One of the biggest sporting events to come to Eastern Ontario and certainly the biggest golf event ever, the Great Waterway Classic is set to tee off at the Upper Canada Golf Course, August 19-25.
The Great Waterways Classic tournament at Upper Canada next week is a men’s professional golf tour tournament, the seventh tournament on the 2013 PGA Tour Canada schedule. The former Canadian Golf Tour, PGA Tour Canada was taken over by the U.S. PGA Tour last November and competitors are vying for one of five Web.com Tour cards.
Upper Canada is one of four host courses selected to host a Great Waterways Classic/PGA Tour Canada event. The four-course Classic began in 2012, at Smuggler’s Glen in Gananoque.
It provides an excellent opportunity for local golfers and golf enthusiasts to attend a professionally run tournament, featuring professional players who one day may be playing on the PGA tour.
Over the years, the Canadian Tour has helped to launched the careers of 2003 Master champion Mike Weir and 2005 U.S. Open winner Michael Campbell.
Last week the Great Waterways Classic and PGA Tour Canada officials announced six tournament exemptions, for the 156 player tournament at Upper Canada, three at the junior level and three sponsor exemptions.
Getting the nod for the sponsor exemptions were Kingston golfer Matt McQuillan, Ottawa golfer Andrew Jensen and MacKenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ontario.
The junior-aged players to receive exemptions were Ryan Mitchell of Beaconsfield, Quebec, Chris Wilson of Timmins, Ontario and Tyler Pope-Ferguson of Amherstburg.
At the junior level, five events were held and attracted 400 golfers, giving each the opportunity to qualify and earn a spot in next week’s Classic.
“Close to 400 junior participants was a fantastic turnout,” said Brad Parkins Chief Operations Officer at Canadian Junior Golf Association and the Tournament Director for the Great Waterway Classic.
According to PGA Tour Canada’s Scott Pritchard there were 70 applications for sponsor exemptions. To make the selections, Pritchard explained they were looking for players who would attract fans, players who would appeal to the sponsors and players who would attract the attention of the media.
“We are very excited to be coming to Upper Canada,” he said. “This is the start of a four week stretch for the players. It is an exciting time for the tour, and will be an exciting time for golf in Canada.”
Tournament officials expressed their pleasure in awarding the sponsor exemptions to two players from Eastern Ontario and gave a warm welcome as well to Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ontario.
McQuillan and Jensen were both present at last week’s press conference and both had great things to say about the Upper Canada Golf course.
“I am thrilled to be here,” said McQuillan whose best PGA Tour event finish was at the 2011 John Deere Classic in Illinois when he tied for third. “I am very happy to be able to compete so close to home.”
McQuillan, who played the Upper Canada Course for the first time earlier this summer with his dad, rated the local links at “PGA Tour quality.”
Andrew Jensen of Ottawa, too, expressed his delight at playing so close to home. “This is pretty awesome,” he said. “I played a lot of junior golf here. It is nice to play so close to home and to be able to channel some of my junior golf days out here.”
Jensen joined the Canadian Tour in 2008. He did not play in 2011 or 2012 due to injury/health but regained his status for 2013.
Mackenzie Hughes, 22, is a graduate of Kent State University. He was the Canadian Amateur champion in 2011 and 2012 and qualified for the recent 2013 U.S. Open, but did not make the cut.
Golfers from around the world will be teeing up at Upper Canada next week, which will be a very exciting time for the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, which operates the course, and Course Superintendent Randy Leclair. Leclair was delighted with McQuillan’s comment that Upper Canada was “tour quality.”
“It’s been a bit of a challenge, but everything is looking good,” said Leclair. “The weather was an issue, but August has been good.”
In preparation for the Waterway Classic, Leclair and his crew have completed considerable renovations on the pro tees. One new tee to service both the second and 17th holes was added and work on the course’s par five 14th, allows the narrow hole bounded to the north by a creek and to the south by bush to be played at over 650 yards. The course now features two cuts of rough, an intermediate cut at 1.25 inches and the regular rough at 3-4 inches.
“We have renovated all of the bunkers and done a lot of tree work, particularly on those that come into play off the pro tees,” said Leclair. “Overall, PGA Tour Canada officials, have been very happy with the greens.”
“I am looking forward to getting the course as good as we can, and hopefully the players will enjoy it,” he concluded.
In addition to having the opportunity to attend the tournament, golfers who frequent the Upper Canada Golf course from throughout Ontario, the Ottawa Valley, Quebec and the northern U.S. have been and will continue to enjoy the changes and renovations at the popular course.
For all golf enthusiasts, players and fans of the game, single day passes for the Great Waterway Classic, Thursday through Sunday, are $10. Week Passes are $25. Tickets can be purchased by calling 1-877-508-1069 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets will also be available on site each day at the front entrance.
PGA Tour professional and Ottawa area native Brad Fritsch is the Honourary Chairman of the Great Waterway Classic and The Cornwall Hospital Foundation is the Official Charity.
The 2013 PGA Tour Canada was in Calgary, Alberta, August 6-9 for the ATB Financial Classic. Following the Great Waterway Classic at Upper Canada next week, the Tour heads to the Wildfire Invitational at Peterborough. It goes to Sydney, Nova Scotia September 2-8 and wraps up September 9-15 at the TOUR championship of Canada in London, Ontario.
The money leaders to date are Vancouver Island’s Riley Wheeldon, Wil Collins of South Dakota and Hilton Head’s Joe Panzeri of Idaho who won the recent ATB Financial.
This is an exciting time for area golfers and golf fans to take in some top-notch golf action at the beautiful Upper Canada Golf Course located just east of Morrisburg.