While revealing the names of confirmed players for this September’s PGA Tour Champions event at Bear Mountain Golf Resort and Spa must wait until next week, David Skitt had a hard time containing his excitement about the projected field.
The Montreal-based tournament director for the $2.5-million 2016 Pacific Links Championship said there are “over 100 players committed to this tournament.”
While organizers are reluctant to publicize names too early – many players don’t do the official paperwork until much closer to the tournament date – he said many top professionals with multiple PGA Tour and Champions Tour victories will without a doubt be coming to Langford to play in the event, set for Sept. 19 to 25.
With players often more selective about which tournaments they play on this tour, he said, due to other life and family events, the final field often isn’t confirmed until late in the game. But with no tournament scheduled the following week on the 50-over Champions Tour, area residents and golf fans may well see some familiar faces around town in the days following the final round, Skitt said.
“Having the hotel on site at Bear Mountain will be conducive to players bringing their wives or family,” he said.
Among the extra-curriculars being planned for players are a salmon fishing trip and an auto racing activity at the new Vancouver Island Motorsports Circuit in Duncan.
“All those little things add up … but the most important things are how does this fit into their schedule?”
This will be Skitt’s 13th PGA tournament to be involved with and as such, he’s gotten to know many players personally. A number of those golfers he’s spoken to recently have indicated a desire to come to Victoria, including all-time great Tom Watson, who has a visit to the area “on his bucket list.”
While the list of players is an important draw for sponsors, the business of putting together a local volunteer committee is at the top of Skitt’s agenda these days.
“Right now it’s literally a sprint to the finish line,” he said. The decision to relocate this event from China to Canada and ultimately Bear Mountain, left organizers with far less than the year it usually takes to assemble their group. “We’re basically forming a complete team from scratch, comprised of volunteer leaders and positions. But we’ve got the (volunteer) registration site set up, it’s officially up and going.”
The volunteer component is imperative to the success of any tournament, he said. While many work behind the scenes on local sponsorships and other administrative tasks, others, from course marshals to information officials and player liaisons, are the face of the event outside the ropes.
“I find that golf, like the Olympics, counts on volunteers so heavily,” Skitt said. “For people who might be avid golfers to be able to walk inside the ropes and watch champion golfers in action, or marshalling a hole … It’s not only for avid golfers, it’s for people who want to make an impact in their community. In past events, we’ve had people volunteer for all kinds of different reasons. Our responsibility is to make sure we have good team leaders in place and everyone understands their role and they’re well trained.”
A PGA tradition sees the hundreds of volunteers walk behind the last group on the final hole, creating a wall of support that spectators can see and acknowledge, he said.
Getting the broader Greater Victoria community involved in the tournament, through things like hiring local suppliers and using local hotels, is part of organizers’ mandate. Also, An Adopt-a-Hole program encourages other golf courses to secure volunteers from their clubs for specific holes and time shifts.
For more information or to register as a volunteer, visit pacificlinkschampionship.com and select register to volunteer.