The story of the year in Canadian golf did not take place on the PGA Tour, which is seemingly the only place, in some people’s minds, that produces news stories of any consequence.
From a Canadian perspective, the story is not about what’s happening now on the PGA Tour, or the LPGA Tour for that matter, but more about what could be happening five years from now on both circuits.
It’s all about the future, not the present, with the fireworks set off in 2009 by Nick Taylor, Matt Hill, Jennifer Kirby, Samantha Richdale and Graham DeLaet, all of which could very well be familiar faces, among other Canadians, on the respective tours in the next decade.
That last name helps illustrate a point for Rick Janes, commissioner of the Canadian Tour, who watched DeLaet win two events and register four top-three finishes to lead the circuit’s money list. DeLaet is in Estonia right now with fellow tour player Stuart Anderson to represent Canada in a World Cup qualifier.
“It was the year of Graham DeLaet and that was very, very exciting to have him win our Order of Merit and play as well as he did,” said Janes.
“It defines what the Canadian Tour is, absolutely,” said Janes of the all-important development aspect of the circuit for all players, including those from the country in which it is based.
“Being Canadian-centric about it, we, the Canadian Tour, need to become more proactive. It’s one thing to have the events out there, but I think that we need to get on board with the Royal Canadian Golf Association and their athlete development program,” said Janes.
DeLaet came to the Canadian Tour as a product of the RCGA’s national team and Janes would like to see the tour play more of an active role in player development by filling that now vacant gap between the time a Canadian turns pro and the time he reaches the Nationwide or PGA Tour.
“There are very few places for these young people to develop,” said Janes. “There are not a lot of players in North America who go right to the Nationwide Tour. There are not a lot of players in North America who go right to the PGA Tour.”
Janes adds that other players such as Andrew Parr and Wes Heffernan turned out to be fine players and ambassadors for the game after coming through RCGA programs and on to the Canadian Tour.
“I don’t think that (the RCGA) is getting full credit for the quality of work that they’re doing. We see the results,” said Janes, adding that the Canadian Tour is the next logical step to continuing that development.
How such an arrangement with the RCGA would work has yet to be established, but Janes is working on the tour’s strategic plan which, he says, includes stronger alliances with other tours, including the PGA Tour, and associations such as the RCGA.
Janes says he plans to sit down with RCGA executive director Scott Simmons soon to discuss the matter. “To be honest, it’s just a meeting of the minds to discuss what resources exist,” said Janes.
On the women’s side, the RCGA operates the Canadian Women’s Tour with CN as sponsor, offering exemptions into the CN Canadian Women’s Open, this country’s only LPGA Tour event.
The Canadian Tour already receives exemptions into the RBC Canadian Open – it had six this year – but it’s no secret that the tour has been seeking an overall circuit sponsor and perhaps RBC could take that role the way that CN has on the women’s side.
When asked that question, Janes said he wouldn’t be so presumptuous at this point, adding that his immediate task is to get across the tour’s message and what role it currently plays in developing players.
“There are a lot of countries in the world, I’m sure, that would be very happy to have a domestic circuit of 10 events across the country, some of which are pretty significant events,” he said.
“We’re bringing competition to Canada to help our developing Canadian players and I think that we recognize the assets that exist within the Canadian Tour. It would be very difficult to deny its importance in the development of players in the country,” said Janes.
Given the tour’s history of sending Canadians, including Mike Weir, and players from other countries on to higher levels, he has a point. Whether the tour can become the next link in the chain of development is something we’ll have to keep an eye on going forward.