PGA, Canadian tours finalize partnership

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The PGA Tour and Canadian Tour have finalized an agreement that will help the cash-strapped Canadian circuit continue its operations and could have impacts on the PGA Tour’s qualifying process.

The Canadian Tour, along with PGA Tour chief operating officer Ed Moorhouse, presented the agreement to its players Wednesday evening. The players’ approval was the last step needed to finalize the agreement, which comes only months after the formation of PGA Tour Latinoamerica.

Richard Janes, the Canadian Tour’s commissioner and CEO, said the tours would engage in a “working relationship.” The PGA Tour will provide financial support to the Canadian Tour in 2012.

“The Canadian Tour’s recent financial troubles have accelerated discussions that we have been having with the PGA Tour over the past few years,” read a memo from the Canadian Tour to its members. Golfweek obtained a copy of the memo from a Canadian Tour player. “The proposal being presented is the most viable option for the Canadian Tour to move forward and ensures that the Canadian Tour will continue to operate in 2012.”

The agreement was first reported Wednesday by Golfweek.

“Our goal is to help lend stability to the Canadian Tour,” Moorhouse said in a statement. “We will assess the situation with the Canadian Tour during the course of the coming year to determine what level of PGA Tour support should be provided moving forward.”

The memo from the Canadian Tour to its players urged that the tour’s operations would look “substantially” the same as they do today, but that new member benefits could be added as the partnership progresses.

Nationwide Tour access would be the largest of those benefits. The partnership between the tours paves the way for the Canadian Tour to offer Nationwide Tour cards to its top performers, just as PGA Tour Latinoamerica is scheduled to do when it debuts next year. The Canadian Tour and Tour de las Americas are members of the International Federation of PGA Tours.

Under the PGA Tour’s proposed Q-School changes, which could be implemented as soon as 2013, the Nationwide Tour would be the only route to the PGA Tour.

PGA Tour Latinoamerica will begin operation next year after the PGA Tour absorbs the region’s current tour, the Tour de las Americas. That will not happen in the current agreement between the Canadian and PGA tours. Nationwide Tour cards will not be available through the Canadian Tour in 2012.

“The agreement is very arm’s length,” Janes said when reached by Golfweek on Wednesday. “There is financial support that is part of this. More importantly, there is support to help in the development of our schedule, to grow it and to get the tour back on track.

“We reached out to the PGA Tour for advice and support, and they have offered that because of the relationship we have built over the years, and the fact that they recognize the tour as a great platform for the development of players. They want to ensure the tour is stabilized and continues to grow.”

Janes told Golfweek that the tour may seek an umbrella sponsor, similar to Nationwide Insurance’s relationship with the Nationwide Tour. “That’s one reason why it’s so important that this tour be coast-to-coast and hit every market of consequence,” he said.

Janes said it would be “speculative” to discuss the offering of Nationwide Tour cards. Nationwide Tour access was discussed at Wednesday’s player meeting, though. Many believe that that is the next step for this partnership.

One player in attendance said it was a “safe assessment” that Nationwide Tour cards would be available through the Canadian Tour in later years. The top two available players from the Canadian Tour are currently exempt into Q-School’s second stage. “I think it’s a logical next step, especially after what the PGA Tour did in Latin America. They didn’t say anything definite, but with the way Q-School is shaping up in 2013, that would make sense,” the player said.

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