It’s a Community Affair
13 SEP 2017
By Peter Mumford
Professional golf returned to Barrie last week as the Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada was in town for the penultimate event on their 2017 schedule. The Ontario Championship hosted by National Pines turned into a showdown between the top ranked players on the Tour’s money list who are vying for a spot in the Top 5, which guarantees an exempt card on the Web.com Tour for next season.
Kramer Hickok of Dallas, Texas (#7) posted back-to-back 64’s on the weekend to put himself into a playoff with Johnny Ruiz of California (#1). It took four extra holes before Hickok could close it out with a birdie. The win jumped Hickok into the No.1 spot while Ruiz dropped to second.
Back-to-back 64’s will certainly move anybody up the leaderboard and should get everyone’s attention. As Hickok stated after his Sunday round, “It’s unbelievable. This course yielded some of the best players all year. Heading into today, I was in seventh place but looking in front of me, there were four guys that could jump me in The Five. I think that’s what good courses do – they bring out the best players.”
It’s always gratifying to members to hear professionals praise their course. But anybody who has played the Tom McBroom design already knows how good it is and when the Canadian Tour held its Tour Championship at National Pines in 2007 and 2008, it received plenty of accolades then too, even from a young up-and-comer named Graham DeLaet.
What seems surprising is that it took so long for the Tour to come back. Naturally, those decisions are often driven by sponsorship considerations but National Pines as a proven venue is not an issue and certainly Barrie as the host city has more than lived up to its end of the bargain.
Dale Hawerchuk is coach of the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League and played with his son Erik in the Pro Am for the Ontario Championship. More than most, he understands the parallels between junior hockey and a Mackenzie Tour event and what that can mean to the City.
“It’s all about developing talent to get to the next level. With a community like Barrie, they understand how the development works and they actually enjoy watching it. They’ve been big supporters of the Colts and I think if this golf tournament could be built up over a few years, it could create a real bond with the community.”
The former Winnipeg Jets star and member of the Hockey Hall of Fame is a huge fan of the National Pines course and not just because it’s 30 seconds from his office at the Barrie Molson Centre.
“Unfortunately, when I’m at the office I’m busy full time but I do come here in the summer. National Pines is certainly one of my favourites. It’s a great walking course and a perfect set-up for the tournament. The fans will love it.”
Erik Hawerchuk, 28, is an exempt player on the Mackenzie Tour in 2017, although not having the kind of season he’d like. But he too is a big fan of National Pines. “It’s a great test and I think the players are going to love it. I know the course pretty well and I think I can have a good week.”
(Note: Team Hawerchuk won the Pro Am but Erik missed the cut.)
Reegan Price, the Tournament Director for the Ontario Championship hosted by National Pines, believes that the course and the City of Barrie are exactly what the Tour needs.
“This is a community that has shown support for golf in the past with our two Tour Championships. In terms of the golf course, National Pines is one of the best championship layouts available in Ontario, which is one of the reasons why we’re here. As a tournament venue this course has everything the guys need to provide a challenge. It’s got length, it’s a tight driving course and the greens can be very tricky. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
One of the mandates of the Mackenzie Tour is to make a positive impact on the communities they visit.
“The City of Barrie and the South Simcoe region is the right size market for this type of event. We feel we can get the community involved and get local businesses supporting us. We also know from experience that we can make a more significant economic impact on a smaller city like Barrie than we would in larger metro areas”, said Price. “The other area we try to make an impact is through charity so we’re very happy to partner with the local chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association.”
It sure sounds like all the ingredients are in place for a long term relationship: good community support, business and charitable partners, the right size market and a great golf course that the players enjoy.
Peter Mumford is the Editor of Fairways Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @FairwaysMag