At one time or another in their careers, Canadian-born PGA Tour players Adam Hadwin, Nick Taylor, Graham Delaet and David Hearn all refined their skills on what is now known as the Mackenzie Tour.
Next week, golf fans in Kelowna will have an up-close chance to view the game’s future when the GolfBC Championship tees off at Gallagher’s Canyon.
With many of the game’s young, up-and-coming players on display over four days, tournament director Hugh Vassos said the third stop on the Mackenzie Tour is a must-see for anyone who has an appreciation of golf.
“I really encourage people to come out and watch professional golf, live and in colour, as they say,” said Vassos, who ran Saskatoon’s Canadian PGA event for eight years. “Ninety per cent of these guys are under 30, and they’re on their way up, the up-and comers of the game.
“If you want to see these young guys before they get to the PGA Tour, then you can say I saw them, I got an autograph,” Vassos continued. “It’s a don’t-miss in your own back yard.”
Among the players to receive an exemption in the field are Okanagan product Greg Machtaler, Chilean-born Hugo Leon and Chase Keopka.
Leon has played in over 40 countries worldwide, while Koepka is the younger brother of rising PGA star, Brooks Koepka.
Gallagher’s Canyon GM Peter Hopley said there will be plenty of quality viewing areas for fans, with the course covering some 250 acres. Although organizers aren’t sure how many fans to expect, Hopley said the course can easily accommodate 2,000 to 3,000 people per day.
“You get can get intimate with the players, there will be lots of good viewing, with lots of room to disperse,” said Hopley. “There shouldn’t be too many obstructed views, so it should be very spectator friendly.”
As for the condition of the course at Gallagher’s, Hopley said organizers couldn’t have asked for much more.
“We’re really excited with where it’s at right now, we had good start weather-wise like it was for all the courses here,” he said. “That’s what we needed in first year of the event. It should showcase nicely.”
With good conditions, Hopley expects a 15-under to 20-under par score will win the tournament on the par-71 6,800-yard layout.
Play begins Thursday June 9, with 156 players in the field and a $175,000 prize purse. $31,500 goes to the winner.
Tickets for the GolfBC Championship are $10 per day, $25 for a tournament pass, while kids 12-and-under are free.
Spectators who drive to the event will be asked to park off-site nearby, then will be shuttled to the golf course.
The opening ceremony is set for 2:30 p.m. next Wednesday at Gallagher’s Canyon. The closing ceremony will be at approximately 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 12.
For more information, visit golfbcchampionship.com
The GolfBC Championship organizing committee announced Tuesday that the City of Kelowna and Kelowna International Airport have signed on as the first founding partners of the annual tournament.
Councillor Maxine Dehart said the involvement of the city and community is crucial to the success of such events.
“I am so stoked about this tournament,” said Dehart. “If we do not have the community behind us, then this tournament can’t be successful as it would have been. On behalf of the City of Kelowna, I just wanted to say how excited we all are.
“This is great for Kelowna, great for golf and great for the public to be able to come and see this event.”
Sam Samaddar, the director of the Kelowna International Airport, said the tournament will shine a spotlight on Kelowna and the Okanagan.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to showcase Kelowna and the region as one of the unique places in the world,” said Samaddar. “We’re looking forward to welcoming the fans and young golf talent to Kelowna.”