2001: Canadian Tour - Canadians seek incentive link with PGA Tour

In the past 15 seasons, 23 former Canadian Tour players have won 45 PGA Tour events, plus an untallied number of other tournaments on other circuits around the world.

This track record is central to Canadian Tour commissioner Jacques Burelle’s bid to establish a formal link between his tour and the Buy.com Tour.

“If Buy.com is triple-A, if you will, then we would serve as double-A,” Burelle said. “In that context, what I offered was our top five guys at the end of the year, based on our Order of Merit, would automatically graduate to the Buy.com Tour, and in return for that, the first five conditional card holders on Buy.com would receive full playing privileges on the Canadian Tour, so we would have a flow up and a flow down between the two tours.”

Burelle first pitched his idea 18 months ago, to no avail. Burelle then floated a fall-back position: Allow the top three finishers on the Canadian Tour “some sort of exemption into second stage” of the PGA Tour’s Q-School.

“My argument for the whole thing was I felt that the talent pool in North America is at least three levels deep these days,” Burelle said, “and we certainly need to have a level that right now isn’t recognized.”

For its part, the PGA Tour and its staff haven’t said yes, but they haven’t said no, either. Last year, the Canadian Tour was named an associate member of the International Federation of PGA Tours. That’s significant, because other tours in the federation already enjoy such a link to Q-School, according to Bill Calfee, chief operating officer for the Buy.com Tour.

“We currently have exemptions into second stage for the fourth, fifth and sixth available leading players from the European, Australasian and Japanese tours,” Calfee said. “The first, second and third available leading players to a floor of 10th position are exempt into the finals.

“We are also reviewing the possibility of adding exemptions into second stage for other tours, possibly the Canadian, Asian and South African for 2002. Of course, any time we add more exemptions we must take them from existing spots, so we must exercise sound judgment on these decisions. And, of course, considerable player input is sought along with a fair amount of research regarding current performance and competitiveness.”

Burelle, meanwhile, will continue sending annual reports on Canadian Tour graduates’ performance to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., where the tour is headquartered.

“I’ve sent them that stuff for 1999, for 2000 and I’ll do it again this year,” Burelle said. “But it’s not my sandbox, and I don’t get to play in it any way I want.”

– Dale Gardner

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