For the second consecutive season, the 36-hole facility at ChampionsGate will play host to Winter Qualifying School in Orlando, FL from February 3-7. In 2002, five rookies that gained playing status at Winter Q-school went on to capture a total of seven titles. Former U.S. Amateur champions Hank Kuehne and Jeff Quinney each won a pair of events en route to a 1-2 finish on the money list. Jimmy Walker, Chris Wisler and Iain Steel were the other Winter Q-school grads to win last season.
The Lone Star State will once again kick off the first two official events of the season the weeks of February 10th and 17th with the TravelTex.com Canadian Tour Series at the world-class Barton Creek Resort. Both events will be telecast live on The Golf Channel, with a replay slated to be broadcast nightly during prime time.
In May, the Tour makes a return visit to Mexico, adding an additional event and increasing both purses. The Michelin Guadalajara Classic will be staged in Guadalajara May 5-11, with the American Express Ixtapa Classic scheduled for the following week. Last season, sponsors invite Pablo del Olmo of Mexico won on his home soil in the Tours first-ever visit to that country. In recognition of the continuing development of the Mexican Tour, we will see more of their players included in the Tours full field.
A new event, the Northern Ontario Open, will be the first event held on Canadian soil in 2003 when it is played June 23-29 in Ontario. It will be a four-day live Golf Channel broadcast, a first for the Tour on its native soil as a result of its continuing strong partnership with The Golf Channel.
Following the stop in Sault Ste. Marie, the Tour resumes the Canadian leg of the schedule with the MTS Classic in Winnipeg, MB (Pine Ridge GC) from July 7-13, which will be the first of seven straight weeks of official Canadian Tour events. Following the Winnipeg stop, the Tour moves west for the TELUS Edmonton Open (July 14-20), the Victoria Open (July 21-27) and the Greater Vancouver Classic (July 28-Aug. 3) before returning to the east for an event in Quebec (August 4-10).
The Tour then returns to the United States for the second annual Lewis Chitengwa Memorial Championship in Charlottesville, VA in honour of the rising star who passed away suddenly in Edmonton two years ago. The Players Championship, which will also be broadcast live on The Golf Channel, returns to the fold this season, running August 18-24 in Bay Mills, MI with players competing for a $235,000 CDN purse.
We are thrilled not only to have the Canadian Tour back with us playing for the largest purse of the year, but to be hosting our friends at The Golf Channel as well, said Mike Husby, tournament director and Director of Golf at Wild Bluff. Last year, the players saw the course in sub-zero conditions after a tough spring. This time around we are in the summer months, and these guys are going to see Wild Bluff at its best. With some of the changes we have planned, it is going to be a fast track that will be quite a challenge for the players.
Canadian Tour Commissioner Ian Mansfield stated that having the TPC pencilled back into the schedule was a key issue for the Tour this year, adding Bay Mills will be an ideal site for its return.
Our first visit to Bay Mills was an overwhelming success, and we look forward to having the return of The Players Championship in Michigan this summer, he said. There are a lot of host cities that welcome us with open arms, and the folks in Michigan are no exception. Our players were treated like family by the Bay Mills community, and we know they will stage another first-class show this time around.
The Canadian Tour will try to win back bragging rights with the QPGA when the Casino de Charlevoix Cup, an unofficial Tour event, is held Aug. 25-31 in Point-au-Pic, QC.
Despite a noticeable slowdown in the economy throughout North America, we feel we are making solid strategic steps as the awareness of the Canadian Tour grows, added Mansfield. Not only will we be extending our media coverage this year with the Golf Channel telecasts now moving into Canada, but several events will have increased purses. Maintaining stability in various markets is now an issue for Tours worldwide; our Tour is no exception and in fact requires even more work by us due to our relative size and dependence on the success of others.
The release of todays schedule demonstrates a firm foundation for our players and staff to plan their 2003 schedules. We will now continue to finalize more full-field events in the September timeframe and research many specialty event opportunities that will keep our players active.
The Canadian Tour will release these additions as they occur and add them to our website on a regular basis.