Senior golfing stars coming to compete at Bear Mountain

Former PGA Tour stars John Daly, Bernhard Langer, Tom Watson, Tom Lehman and Fred Couples will be headed to Langford this September as Pacific Links International and PGA Tour Champions confirmed on Friday that a tour stop, originally set for Tianjin, China, will be moved to Bear Mountain Resort for the week of Sept. 19-25.

The 2016 Pacific Links Championship, which could also feature the likes of Calgary resident Stephen Ames and Victoria’s own Jim Rutledge, will be played on the Mountain Course, which peaks out at 6,891 yards.

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The field of 81 players will compete for $2.5-million US in purse money with no cut over the three rounds. Rutledge, who no longer has full playing privileges on the tour, is likely to receive a sponsor’s exemption into the tournament.

Originally set for the 27 Club in Tianjin, the tournament was moved due to chemical explosions that struck the region last August.

“We’re really excited about having the Champions Tour coming here,” said David Clarke, chief financial officer for Ecoasis Developments LLP, which runs the resort. “Due to some circumstances over there, unfortunately, they had to cancel the tournament last year and move it back to North America this year.

“Our owner was in contact with the principals of Pacific Links and also the tour and they decided this would be a great venue to hold the event at.”

Bear Mountain is an affiliated club with Pacific Links International.

“It came together very quickly, in a matter of a few weeks,” said Clarke. “Obviously, it’s a fantastic opportunity and we wanted to make it work however we could. We’re confident, in the endorsement this gives us from the tour and from Pacific Links, that we have the calibre of course and the facilities to pull this off.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity and nothing but a good news story for all involved,” he said.

The commitment is just for this year, but Ecoasis is exploring the opportunity to continue the relationship with the tour and Pacific Links, said Clarke.

An event-specific website will be set up in the very near future to provide information on sponsorship packages, hospitality and ticket prices.

Practice rounds for the players will be held on the Tuesday of tournament where the course will be closed to the public. Pro-ams will be held on Wednesday and Thursday before event play begins Friday, Sept. 23.

A charity partner will soon be identified for the tournament.

“Bear Mountain Golf Resort is an incredible property, offering not only great golf, but an impressive variety of activities and accommodations,” Du Sha, owner and chairman of Pacific Links International said in a statement.

Du is a Canadian citizen and a Chinese entrepreneur, living in Toronto.

“Hosting the Pacific Links Championship at Bear Mountain will enable us to showcase Canada’s only 36 holes of Nicklaus Design golf and go a long way in supporting our goal to demonstrate why we are fast becoming the finest golf resort community in Canada,” said Dan Matthews, Ecoasis president.

This will be the second PGA Tour Champions event to be held on Canadian soil in 2016 as the Shaw Charity Classic is slated for Sept. 2-4 in the Calgary area. Both events should draw quality fields as it is a late-season run to the inaugural Charles Schwab Cup playoffs this fall for the golfers, aged 50-plus.

“Pacific Links International has been a wonderful partner for PGA Tour Champions and we are confident that Bear Mountain Resort will provide a championship-calibre setting for one of our premier events,” PGA Tour Champions president Greg McLaughlin said in a statement. “The passion for golf is strong in British Columbia, and should make for a wonderful tournament week atmosphere for our fans and players.”

All three rounds of the Pacific Links Championship will be broadcast on the Golf Channel, which will be a tremendous boon to the area with the scenic views of Bear Mountain. It also means a huge economic benefit.

“It will be tremendous for the Greater Victoria area,” said Clarke. “Obviously, there is us as the host site, but we’re not just focused on that. It’s the economic benefit to the entire area.

“We’re really excited to have the city of Langford supporting us and the other municipalities in the area. There’s going to be great spinoff for other local hotels, restaurants, transportation providers — all those types of businesses will benefit.”

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