Return to sports competition is a victory for all

You take your victories where you can in sports amid a pandemic. They go deeper than mere wins versus losses.

It will be more than just a golf tournament on Monday when the pros take to Bear Mountain for the $50,000 Canada Life event.

Just as it was more than just a send-off in the wee hours of Saturday morning as dozens of Pacific FC soccer supporters showed up to Victoria airport at 4:30 a.m. to wish the team well in the Canadian Premier League tournament in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

Just as it will be more than just an auto race if the annual Canada 200 can be run over the Labour Day weekend at Western Speedway. And it will be more than just a fashion show on Monday when the Canadian team uniforms for the delayed Tokyo Olympic Games are unveiled in Victoria, symbolically a day after today’s originally scheduled date for the closing ceremony.

Langford Mayor Stew Young said these are signs of rebirth, hope — even defiance — amid a pandemic and people need them.

“It keeps people’s hopes alive and spirits up,” said Young.

Just ask this province’s legion of Canucks hockey fans.

“You see hockey on TV and you forget about COVID for a while. It’s a bit of normalcy,” said Young.

“And Langford is a sports hub and a sports community.”

But it has been hit hard by the pandemic with Westhills Stadium having lost the revenue from the cancelled sold-out Canada versus Trinidad and Tobago soccer games, considered key for Qatar World Cup 2020 qualifying, the Canada Sevens women’s rugby tournament and the PFC soccer and Westshore Rebels junior football seasons.

Down the road in Colwood, the Q Centre lost the Victoria Shamrocks’ Western Lacrosse Association season.

But there is a glimmer. The Canada Life pro golf tournament Monday through Wednesday on Bear Mountain is a consolation for the cancelled 2020 Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada season. That included the scrubbed DC Bank Open presented by the Times Colonist in June at Uplands, which has been a Tour fixture since 1981 and has featured future PGA Tour players from Steve Stricker to Tony Finau.

This week’s tournament on the mountain course is the first of two 54-hole events at Bear Mountain with the second on the valley course Aug. 17 to 19, both featuring purses of $50,000. Both filled up fast with lengthy waiting lists.

The Canada Life Series concludes Sept. 2-4 and Sept. 9-11 at TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley. The series champion over the four tournaments will earn a berth into the 2021 RBC Canadian Open at St. George’s in Toronto – another sign of hope of a return to normalcy next year.

“We can’t do them all, but if we see an opportunity to return to sports safely, we can do some of these events,” said Young.

“Golf is one of the safest sports to play. So, too, is auto racing, with just one driver in a car and distancing in the pits. That’s why we are pushing for the Canada 200 at Western Speedway without fans. People involved in the sports community are desperate to have something.”

The Bear Mountain golf tournaments will be the second and third organized sporting events to take place on the Island after sport shut down in March. The organized re-openings began last month with the Sidney Velo Cycling Club’s 17.4-kilometre time trial series, which goes every Tuesday evening until Sept. 1.

The Canada Life Series will adhere to the safety guidelines being practised elsewhere in golf’s reopening. Spectators will not be allowed to watch the two Bear Mountain tournaments. That includes mayors.

“The only way I can be at that pro tournament is if I play, and I’m not nearly good enough,” said Young, who has been adamant about maintaining COVID-19 safety measures in his community. There will also be no caddies and a bare number of volunteers allowed on the Bear.

The Canada Life tournaments have been put together by the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada, the launching pad to the Korn Ferry Tour, which in turn is the entry portal to the PGA Tour. The Mackenzie Tour’s alumni includes 41 PGA Tour players and 232 Korn Ferry Tour players produced since 2013.

“It was disappointing when circumstances surrounding COVID-19 required us to cancel the 2020 Mackenzie Tour season,” said Tour executive-director Scott Pritchard. “But we never lost sight of the purpose for this Tour, which is to give players opportunities.”

Players who have registered to play in the two tournaments on Bear Mountain include Cory Renfrew, Lawren Rowe, Zach Anderson, Adam Cornelson, James Allenby, Andrew Funk, Chris Wilson, Derek Gillespie, Chris Crisologo, Aaron Crawford, Scott Kerr, Brendan Dillon, Kent Fukushima and Jim Rutledge.

Bear Mountain is also home to Golf Canada’s national training centre. There will be six sponsor exemptions in each Canada Life Series tournament for national team players.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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