Mackenzie Tour Sets Sail From The Great Waterway

JiGreat Waterway Classic is over (Photo, GWWC 2014, Scott MacLeod)
Brad Clapp wins The Great Waterway Classic for 2015 on the Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada (Photo: Scott MacLeod, Flagstick.com)
Brad Clapp wins The Great Waterway Classic for 2015 on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada. It appears he will be the final champion for the event. (Photo: Scott MacLeod, Flagstick.com)

It was a big day for the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada on Thursday as they announced a new event for Northern Alberta in partnership with the Oilers Entertainment Group. It’s a five year deal that shows much promise, buoyed by the strength of NHL level management and resources behind it.

It adds another stop to the 2016 Mackenzie Tour schedule, an agenda that is sure to change again in short time as new events are announced and others fall away.

In 2015 the TOUR featured 12 events but at least one of those tournaments will disappear for the year ahead, and the loss will be felt in Eastern Ontario.

Although the National Capital Open to Support Our Troops will return to Ottawa and the Hylands Golf Club this summer, the other event held in the Eastern Ontario region, The Great Waterway Classic, will not be back.

Held the last two years at the Loyalist Country Club in Bath, Ontario, and previously hosted at the Smuggler’s Glen Golf Course (2012) and Upper Canada Golf Course (2013); it appears the tournament’s run is over.

Well-placed sources confirmed to Flagstick.com this week that the Mackenzie Tour event will not be played in 2016. Word is that the board of directors of the title sponsor, The Great Waterway tourism region, were not willing to renew their contract. The four year deal with what is technically known as the Regional Tourism Organization 9, expired after 2015.

The tournament operator for the last thee seasons, the Canadian Junior Golf Association, was not interested in pursuing the additional level of sponsorship dollars that would be necessary for the tournament to continue.

Scott Pritchard, Tournament Business Affairs at PGA TOUR, reached out to Flagstick.com after the initial posting of this story and confirmed the end of The Great Waterway Classic.

“We had a great run in The Great Waterway,” Pritchard related from Thunder Bay where the TOUR was preparing for some announcements regarding the Staal Foundation Open, “we had some great champions that came out of the tournament. Like anything, things sometimes have life cycles and their board decided they were not going to renew beyond the initial four-year agreement. We thank them for everything they did and maybe one day we will be able to re-establish an event in the region.

The CJGA (with some support from the TOUR) had come to the rescue of the event in 2013 after the original host organization, Evolution Golf, failed to meet some of their obligations.

CJGA Chief Operations Officer Brad Parkins, also provided a follow-up statement to Flagstick.com –

“It is the unfortunate truth that we were not able to retain The Great Waterway (RTO9) as the title sponsor for the event moving forward.  With their agreement up for renewal at the end of the 2015 season, their Board felt it was in their best interest to examine new opportunities and not continue with the event moving forward.  As the host organization, we explored other options to raise the necessary funds to continue the event in the region, however after going through such a process, it was in our (CJGA’s) best interest to not continue with the event.

It has been an exceptional three years operating The Great Waterway Classic.  The support and relationships generated with The Great Waterway (RTO9), all of our tournament partners, Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada, the host clubs (Upper Canada GC and Loyalist CC), our charities, and especially all of the volunteers over the years – it is tough to see the event go away.  Those relationships will not be lost, and although we may not be able to bring back a Mackenzie Tour event to the region, the opportunity to bring a larger CJGA event to the region could certainly be in the cards down the road.”

The Mackenzie Tour is expected to announce their 2016 schedule in the coming weeks. Their four qualifying tournaments for 2016, which can accommodate a total of 528 players, sold out in a matter of 16 minutes on Thursday.

The loss of The Great Waterway Classic is significant, especially in the host region and for the local designated charity, but it appears the Mackenzie Tour, with new partners and a steady flow of players, remains very healthy overall.

(Ed. note – Story was updated to include quotes from the Mackenzie Tour and the Canadian Junior Golf Association)