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Times Colonist Open given 'major' boost

Canadian Tour event at Uplands changes dates, increases purse

Entering its 26th year as a pro golf event on the Canadian Tour, the Times Colonist Open has proven its reliability. The Tour rewarded that durability yesterday by announcing it will add $50,000 to boost the 2009 Times Colonist Open purse to $200,000.

The Victoria stop will join the Players Cup in Winnipeg and the Desjardins Montreal Open as specially-tagged 'major' Tour stops with purses of $200,000 or more. The flagship Canadian Tour Championship, to be played next year at a yet to be determined course in Ontario, will increase its purse to $250,000.

"They put up the extra $50,000 because Victoria has been such a great stop for the Tour," said Keith Dagg, vice-president of the Times Colonist Open. "It's really good news and shows confidence in us."

Dagg, however, said the Victoria committee is still responsible for raising $150,000 of the purse. The overall budget per year is $350,000 and Dagg said he is currently working on securing $1.7 million in commitments over five years.

"I've been out renewing contracts and it's hard work but I'm optimistic," he said. "This is a big annual event for the city."

Meanwhile, the 2009 Times Colonist Open will be played one week earlier to avoid the conflict it has had in recent years by being held on the same weekend as Father's Day and the U.S. Open.

The Times Colonist Open committee wants healthy

galleries for its event and requested the date change. Next year's tournament, which will again kick-start the Canadian portion of the Tour, is June 1-7 at Uplands.

"We asked to get away from the U.S. Open and Father's Day because that weekend really makes it hard to attract a large gallery," said Dagg.

Dagg also said PGA pro Jim Rutledge of Victoria, who won the second-stage tournament of the PGA qualifying school over the weekend to advance to the final round next month, has committed to play annually in the Times Colonist Open. In recent years, Rutledge, who now plays out of Bear Mountain, has tried to fit it in sporadically when he could.

Although the Canadian Tour has proven itself as a developmental launching pad for future PGA and Nationwide pros -- and it's always interesting to follow the prospects along the course -- there is nothing like a hometown draw.

"Jim's long-term commitment is huge for us," said Dagg. "You saw the huge crowds for his foursome last year."

The Canadian Tour opens this week with the Chile Open, to be followed by eight other events through South America, Mexico and the U.S.

After the start of the Canadian portion in Victoria, the Tour heads to a revamped Vancouver Charity Classic June 8-14, which has committed to a new long-term agreement with a purse boosted by $50,000 to $150,000.

Eleven tournaments follow across the country.

"In difficult economic times, the Canadian Tour is fortunate to have a business model that will allow us to show modest growth in 2009," said Canadian Tour commissioner Richard Janes, in a media release.

"With long-term sponsorship agreements across Canada, the Canadian Tour is in a healthy position."

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