China beckons, Pacific Links golf tournament may be moved from Victoria

The 2017 Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship will likely be the last as rumours all weekend have the principal sponsors wanting to move the tournament back to China where the event was slated to be held two years ago, before moving to Victoria.

Slated to be played in Tianjin, China, the tournament was moved to Bear Mountain in 2016 as the Asian region had not recovered from the devastating industrial explosions that rocked the city in 2015.

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Rumblings at Bear Mountain all weekend have Pacific Links International executives — who have one more year remaining on their current agreement — wanting to move the PGA Tour Champions tournament to their 27 Club in Tianjin, a 27-hole facility they covet and maxes out at 7,764 yards.

Pacific Links International has more than 10,000 members in China.

The 27 Club layout, which features nine holes on each of the North, West and South courses, is unique in that it was designed by major champions — several of whom play on PGA Tour Champions like Fred Couples, Mark O’Meara, Vijay Singh, John Daly, Nick Faldo, Tom Lehman, Larry Mize, Jeff Sluman and the tour’s No. 1 golfer Bernhard Langer.

“We’ll see what transpires with the events over the next little while,” said Brad Parkins, the tournament director for this year’s event. “There is interest to get it to China. Certainly back in 2015 it was supposed to go there. That was the whole plan from the outset, but with the explosion and all that happened they couldn’t run it. Those decisions will be made above my head.”

The players have heard the same rumblings, but they continue to rave about the Bear Mountain course and the area.

“It’s a shame it’s not on TV because the setting on the 10th tee box was probably the best setting all year, so picturesque with the crowds,” said American Jerry Smith, who began the final day tied for the lead, but slipped into a tie for 11th.

“It’s a shame, it would be great if we could keep coming back here. I know everybody loves it. It’s a great place for family and kids. The weather has been fantastic [on Friday and Saturday]. We would love to come back, whether we do or not, it’s been a great two-year run in a fantastic setting.”

Tournament winner Jerry Kelly echoed those sentiments.

“I tell you what, I’ve see a lot of building going on and I might have an address up here. You never know,” he said offering his praise of the property that is surrounded by construction. “What a beautiful place. By the time you walk up to that 13th green and 14th tee, it’s like the heavens open up.”

The week was a strong one for the event, especially with fan favourite John Daly in the hunt after Day 1.

“I think it has been very good,” said Parkins. “We have been very fortunate with the weather we had all week [prior to Sunday] — very receptive from the local community and the players have really enjoyed themselves.

“It’s been a fantastic week for them and everything they’ve done. They love the property and the golf course. All in all it’s been a very successful week.”

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