– Victoria Times columnist

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Bill Big Canoe has seen it all at the Victoria Open since his involvement began in 1990 as responsible for updating the rankings for the professional golf tournament.

Bill Big Canoe has seen it all at the Victoria Open since his involvement began in 1990 as responsible for updating the rankings for the professional golf tournament. This includes the 1997 tournament at Gorge Vale when Mike Weir was pregnant [now-ex] his wife, Bricia, collapsed on the course while caddying for the future Masters champion. A paramedic by trade, Big Canoe sprang into action to stabilize Bricia and get her to the hospital, where she was doing well.

“From Steve Stricker to Mike Weir, I remember all these guys from years past,” said Big Canoe, now general manager of the $200,000 Royal Beach Victoria Open presented by The Times Colonist, which runs from Thursday to Sunday. at Uplands Golf Club.

These included possible PGA Tour players Stricker, Weir, Craig Parry, Brandt Jobe, Todd Hamilton, Ken Duke, Stuart Appleby, Kirk Triplett, Chris DiMarco, Scott McCarron, Tim Clark and Tim Herron along with Weir, Hamilton and Michael Campbell having won majors.

The recent generation hasn’t been too bad either, with players like Tony Finau and Corey Conners coming out of the tournament in Victoria. The last normal pre-pandemic Victoria Open in 2019 at Uplands produced winner Paul Barjon and runner-up Doc Redman, who both competed on the PGA Tour.

“We continue to have a great crop of young players to come,” PGA Tour Canada Executive Director Scott Pritchard said recently.

The PGA Tour Canada, supplanting previous versions of the Canadian professional tour, began in 2013 as the PGA Tour’s second international development tour. A total of 54 PGA Tour Canada alumni have advanced to play on the PGA Tour since 2013 with 16 PGA Tour wins between them. More than 300 PGA Tour Canada alumni have played on the Korn Ferry Tour, the entry point to the PGA Tour, since 2013 with 49 wins between them.

The Royal Beach Victoria Open this week kicks off the 2022 PGA Tour Canada season in 11 events. The overall season points champion will win the Fortinet Cup and receive a full season bye to the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour and the season’s top two, and top Canadian, will earn byes to the 2023 PGA RBC Canadian Open Round.

The Victoria Professional Tournament, established in 1981, is the oldest event on the PGA Tour Canada.

“Victoria continues to shine as a traditional starter event and we’re really excited to have a slate of 11 strong events as we return to a normal Tour season,” said Pritchard.

The 2020 PGA Tour Canada season has been limited by the pandemic to four tournaments, two at Bear Mountain and two at TPC Toronto. Victoria’s regular stop at Uplands returned in 2021, but it was cut short for mainly Canadian golfers as part of a truncated Tour due to travel restrictions and it was pushed back to early October from its slot usual in June.

The task of bringing the Victoria event back to normal falls to Big Canoe, who takes over from former longtime general manager Murray Thomas.

“From the course, to the tents, to the bleachers, the lineup and everything in between to put this together, it’s all been going pretty smoothly,” said Big Canoe, who steps up to manager after his previous volunteer role. coordinator.

Big Canoe is well known in Island sports circles for his involvement in golf and curling, in which he has become a fixture.

“I was flattered enough to be asked [to become the new tournament manager],” he said.

“The objective has not changed: to ensure that the event is done and done well. The key to success at the executive level is to delegate the right people to do things right. »

This is what the organizers of the Victoria tournament have been doing since 1981. All in a sporting spirit, the Victoria tournament having been voted the best on the circuit by the players themselves.

“I have played sports all my life. I love the camaraderie of the sport and the way it brings people together,” said Big Canoe, 66.

There will be a built-in week-long break on the circuit after the Royal Beach Victoria Open due to the RBC Canadian Open next week at St. George’s in Toronto. The PGA Tour Canada resumes June 13-19 at the ATB Classic in Edmonton, followed by the Elk Ridge Open June 23-26 in Waskesiu, Sask. PGA Tour Graham DeLaet as Honorary Chairman.

The Prince Edward Island Open at Cardigan will be June 30-July 3, the Osprey Valley Open at TPC Toronto July 21-24, the Ontario Open at Woodington Lake July 28-31, the Quebec Open August 4-7 in Blainville and the Manitoba Open August 18-21 at the Southwood Club in Winnipeg.

The only non-Canadian stop, the CRMC Championship in Brainerd, Minnesota, will take place Aug. 25-28 with Minnesota product and British Open champion and Masters and US Open runner-up Tom Lehman.

The Tour returns north of the border with the GolfBC Championship Sept. 1-4 at Gallagher’s Canyon in Kelowna and the Fortinet Cup Championship at Deer Ridge in Kitchener, Ont., Sept. 15-18. All tournaments carry a minimum purse of $200,000.

The Fortinet Cup Points Champion for the season will also earn $25,000 from the $100,000 bonus pool to be split among the top 10 players on the season leaderboard.

Seven qualifying tournaments were held throughout the spring, six in the United States and one at Crown Isle in Courtenay (won by home product Riley Wheeldon), to fill the field for PGA Tour Canada 2022.

Island players performing this week at Uplands include Wheeldon, veterans Jim Rutledge and Cory Renfrew, vaunted teenager Jeevan Sihota, Maxwell Sear, Zach Anderson and last year’s player Callum Davison.

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