Bill Big Canoe has seen it all at the Victoria Open since he started in 1990 as the leader of the rankings for the professional golf tournament.
Bill Big Canoe has seen it all at the Victoria Open since he started in 1990 as the leader of the rankings for the professional golf tournament. This also applies to the 1997 tournament at Gorge Vale when Mike Weir was pregnant [now-ex] Ms Bricia collapsed on the course while driving for the future Masters champion. Big Canoe, a paramedic by trade, went into action to stabilize Bricia and take her to the hospital, where she was fine.
“From Steve Stricker to Mike Weir, I remember all of these guys from the early years,” said Big Canoe, now general manager of the $200,000 Royal Beach Victoria Open, presented by the Times Colonist, which airs Thursday through Sunday in the Uplands Golf Club takes place.
These included later PGA Tour players Stricker, Weir, Craig Parry, Brandt Jobe, Todd Hamilton, Ken Duke, Stuart Appleby, Kirk Triplett, Chris DiMarco, Scott McCarron, Tim Clark and Tim Herron moved on with Weir, Hamilton and Michael Campbell, to win majors.
The youngest generation hasn’t been bad either, with the likes of Tony Finau and Corey Conners leaving the Victoria tournament. The last normal Victoria Open before the pandemic in 2019 at Uplands produced winner Paul Barjon and runner-up Doc Redman, both of whom went to the PGA Tour.
“We continue to have a great pool of up-and-coming young players,” PGA Tour Canada Executive Director Scott Pritchard said recently.
Replacing previous versions of the Canadian Pro Tour, the PGA Tour Canada began in 2013 as the PGA Tour’s second international developmental tour. A total of 54 PGA Tour Canada alumni have risen up the PGA Tour since 2013, earning a combined 16 PGA Tour victories. More than 300 PGA Tour Canada alumni have played on the Korn Ferry Tour, the entry point of the PGA Tour, since 2013, earning a total of 49 victories.
This week’s Royal Beach Victoria Open opens the 2022 season of the PGA Tour Canada with eleven events. The overall winner of season points wins the Fortinet Cup and receives a season-wide waiver from the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour, and the top two finishers of the season and top Canadian receive a waiver from the PGA Tour’s 2023 RBC Canadian Open.
Established in 1981, the Victoria Pro Tournament is the longest running event on the PGA Tour Canada.
“Victoria continues to shine as our traditional lead-off event and we’re certainly excited to have a roster of 11 strong events when we return to a normal touring season,” said Pritchard.
The 2020 PGA Tour Canada season has been limited to four tournaments by the pandemic, two at Bear Mountain and two at TPC Toronto. The regular Victoria stop at Uplands returned in 2021 but was shortened to mainly Canadian golfers as part of an abridged tour due to travel restrictions and moved from its usual June slot to early October.
The task of getting the Victoria event back to normal has fallen to Big Canoe, who succeeds former longtime General Manager Murray Thomas.
“From the course to the tents and the grandstands to the planning and everything else in between to put this together, it all went pretty well without any issues,” said Big Canoe, who remembers his previous role as a volunteer promoted to managerial position Coordinator.
Big Canoe is well known in the island’s sporting circles for his involvement in golf and curling, where he has become a regular fixture.
“I was pretty flattered to be asked [to become the new tournament manager],” he said.
“The goal has not changed: bring the event to a successful conclusion. The key to success at management level is delegating the right people to do it right.”
The organizers of the Victoria tournament have been doing this since 1981. All in the spirit of sportsmanship, with the Victoria tournament being voted the best of the tour by the players themselves.
“I’ve been in sports my whole life. I love the camaraderie in the sport and how it brings people together,” says 66-year-old Big Canoe.
After the Royal Beach Victoria Open, there will be a built-in week-long touring break due to next week’s RBC Canadian Open at St. George’s in Toronto. The PGA Tour Canada continues June 13-19 at the ATB Classic in Edmonton, followed by the Elk Ridge Open June 23-26 in Waskesiu, Sask., with home province Olympic champion and former PGA Tour champion Graham DeLaet -Player, as honorary chairman.
The Prince Edward Island Open at Cardigan will be held June 30-July 3, the Osprey Valley Open at TPC Toronto July 21-24, the Ontario Open at Woodington Lake July 28-31, the Quebec Open August 4-7 Blainville and Manitoba open August 18-21 at the Southwood Club in Winnipeg.
The only non-Canadian stop, the CRMC Championship in Brainerd, Minnesota, will be held August 25-28, with Tom Lehman, a Minnesota product and British Open champion and Masters and US Open runner-up, participating in the tournament is.
The tour returns north of the border with the GolfBC Championship September 1-4 at Gallagher’s Canyon in Kelowna and the Fortinet Cup Championship September 15-18 at Deer Ridge in Kitchener, Ontario. All tournaments have a minimum prize pool of $200,000.
The season’s Fortinet Cup points winner will also receive $25,000 from the $100,000 bonus pool, which will be split among the top 10 players in the season standings.
The spring saw seven qualifiers, six in the United States and one on Crown Isle in Courtenay (won by home coach Riley Wheeldon) to fill the 2022 PGA Tour Canada field.
Iceland players appearing in Uplands this week include Wheeldon, veterans Jim Rutledge and Cory Renfrew, touted teenager Jeevan Sihota, Maxwell Sear, Zach Anderson and last year’s breakout player Callum Davison.