A total of 156 golfers will peg it up at the 6767-yard, par-70 Sault Ste. Marie Golf Club when opening round action gets underway Thursday. The Golf Channel will broadcast all four rounds live beginning at 4:30 PM (ET) each day.
The Soo will kick off a five-event swing through Canada, with play resuming in Winnipeg the week of July 8th. Consecutive stops in Edmonton, Victoria and Vancouver will follow.
Derek Gillespie of Oshawa, ON, coming off a win at the Corona Ixtapa Classic in May, will look to increase his lead atop the Order of Merit this week. Gillespie currently leads American Michael Harris by almost $6,000 atop the money list. Thee of the four 2003 champions (Gillespie, Anders Hultman and Rob Johnson) will tee it up in the Soo. The top two finishers on the Order of Merit at seasons end will receive exemptions into the second stage of PGA Q-school later this fall.
Besides a $20,653 payday for the winner, players will also have extra incentive at the Tours fifth official event of the year. The champion here will join Gillespie, Harris, Hultman, Johnson, Erik Compton and Jim Salinetti at the Nationwide Tours Samsung CPGA Championship next week at Diamondback GC.
Other players to watch this week include defending MTS Classic champion Alex Quiroz, Paul Devenport, David Hearn and David McKenzie. Ben Ferguson and Craig Kanada, who both played on the PGA Tour in the past couple of seasons, are slated to compete, as in Doug McGuigan, who lost in a playoff to 1999 British Open champion Paul Lawrie at the Eurpoean Tours Dunhill Championship in January.
The Sault Ste. Marie Golf Club course record as a par-72 layout is a 9-under 63, set back in 1998.
Current PGA Tour member Arron Oberholser put on quite a show during the Ontario Open Heritage Classic at the Sault Ste. Marie GC back in 1999. Oberholser cruised to an 11-shot win over Tony Carolan and Ian Leggatt, with the margin of victory still standing as a Canadian Tour record. Last season, the 28-year-old Oberholser finished second on the Buy.com (now Nationwide) Tour money list to earn his PGA Tour card for 2003. In his first seven PGA starts this year, he had a pair of top-tens (T4 Buick Invitational, T6 Chrysler Classic of Tucson).