Thursday’s announcement that the PGA Tour will take over the Canadian Tour and rename it PGA Tour Canada was welcome news to Brampton, Ontario, native and U.S. tour player David Hearn.
"The PGA Tour getting involved with the Canadian Tour is obviously going to be a great thing for the Canadian Tour,” Hearn, a graduate of the northern association, where he played from 2002-2004, told PGATour.com from the McGladrey Classic. “The PGA Tour has done a great job with the Web.com Tour and everything that they’ve really touched -- Champions Tour, the FedExCup. They’re doing a lot of really good things. So for them to get involved with the Canadian Tour is really going to help elevate the level of that tour to where it should be.”
Tim Finchem’s U.S. organization spent much of this year providing financial and strategic support to its Canadian affiliate, as well as assessing its overall business. Converting the new PGA Tour unit, which will serve as a developmental league for the parent company, will start Nov. 1 and be up and running in 2013, Finchem said during a Thursday morning conference call.
The new division has operated as a springboard to the PGA Tour since its start in 1971. Beginning next year, with at least eight summer contests providing prize packages starting at $150,000, PGA Tour Canada will feed its leading money winners to the Web.com Tour.
Under the new directive, the top five PGA Tour Canada players -- based on the final Order of Merit -- will qualify to play on the Web.Com Tour, golf’s version of a Triple-A league. The next five will earn exemption into the finals of the Web.com Tour qualifying school.
Finchem made the announcement accompanied by Pierre Blouin, Chair of the Canadian Tour Board of Directors, and Rick Janes, Commissioner of the Canadian Tour.
“After a lot of conversation and review, the PGA Tour has determined to move ahead to assume operational control of the Canadian Tour going forward starting in 2013,” Finchem said. “We determined that, while the tour does have its challenges, it presents a tremendous opportunity for the future, and if successful, would have a very positive impact on golf in Canada and globally. With a solid foundation of existing tournaments and outstanding opportunities to establish new events in Canada, we're confident that PGA Tour Canada will strengthen and grow in coming years.”
An economic impact study supported the PGA Tour’s expansion to the north country, where, according to the research, almost six million Canadians representing 21.5 percent of the population play golf. That was more than double the U.S. participation rate, according to the PGA Tour.
The PGA Tour’s takeover of the Canadian group was not without precedent. This season kicked off the first year of PGA Tour Latinoamerica, which staged 11 events in 2012 and will send its top five money winners to the Web.com Tour next year.
The new organizational chart also coincides with the end of PGA Tour Q-school, with golfers earning their way to The Show via the Web.com Tour finals starting next year. Ontario’s Matt Hill, one of the last Canadian players to earn a spot to the second stage of the PGA Tour Q-school when he did so this year, expressed his support for the merger of the two organizations.
"It would definitely be good for this tour [to join the PGA] and the development for all players," Hill said recently in a statement, according to Canada’s Times Colonist. "Obviously, if you have the PGA Tour name in there, it makes it easier and more beneficial to get sponsorships.''
In addition to Hearn, Canadian Tour graduates who have made it to the PGA Tour include Mike Weir, Steve Stricker, Nick Watney, Stuart Appleby, and Brendan Steele.