Sixth months after Jon Mills became the first Canadian to win the Tour money title since Mike Weir did it in 1997, the curtain lifts on a new campaign at the world-class Barton Creek Resort in Austin. Opening-round play is scheduled to begin Thursday at Barton Creeks 6,956-yard, par-72 Fazio Foothills course.
The Golf Channel will broadcast all four rounds live, with replays airing nightly. Live scoring powered by UNISYS will also be featured on cantour.com.
The Classic will be the first of two events in Austin, with the Barton Creek Challenge scheduled for the following week at the neighbouring Crenshaw Cliffside track. Last week, the final of three consecutive Winter Qualifying Schools was also staged at Barton Creek.
This seasons marks the second consecutive visit to Barton Creek for the Canadian Tour. In 2003, rookie Anders Hultman of Sweden, coming off a record ten-shot win at Winter Q-School, won his first Tour start in Austin before Indianas Rob Johnson nailed down his first victory a week later.
Hultman would go on to be named the 2003 International Rookie of Year while Johnson would also win the TELUS Edmonton Open en route to finishing second to Mills in earnings.
Headlining the top-notch field in Austin will be 2003 Canadian Tour champions Hultman Johnson, Rodney Butcher, Derek Gillespie, Mario Tiziani, and Erik Compton. Other players to watch include Americans Mark Johnson, Chris Wall, Robert Hamilton, Craig Kanada, Jeff Quinney, Steve Scott and Conrad Ray. Pablo del Olmo and Alex Quiroz of Mexico, Iain Steel (Malaysia) and Paul Devenport (New Zealand) will also be looking to get a quick jump out of the gate this week.
Gillespie heads into 2004 in search of his third Tour win in three seasons while promising Canadian David Hearn, who also holds playing status on the Asian Tour, returns after battling injuries for most of last season. Three-time Canadian Tour champion Rob McMillan of Winnipeg will also peg it up in Austin, as will Bryan DeCorso of Guelph, ON, who recently earned a Nationwide Tour card at PGA Tour Qualifying. Former Canadian amateur standouts Lee Curry and Dan Swanson will make their debuts as full-fledged Canadian Tour members this week.