Canada has twice as much to cheer about when the PGA and LPGA Tours get rolling in 2010 compared to this year when Mike Weir and Stephen Ames were the only homies on the men’s tour and Alena Sharp and Lorie Kane were the only Canucks on the women’s circuit.
Add Chris Baryla of Vernon, B.C., and Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., to the list of Canadians on the PGA Tour after Baryla got his ticket through the Nationwide Tour money list and DeLaet turned in a magnificent performance all year before earning his full-time card at Q-school.
DeLaet, in particular, seemed destined for the big leagues after two wins on the Canadian Tour and one in South Africa among other impressive finishes, including a trip to China after winning a World Cup qualifier with teammate Stuart Anderson of Victoria in Estonia.
Prior to doing the expected, DeLaet was a little more realistic about 2010. He surely would have been disappointed had he not made it to the PGA Tour, but he said playing on the Nationwide Tour would have represented at least a step in the right direction in his career.
Had it happened that way, would Canadians have been paying as much attention to DeLaet on the development circuit the way they will be now that he’s on the PGA Tour? Should we just wait for them to show up in the big leagues and complain when they don’t?
That’s been a common complaint the last few years with so few Canadians on the big tours, but let’s be honest, how many of us can honestly say we saw Weir climbing to the top?
How many of us can honestly say we knew that Canadians accounted for four wins in 2009 on the Duramed Futures Tour, the main development circuit for the LPGA Tour, including Montreal’s Lisa Meldrum, who earned her full-time card on Monday at that Q-school?
Falling off Canadian radar screens is much more likely to happen in women’s golf, which doesn’t get nearly the attention as the men’s game, even when some of this country’s biggest stars over the years include Sandra Post, Jocelyne Bourassa, Dawn Coe-Jones and Kane, among others.
Now, you have Meldrum adding to the number of Canadians along with Samantha Richdale of Kelowna, B.C., who won twice on the Futures Tour last year and made it through that circuit’s money list.
Even with DeLaet, Baryla, Meldrum and Richdale graduated to the big tours, it may be wise in 2010 to pay attention to some of the players coming up, a few with impressive Q-schools behind them despite not getting their cards.
On the men’s side, Montreal’s Julien Trudeau just missed being among the top 25 from Q-school who get their cards after going two-under yesterday to tie for 26th at eight under. Peterborough’s Ted Brown started the final round in a tie for 21st, but ended up with a four-over 76 to tie for 42nd.
At the LPGA Q-school, Adrienne White of Red Deer, Alta., finished just short of earning her tour card after starting the day in a tie for ninth before finishing in a tie for 22nd. The top 20 received their cards in Daytona Beach.
All of the players mentioned above may now have the confidence needed for a breakthrough year in 2010 and let’s not forget outstanding amateurs such as Matt Hill of Bright’s Grove, Ont., Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., and Jennifer Kirby of Paris, Ont., among others.
They all had magnificent seasons in 2009 and never has there been a better time for Canadians to keep an eye on developing players despite the urge to be “world-class” by paying attention to the big tours.
If you buy into the theory that as many Canadians as possible playing at golf’s top level is good for creating interest in the game and is ultimately good for the industry – and I do – then we admittedly are not doing a good job of supporting those players.
A GNN Poll last June asked readers if up-and-coming players get enough attention from the Canadian golf industry, media and fans of the game before they make it to the PGA Tour or LPGA Tour? A whopping 96 per cent said no.
It could be fun and beneficial to start in 2010.
Besides just paying attention to these developing players, there are discussions going on between the Canadian Tour and the Royal Canadian Golf Association about the tour becoming part of the RCGA’s development chain.
Of course, on the women’s side, there is the CN Canadian Women’s Tour that offers a few tournaments a year for developing pros and exemptions into the CN Canadian Women’s Open.
The Canadian PGA would certainly benefit from helping in the development of these players and the return of the Canadian PGA Championship could at least give male players one more tournament to play. Whether the CPGA could be involved in any combined Canadian Tour/RCGA strategy is another question.
Of course, any type of endorsement deal that manufacturers and apparel companies could offer would help.
Four new Canadians will be on tour in 2010 and more are lining up for a run at the top level. Can the industry do anything more to help push them over the top?
Tee it up and let us know.