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Next on the tee: Vikes Performance Tour opens door for Island golfers

Ken Mariash’s goal in establishing the Bayview Place Vikes Performance Tour was creating a vehicle for local golfers to eventually compete at a higher level.

Ken Mariash’s goal in establishing the Bayview Place Vikes Performance Tour was creating a vehicle for local golfers to eventually compete at a higher level.

So it was with great pride that the Bayview Place owner and local entrepreneur shared in the confirmations of Isaac Weintraub, Keaton Gudz and Nolan Thoroughgood as exemption earners into next week’s Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada event at Uplands Golf Club.

Weintraub topped the professional category, while Gudz claimed the amateur and Thoroughgood wrapped up the junior spots available for the Bayview Place Cardtronics Open presented by the Times Colonist.

“That Vikes tour has been unbelievably successful. You have to give Jim Goddard [commissioner] and Bob Russell [director] a lot of credit because they’re at it every day,” Mariash said after a news conference for the Mackenzie Tour stop.

Mariash is delighted in the numbers the junior tour has attracted with more than 300 competing.

“When you get that home mixture of folks like that; they’re going to be our caretakers eventually for old guys like me. Having them out there, learning the ways of life, handling pressure and competition and developing good manners in golf and good values. That’s good to see,” said Mariash, who is especially pleased to see Thoroughgood, 16, and Gudz, 18, about to compete in a pro event as amateurs.

“I think people are going to be following them around, wondering what might happen,” said Mariash, who related another junior story.

“At the club I’m at in Palm Desert — Bighorn — we have Jon Rahm as our touring [PGA Tour] pro and he played a 16-year-old kid a couple of weeks ago and the kid outdrove him and almost beat him. There were about 150 golf carts following them around,” he said.

“There was a young girl playing, too, playing off the men’s forward tees and she hung right in there, too. That’s what we want, these young people working at it and inspiring us. They’re also going to be friends for life and that builds a legacy.”

Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada president Jeff Monday was also on hand for the news conference and launch for next week’s tournament, which follows the Freedom 55 Financial Open which begins today at Point Grey Golf and Country Club.

“Obviously, it’s a momentous occasion to be the 35th playing of this event,” Monday said of the Victoria stop, the oldest and longest-running tournament on what used to be the Canadian Tour. “For us, this is the beginning of our fifth year. Every time I’m here it reminds me that it all started here.”

The then 2013 Times Colonist Island Savings Open was the first event for PGA Tour Canada.

“It’s great to see the new addition with the Bayview Place Vikes Performance Tour and congratulations to Isaac, Keaton and Nolan on what you’ve achieved,” added Monday, who stated the three are an example of what the tour is all about.

“It’s about providing opportunity for players to get to the next level. When you think about what’s happened in those four short years since we started, already 10 players that played here are on the PGA Tour.

“Nick Taylor, Tony Finau and Mackenzie Hughes, who have all played in this event, have won PGA tournaments. Even more impressive, there are 66 players on the Tour, this year, who have played in this tournament. The level of talent is tremendous and it’s only going to get better and better.”

David Wittman, president of the Victoria Golf Society and director of advertising for the Times Colonist, also announced that the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island will once again be the charity partner for the event.

CHIP SHOTS: Two more sponsors’ exemptions are yet to be finalized. Golf Canada also has two and one is expected to go to Jared du Toit of Kimberley, who just wrapped up his NCAA career at Arizona State. Ten more openings are available through Monday qualifying at Gorge Vale.