Golf will forever hold a place in the history of the recovery as the first sport to return. The nature of the game — no bodily contact with distancing inherently natural in play — made it so.
Not that golf hasn’t been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The biggest manifestation in this country was the cancellation of the 2020 Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada season. That included the scrubbed DC Bank Open presented by the Times Colonist last month at Uplands, which has been a Tour fixture since 1981, and has featured future PGA Tour players from Steve Stricker to Tony Finau.
The pent-up demand at the pro level is more than evident with the over-subscription to the Canada Life Series, which is being offered next month as a consolation to Canadian golfers in light of the cancellation of the Mackenzie Tour. The two 54-hole events at Bear Mountain in Langford — on the Mountain course from Aug. 10 to 12 and Valley course from Aug. 17 to 19 and both featuring purses of $50,000 — have each filled their 90 slots with the tournaments having standby lists of 39 and 28 players, respectively.
“The response has been overwhelming,” said Scott Pritchard, executive director of the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada.
“We quickly went 90 for 90. We could have accommodated more players in the field but with COVID that was too difficult. Safety is the utmost concern.”
The Canada Life Series will adhere to the safety guidelines being practised elsewhere in the sport’s reopening. Spectators will not be allowed to watch the two Bear Mountain tournaments because of B.C. regulations banning gatherings of more than 50 people. There will also be no caddies and few volunteers.
The Bear Mountain events will be followed by Canada Life Series tournaments Sept. 2-4 and Sept. 9-11 at TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley. The series champion over the four tournaments will earn a berth into the 2021 RBC Canadian Open at St. George’s in Toronto.
Bear Mountain is no stranger to pro golf. The mountain course hosted PGA Tour Champions tournaments in 2016 and 2017. The Pacific Links events featured former stars and current seniors such as Colin Montgomerie, John Daly, Bernhard Langer, Vijay Singh, Scott McCarron and Lee Janzen.
Bear Mountain is also home to Golf Canada’s national training centre. There will be six sponsor exemptions in each Canada Life Series tournament for national team members.
The rest of the field is open to Canadian pros and top amateurs and Mackenzie Tour members of any citizenship who are already in Canada.
“It was disappointing when circumstances surrounding COVID-19 required us to cancel the 2020 Mackenzie Tour season,” said Pritchard. “But we never lost sight of the purpose for this Tour, which is to give players opportunities.”
Players who have registered to play in the two tournaments on the Bear include James Allenby, Andrew Funk, Cory Renfrew, Zach Anderson, Lawren Rowe, Chris Wilson, Derek Gillespie, Chris Crisologo, Scott Kerr, Kent Fukushima and Jim Rutledge.