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Golfers bearish on Tour Champions stop at Bear Mountain in Victoria

Posted on September 21, 2016

The best senior golfers in the world descend on Vancouver Island this week, and they’re already looking forward to playing the picturesque course

It will depend on the weather, of course, but Bear Mountain Resort in Victoria should provide both stunning views of picturesque Vancouver Island and a stern test for members of the PGA Tour Champions this weekend.

On only four months’ notice, the par-71, 6,925-yard mountain course — co-designed by Jack and Steve Nicklaus — will host the best golfers in the world aged 50 years and older for the Pacific Links Championship, with the opening round getting underway Friday. Rain is in the forecast for the first round, but sunny skies and cooler autumn temperatures are expected to take over for the weekend.

Following his practice round on Tuesday, tour veteran Paul Goydos, who was in Victoria earlier this summer, gave his approval of the shape the course was in heading into the competition.

But it will also provide a challenge for a highly competitive field that includes past major champions, PGA Tour winners and recognizable names such as Bernhard Langer, who finished tied for 24th at the 2016 Masters, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Fred Funk, Lee Janzen, and past Canadian Open champs Mark Calcavecchia and Vijay Singh.

Canadian Stephen Ames will also look to win on home soil. Two of his three top-10 finishes this season have come in the last three tournaments, including a tie for 10th at the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach last weekend.

“It’s definitely in championship form,” said the 52-year-old Goydos, who won the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open earlier this season.

“It gets off to maybe not the hardest start, but the golf course is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. It’s got a lot of length. From first look, it didn’t seem like the scores were going to be that great to start with, and having greens that are going to be quick with a lot of slope is not going to make things any easier.

“Obviously we’re going to have some cooler weather, but I would think double digits (under par) is going to be an awfully good score.”

Calcavecchia, who has won two PGA Tour events in Vancouver, including the 1997 Greater Vancouver Open and the 2005 Canadian Open, echoed that same analysis of the greens, which could get tricky as the tournament progresses.

“The greens … they’re not really soft. They’re releasing put pretty good and they’re really fast. All in all, I’d say it’s in fantastic shape,” he said.

This weekend represents a test for the golf course, as well.

This year’s Pacific Links Championship was initially supposed to be held in Tianjin, China, but the event was moved after an explosion in the city’s port reportedly killed 173 people last August.

The event was moved to Victoria, with the official announcement in May.

It’s possible the tournament could come back to Victoria in each of the next two years, as well. Pacific Links International has two more years on its six-year agreement with the PGA Tour Champions following 2016, and the event is slated to come back to Canada in 2017 and 2018.

Tournament director David Skitt, speaking to Postmedia earlier in the summer, left the door open to the possibility of the tournament returning to Victoria following this year, and a positive review of the course could certainly persuade organizers.

Goydos, who is from Long Beach, Calif., has played in Canadian Opens held locally and, prior to that, the Greater Vancouver Open in Surrey. He was asked if he would like to see Victoria become a regular stop on the tour.

“As a West Coast guy, it’s nice to play on the West Coast. It’s beautiful out here,” he responded, adding golf crowds in Canada are “big and enthusiastic.”

“I think it’s a great place for the Champions Tour. I think it’s a great place for anybody to play. I think the PGA Tour and the players have figured out that Canada is a place that really supports the tour and supports golf.”

The names in the field may provide fans with a feeling of nostalgia. But make no mistake, the competition picks up once players are inside the ropes, said Goydos.

“It’s not that easy to win,” he said. “There’s no weak fields on this tour. It’s very static in that sense, so every week is very competitive.”

Story by: Cam Tucker