top 60 spots on the Order of Merit and a berth in the season-ending Freedom 55 Financial Championship on the line, there’s no doubt the players will be competing on one of their favourite courses of the year and enjoying it very much.
6. Cherry Hill has the potential to be a very exciting venue, offering chances for low scores and memorable shots. Will the set-up committee consider moving tees up to give the golfers a chance to drive a few of the par four holes?
It’s certainly possible, and given the players’ skill levels, there will be plenty of opportunities for memorable shots regardless of the setup. With that said, the set-up committee will consider all factors – including weather – before finalizing set-up for reach round.
7. Tell us a bit about the tournament sponsor, the Niagara Sports Commission, and the role that they will play in the tournament.
The Niagara Sport Commission is acting as the host organization of this event. To make a comparison to other sports leagues, imagine that the Mackenzie Tour is the league, and tournaments are the teams – each operated by independent groups and organizations. In this particular example, the Niagara Sport Commission is a non-profit regional development agency dedicated to using sport as a catalyst for economic and community development in the Niagara region. We’re looking forward to working with the team there to put on a great event for people in the Niagara Peninsula.
8. How can golf fans in the southern Ontario and western New York region get involved in the tournament?
There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer, caddie or simply come out and watch some great golf. More information will be available in the coming weeks online and on social media, and in the meantime inquiries can be directed to Bram Cotton at the Niagara Sport Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org
9. What question haven’t we asked, that you would love to answer for people to know about this event? Ask it and answer it, please.
What can people expect to see when they come out to a Mackenzie Tour event?
A Mackenzie Tour event is a great opportunity get an up close look at some of the best players of the next generation now. If the Web.com Tour season ended today, five players who played on the Mackenzie Tour over the last two years would earn PGA TOUR cards for the following season, with a handful more earning another shot at the PGA TOUR through the Web.com Tour Finals. You may not know their names yet, but you likely will in just a few years’ time.