Come for the golf, everything else is just a bonus.
While that isn’t the selling point for the Freedom 55 Financial Championship taking place Sept. 15-18 at Highland Country Club in London, it should be.
The tournament will be held for the third year in succession in London. Every year the centrepiece has been exceptional golf. That’s what a championship is supposed to be all about.
It’s been down-to-the-last-putt type of golf.
The season-ending event on the Mackenzie Tour is more than just who wins, although the big-money purse is a huge incentive to many golfers that go week-to-week to earn a paycheque.
Part of the attraction is the game within a game. Only the top 60 golfers play in the championship tournament.
The Mackenzie Tour heads to Niagara for the penultimate tournament this weekend. Things can still change but Dan McCarthy, Taylor Moore and Brock Mackenzie look comfortable in the top three spots. But with $200,000 in prize money available in the final tournament, a win by any one of nine players and they can make the jump into the top five.
This is the 12th event on the Mackenzie Tour and the battle is to finish the Order of Merit in the top five, who are assured of a spot on the Web.com Tour, one step away from the PGA. Players finishing six through 10 earn an exemption into Web.com Tour qualifying. Whether they are leading in the tournament or not, there’s reason for the golfers to continue to compete.
Since 2013, when the tournament was first held in London at Sunningdale Golf Club, 10 players who have played in it have earned their PGA card, with two — Nick Taylor and Tony Finau — winning PGA events.
The tournament will be at Highland for the second year in succession. Last year provided terrific golf and a great finish during a week when the crowds got bigger as the tournament progressed.
With its small greens, the course provides a challenge for golfers. It might prove even tougher with the recent rain and now the hot weather.
“I think the rough is going longer, going to be tougher than last year,” Highland professional Mike Silver said. “The golf course is absolutely marvelous. It started out good — as good as I’ve seen it — and it stayed that way. Now, if we can only get a little bit of dry weather . . . the grass is long enough. It just has to dry out now.”
Silver said the greens will be quick.
“We want the course to play at championship calibre. The greens will be around a 12 on the Stimpmeter and the rough will be four to six inches long. It will be a challenge.”
A Stimpmeter is a device used to measure the speed of a putting green by applying a known force to a golf ball and measuring the distance and speed it travels. Average golfers play at a speed of around nine or 10.
“Because of the slope of our greens, the tour has said no more than 12 on the Stimpmeter so these are championship greens,” Silver said. “I think the golfers are going to love it.”
The high calibre of golf is assured, but the tournament offers are lot more to the community than golf.
Last year the tournament raised $44,000 for the Thames Valley Children’s Centre. The Mackenzie Tour raised $567,000 for charities last year and expects to hit the $1-million mark this year.
At a press conference on Tuesday at Thames Valley Children’s Centre, tournament organizers announced they have already raised more than $62,500 for the centre. That total came from a donation of $25,000 each from the Harbour Grace Foundation, a foundation based in London that is a collection of companies owned and managed by foundation founder Kyle MacDonald, and from the Brandon Prust Foundation. The Mackenzie Tour also donated $12,500.
In an effort to increase attendance, tickets can be purchased for as little as $10; anyone under the age of 17 is admitted free of charge and activities includes a concert and daily door prizes. There is also a Tuesday morning fundraising breakfast from 6:30 to 10 a.m. at the Thames Valley Children’s Centre.
While the tournament runs Sept. 15-18, there are practice rounds on Monday and Wednesday with the Pro-Am sandwiched in on the Tuesday.