Highland Golf Club spreads word about Freedom 55 Financial Championship quality

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Three weeks before the Freedom 55 Financial Championship golf tournament tees off at Highland Golf and Country Club, a pep rally was held to pump up what’s expected to be the best year yet for the Mackenzie Tour finale.

Representatives from the golf club, sponsors, charity organizations that will benefit from the event participated in a press conference update of the tournament as it heads into its third year of the tournament at Highland and its fifth in London.

Scott Pritchard, vice-president of the Mackenzie Tour, expects the championship to be at the Highland for the “foreseeable future.”

There’s probably good reason for that.

Highland has taken local responsibility for the event. For the first time, the organization, preparation and delivery of the tournament will be done on a local level. In the past those responsibilities fell on the shoulders of Golf Canada.

The changes were made in an effort to give the tournament a more local flavour so additional local organizations, individuals and sponsors could feel a greater part of the event.

“One of our big goals this year is the experience of the people and patrons coming,” said Justin Wismer, tournament director. “We want to make sure we give them great experience and value coming here.”

The hope continues to be that with greater local responsibility the tournament will be able to attract bigger crowds.

The word is getting out there. Crowds have improved every year since the event began. Highland has done a terrific job of running the event.

The biggest selling point though is the quality of the golf. While some golf fans recognize the wonderful talent on the Mackenzie Tour, the news is slow getting around to others.

“It’s a challenge we have,” Pritchard said.

But some of the players who have played in London in this tournament have won tournaments on the PGA Tour.

“We’ve had 12 players that have come through London that have earned PGA status,” Pritchard said. “We have five players that have played our tour that are in the FedEx Cup playoffs, three of them player here two years ago: Mackenzie Hughes, J.J. Spaun, C.T. Spon. Tony Finau and Nick Taylor played the tour and will be in the FedEx playoffs starting this week. We’ve got seven players currently that are poised to earn their PGA tour card after the final event on the Web.com Tour. All in all we could have 20 players that played the Mackenzie Tour that could be on the PGA Tour or at least earned PGA Tour status.”

Four of those players will be playing on the PGA Tour a year after playing in London.

“That’s pretty spectacular,” Pritchard said.

There’s no arguing that.

“We work hard in every market to get the word out how good these players are,” Pritchard said. “I think that people have to come out and experience it first hand. You see that in many markets whether it’s player in the pro-am or participating in a clinic. Word of mouth is a good tool for us. People spread the word about how good these players are. Crowds every year at this event seem to get bigger and bigger.”

The tournament also works closely with Thames Valley Children’s Centre and the Brandon Prust Foundation to raise money for the TVCC.

To date $110,000 has been raised for charitable organizations through the tournament.

Prust’s foundation kicked off the charitable giving with a $25,000 donation to the TVCC. There was also $12,500 donated from the Mackenzie Tour/PGA TOUR Canada

“Something that makes this tournament very special is that all of the organizations involved share the same core values,” said John LaPorta, TVCC CEO. “They all share a common objective. We all want to assist individuals in developing to be their best.”

Organizers are planning events to engage the general public. Sunday, the final day of the tournament, will be Military Day, so all military personnel and their families will be allowed into the tournament free of charge.

Anyone under the age of 17 will also be allowed into the tournament free of charge.

The Freedom 55 Financial Championship usually has a number of players battling to make the top five in the order of merit, allowing them to participate in the Web.com Tour immediately. The top 60 players are invited to the tournament.

Players finishing six through 10 will earn an exemption into the final stage and players finishing 11 through 20 go into the second stage of Web.com Tour qualifying school.

New Caledonia’s Paul Barjon won the 2016 Freedom 55 Financial Championship, setting the Mackenzie Tour 72-hole scoring record with a 22-under-par 258.

The players compete for a purse of $200,000 from Sept. 14 to 17. 

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