Golf: Big names have got their start in Victoria

It followed a familiar storyline when Tony Finau and Roger Sloan got off to a 1-2 start this week at the PGA Tour’s Colonial in Texas. Just a few years and a metaphorical lifetime ago, they were both plying their trade at Uplands in the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada’s Bayview Place DCBank Open presented by the Times Colonist.

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Sloan placed fourth in the 2010 Times Colonist Open, as it was then known.

“I shot a 61 on that Sunday at Uplands and that validated my aspirations to become a pro golfer,” said Sloan, who is from Merritt, but with a close association with Bear Mountain.

Sloan’s thoughts echoed those of a golfer from another generation who also came through the Victoria event. Steve Stricker says he will never forget his first pro victory here in 1990 at age 23 at Gorge Vale.

“It was my first professional win, and I think about that tournament quite a bit. It was a special time,” said Stricker, in a statement.

“It was my first pro win in a pretty area, and I still hold the Tour and the Victoria area as a special place for [wife] Nicki and I. It still brings back great memories,” added Stricker, who went on to win $42 million US on the PGA Tour.

Huge billboards featuring Finau’s face, and those of other notable past Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada alumni, greeted the gallery as it entered Uplands last year. All Finau has done since playing in Victoria was place in the top-10 of every major the past four years.

As of 2016 statistics, Canadian Tour alumni had amassed a combined 112 PGA Tour titles and more than $400 million US in earnings.

It is perhaps informative to think about it in terms of other sports. The Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada is sort of like the ECHL while the Tour is the AHL and the PGA Tour the NHL. Or using another pro-ranks aspirational ladder, the Mackenzie Tour PGA Tour Canada is Double-A, the Tour is Triple-A and the PGA Tour is the MLB in terms of baseball.

Canadian Tour alumni to play on the PGA Tour include the likes of Stricker, Craig Parry, Brandt Jobe, Todd Hamilton, Ken Duke, Stuart Appleby, Mike Weir, Kirk Triplett, Chris DiMarco, Scott McCarron, Tim Clark and Tim Herron.

Canadian tour alumni Weir, Hamilton and Michael Campbell have won majors.

The PGA Tour formalized the relationship in 2013, the Mackenize Tour-PGA Tour Canada the official springboard to the Tour, which, as mentioned, is the entrance point to the PGA Tour.

The Canadian tour lists an average of 12 players annually since 2000 who have gone from the Canadian tour to the Tour and an average of three Canadian tour alumni get on the PGA Tour each year.

This might be as good as it gets this week for the majority of the aspiring pros who will gather at Uplands. But there will be the select few who will eventually separate themselves from the pack, and in a few years, look back and say the dream started here.

The past champions

2018 - Uplands, SAM FIDONE, Lufkin, Texas
2017 - Uplands, MAX ROTTLUFF, Dusseldorf, Germany
2016 - Uplands, ADAM CORNELSON, Langley
2015 - Uplands, ALBIN CHOI, Surrey
2014 - Uplands, JOSH PERSONS, Fargo, North Dakota
2013 - Uplands, STEPHEN GANGLUFF, Marysville, Ohio
2012 - Uplands, ANDREW ROQUE, Monterey Park, California
2011 - Uplands, JOSE DE JESUS RODRIGUEZ, Irapuato, Mexico
2010 - Uplands, BROCK MACKENZIE, Yakima,Washington
2009 - Uplands, BYRON SMITH, Rancho Mirage, California
2008 - Uplands, DANIEL IM, Fullerton, California.
2007 - Gorge Vale, SPENCER LEVIN, Elk Elk Grove, California
2006 - Royal Colwood, MIKE GROB, Billings, Montana
2005 - Uplands, CRAIG TAYLOR, Hunter River, P.E.I.
2004 - Gorge Vale, DAVID HEARN, Brantford, Ont.
2003 - Royal Colwood, PATRICK DAMRON, Orlando, Florida
2002 - Uplands, SCOTT HEND, Australia
2001 - Gorge Vale, PAUL DEVENPORT, New Zealand
2000 - Royal Colwood, JASON BOHN, Atlanta
1999 - Uplands, KEN DUKE, Little Rock, Arkansas
1998 - Cordova Bay, Bay, JAY HOBBY, Ashburn, Georgia
1997 - Gorge Vale, RICK TODD, Scarborough, Ont.
1996 - Royal Colwood, ARDEN KNOLL, Yorkton, Sask.
1995 - Uplands, NORM JARVIS, Surrey
1994 - Cordova Bay, Bay, MATT JACKSON, Bloomfield, Michigan
1993 - Gorge Vale, BRANDT JOBE, Englewood, Colorado
1992 - Royal Colwood, MIKE COLANDRO, Roslindale, Massachusetts
1991 - Cowichan, RICK TODD, Scarborough, Ont.
1990 - Gorge Vale, STEVE STRICKER, Edgerton, Wisconsin

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