THUNDER BAY -- The Staal Foundation Open is back for at least two more years.
Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada director of tournament business affairs Scott Pritchard on Tuesday confirmed the popular event would be returning to the schedule in 2017 and 2018.
It was a mere formality, said Pritchard in making the announcement at city hall. The sponsorship commitments were made as early as last July and a then the final pieces of the puzzle was put in place when new board of directors was selected to guide the tournament for the next two years and beyond.
The tournament’s return was never really in doubt, Pritchard said.
“We had a commitment from the Staal family at the conclusion of the ’16 tournament. Once we had that commitment we got a commitment shortly thereafter from Tbaytel.
So we had the commitments. Then it was a matter of getting our ducks in a row,” Pritchard said.
Over its brief, three-year history, the Staal Foundation Open has proven to be a hit, regularly raising the most money of any event on Tour for charity.
It’s also hugely popular with the players, who regular rate it as one of the top three tournaments on the summer circuit.
Eric Staal, whose family lent its name to the event for its first three years, said they’re glad to be back again in 2017 at Whitewater Golf Club.
“The community has really rallied around this tournament for the last three years, raising over a half-a-million dollars for local families and children fighting cancer,” said Staal, the top point-getter with the Minnesota Wild in 2016-17, in a video message recorded for Tuesday news conference.
“We hope you stay involved and look forward to seeing you this summer at the Staal Foundation Open from July 10 to 16.”
Tournament director Scott Smith said 2017 will be a transitional year, as he prepares to step back from his duties in 2018.
This year’s event will provide a chance to mentor the tournament’s next generation of leaders, with an eye on keeping the Staal Foundation Open going for several years to come.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and exciting to have some fresh blood in this and come up with some new ideas and make the event bigger and better in the next two years,” Smith said, adding he’s glad to see the commitment for 2017 and 2018 is now official.
The new board includes Anna Bahlieda, Brian Campbell, Walter Flasza, Jason Johnstone, Tom Mustapic, Gloria Sherban and Heather Vita, with holdovers Smith and Marv Detweiler taking on advisory roles.
Pritchard said he’s hopeful the two-year commitment is only a start.
“Once we go through that we’ll explore opportunities to extend. The long-term goal for the Tour, in particular, is to have sustainable events in communities that are making an impact. I think we would all agree it would be shame that if beyond this two-year commitment we didn’t extend it beyond that,” he said.