A starting field of 156 golfers will meet in Winnipeg with sights set on the $24,000 winners cheque in the Tours sixth official event of 2003. Two weeks ago, Mario Tiziani of Chanhassen, MN won his initial Tour crown at the Northern Ontario Open, becoming the fourth first-time winner this year. Players chasing Canadian Derek Gillespie for the Order of Merit crown have a chance to make up some ground this week as Gillespie, the winner of the Corona Ixtapa Classic back in May, finished fourth at the Nationwide Tours Canadian PGA Championship last weekend. Those finishing in the top 25 earned a spot in the Reeses Cup Classic, which gets underway Thursday in Pennsylvania.
The top two on the Canadian Tour money list at seasons end will be exempted into the second stage of PGA Tour Qualifying.
Hometown boys Rob McMillan, Todd Fanning and Dan Halldorson return to familiar surroundings and will have the support of the Winnipeg faithful behind them at Pine Ridge. McMillan, now a member on the Nationwide Tour, thrilled the city back in 1996 when he won the Xerox Manitoba Open as an amateur. Halldorson was elected to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 2002 and is one of the best players to ever come out of Canada. Fanning has three runner-up finishes on the Canadian Tour and spent last season on the Nationwide Tour.
Pine Ridge, a 6522-yard, par-71 track located about half an hour from downtown Winnipeg, was established in 1912. During the 2001 Classic, Wes Martin and Mark Slawter broke Mike Weirs course record with a 9-under 62, with both players posting the number on the final day. The signature hole at Pine Ridge is the 231-yard, par-3 9th, as intimidating and unique a hole as you will find on the Canadian Tour circuit. Hitting uphill to a domed green, players have to literally hit a perfect tee shot in order to stay on the dance floor. Since 1912, there have been ten holes-in-one on number nine. The first ace was recorded in 1948 and there wasnt another until 1990.
Last year, Alex Quiroz of Mexico staged the biggest final round comeback of the season, erasing a five-shot deficit on Sunday for his first Tour triumph. The previous two winners of the MTS Classic, Kenneth Staton (2001) and Ben Ferguson (2000) both earned PGA Tour cards just a few short months after their respective triumphs in the Peg.
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