Golfers will have a little extra incentive to capture this year’s Keg District Open.
The two-day tournament is one of three qualifiers, announced Tuesday by the Thunder Bay District Golf Association, for the 2014 Staal Foundation Open, the PGA Tour Canada’s local stop set for Whitewater Golf Course later this summer.
The winner of the June 28-29 event will get an automatic berth in the Staal Foundation Open, as will the winner of an open qualifying event for TBDGA members staged the week before at Strathcona Golf Course. Should the same golfer win both events, the runner-up at the District Open would get the second spot.
Local golfers will also have the opportunity to gain entry into the Staal Foundation Open as one of 10 Monday qualifiers on July 14, though only competitors with handicap indexes of 1.8 or better will be invited to tee it up.
Former Canadian Tour player and TBDGA vice-president Walter Keating Jr. said getting golfers from Thunder Bay and the region into the main tournament will help both the event and sport thrive at the local level.
“By giving us the two exemptions, and by separating them out over two separate qualifiers, it’s allowing us and affording us the opportunity for more local content to be in the tournament, which I think is extremely important,” Keating Jr. said.
“The success of anything locally is having locals playing. We’re giving guys three opportunities, two exemptions plus the Monday qualifier, to get in. I’m hoping we can get three, four, five guys. That would be fantastic.”
While the first two chances will likely involve local area golfers only, the Monday qualifier is already starting to draw interest from as far away at the United Kingdom, said Scott Smith, the Staal Foundation Open’s executive director.
“The interest is very high. There are a lot of people that realize that this is one of the ways to get to the PGA Tour. And there are a lot of tour players that have been to the PGA Tour that are working their way back and have lost their status with the tour,” Smith said.
“I’ve been getting calls from all around the district about how do they get exemptions to play in the event.”
Keating, who plans to try to qualify for the event if he doesn’t receive one of four available sponsor exemptions, said the tournament should also prove to be a boon to junior golf in the area. The TBDGA intends to raffle off its spot in the Staal Foundation Open’s pro-am, with the proceeds allowing them to start a junior golf league.
Chip shots: Tournament organizers are expected to announce a Fort William Historic Park concert in conjunction with the event in the coming weeks … The TBDGA announced its latest hall-of-fame class on Tuesday, which will be inducted May 24 at Chapples Golf Course, prior to the annual Champion of Champions event. Included in this year’s class are Jim Szturm, a three-time District Open winner, Sandy Middleton, who also captured the title three times, and Sandy Sargent, who won four Distract Amateur titles between 1970 and 1986.
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