VANCOUVER - The newly minted PGA Tour Canada won't be visiting Metro Vancouver in its inaugural season next year, but Fraser Mulholland hopes many of its players will.
Mulholland, the founder and commissioner of the Vancouver Golf Tour, is planning a series of three-day events next spring that he hopes will help players hone their games for the eight-event PGA Tour Canada schedule.
Mulholland envisions five events prior to the PGA Tour Canada opener the first week of June in Victoria, another tournament in the open week between the tour's Victoria and Calgary events and perhaps two more late-summer tournaments after the tour concludes its cross-Canada run.
Purses would be in the neighbourhood of $80,000, with about 120 pros and 30 or 40 amateurs teeing it up.
"What we hope to do is turn what they have now, basically an eight-tournament schedule, into 16 events," Mulholland said. "We won't have the same purses they have out there because they are playing for $150,000 each week, but it's competition."
The PGA Tour took over what used to be the Canadian Tour earlier this fall and hoped to play an event in Vancouver next year. But a title sponsor could not be found and efforts are now being focused on securing one for 2014.
Mulholland thinks his new VGT events will appeal to some of the local pros who head south during the winter to play on the mini tours.
"It's great news for them because now they don't have to spend an extra month or two down south or wait painfully for that June 3 event to come around," he said. "They have had the one-day events week to week on our schedule in April or May, but they are just not quite doing what they need to be doing. A one-day event and then waiting six days for that next one-day event is something, but they need that three- or four-day experience to be ready."
The Vancouver Open, the VGT's flagship event that has been held in the late summer at the City of Vancouver's Fraserview, McCleery and Langara courses, could be moved to the early June slot between the PGA Tour Canada events in Victoria and Calgary. Mulholland hopes to boost the purse for that event to $100,000.
To make it all work, Mulholland must attract a significant number of PGA Tour Canada players from the United States.
"We don't have every single person on the PGA Tour Canada database, but from hosting events the last five or six years we probably have 30 to 50 of their members already on our database," he said. "I think we'll be able to reach them through word of mouth and social media, like Twitter and Facebook."
Participants will be required to purchase a VGT membership for about $750 and entry fees for each tournament will be in the $750 to $800 range.
"We are not looking to get greedy from making a lot off these events, but we obviously are going to have to grow our infrastructure and I am going to have to add at least one body to run these events if we are going to add these to the existing one and two-day events we have on the calendar," Mulholland said.
CHIP SHOTS: Victoria's Cory Renfrew shot a 12-under 59 Tuesday in the first round of an All-American Tour event in Phoenix. Renfrew's bogey-free round on the 6,946-yard Legacy Golf Resort course included 10 birdies and an eagle. The former UBC star has a five-shot lead heading into today's second round of the 54-hole event. Renfrew's 59 is the first sub-60 round in the five-year history of the All-American Tour. . .Ontario's Jessica Shepley is retiring from pro golf at age 29. Shepley played some her best golf as a pro in B.C. This past summer, she was the low Canadian at the CN Canadian Women's Open at Vancouver Golf Club. Shepley hopes to become a school teacher.
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