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Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship: Canadian stops helped launch rewarding careers

Posted on September 21, 2016

They cut their teeth on the old Canadian Tour, which tells you their teeth are likely getting a little long.

Several PGA Tour Champions players, who are in Victoria this week for the Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship, have travelled these parts and other places north of the 49th parallel in their early bids to becoming touring pros.

You can count Pullman, Washington, native Kirk Triplett and Montana’s Mike Grob among them.

Triplett made his statement early in his career by becoming the first to sweep his way through Alberta events in 1988, with wins on the old Canadian Tour (now the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada) at the Alberta Open and Fort McMurray Rotary Classic in back-to-back events.

“Yes, I remember them well, it was a long time ago. Golfers have long memories, especially the good stuff. There is so much bad, we try to forget those,” Triplett, now 54, said with a chuckle. “I guess you never know how long you’re going to do it when you start out, but they keep calling my name and I keep playing.”

And he keeps playing it well, sitting 10th on this year’s Charles Schwab Cup money list with $907,103 US.

To think it all began back in the late 1980s.

“We didn’t have the Web.com Tour to play, so we were looking to string things together, Triplett said. I played in Australia, Asia and Canada. And the years I didn’t get my card, I went to places I was exempt to play.”

“We played four-round tournaments, and had to deal with the travelling and some of the inconsistencies that this life has to offer. Canada was great preparation for me.”

Of course, there are others on the senior tour in similar boats, including Victoria’s own Jim Rutledge, second in the all-time money leader list on PGA Tour Canada.

Craig Parry also won on that tour in Victoria in 1987. Scott McCarron, Scott Dunlap, Todd Hamilton, Guy Boros, Michael Bradley, Grant Waite and this week’s Tuesday qualifiers at Bear Mountain, Stu Hendley and Steve Schneiter, also have experience on Canada’s tour.

In fact, Hendley is No. 16 on the all-time money list on PGA Tour Canada.

Grob is well-known on the Island, having won the Times Colonist Open at Royal Colwood in 2006. He is the all-time PGA Tour Canada money leader. The now 52-year-old earned his PGA Tour Champions card just last fall.

“I haven’t played great, but I’m having a great time. There’s a steep learning curve, being a rookie,” said the Billings native. “I love coming here, though. It’s one of my favourite places.”.”

Grob is well back on the seniors’ money list (84th with $97,700), so he’ll have to do something special to keep his card. He, too, recalls his early years on the former Canadian Tour.

“Absolutely,” he said. “It’s unbelievable, with Stu [Hendley] making it through qualifying [Tuesday]. Kirk played for a couple of years on the Canadian Tour and played real well. It’s funny, you don’t think about it — but when you’re all the same age, you’ve gone through it together. It’s been a fun ride.”

Triplett has had a solid career, moving on to the PGA Tour and then PGA Tour Champions.

He tied for sixth at the Masters in 2001 and 2004, tied for seventh at the U.S. Open in 2001, and tied for 10th at the PGA Championship in 2001 — three solid finishes in 2001 majors.

Triplett earned his PGA Tour card in 1989 and won three times on the big tour: the 2000 Nissan Open, 2003 Reno-Tahoe Open and 2006 Chrysler Classic of Tucson. His career earnings on the PGA Tour totalled $14,096,657. He made more than $2 million in both 2000 and 2003, and represented the victorious U.S. in the 2000 Presidents Cup.

It’s a solid career that began with those two wins in Alberta.

“Everybody thinks of it differently,” said Triplett, who now resides in Scottsdale, Arizona. “I don’t think Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods would be thrilled with my career, but I feel like I’ve got better as a golfer as I went through.

“I had some years near the top, where I could feel what it was like to be a guy who was in contention a lot, and now I’ve had my shot out here. I’ve had the chance to do a lot of different things,” added Triplett, who won the inaugural American Family Insurance Championship in late June on the PGA Tour Champions tour.

So far, on the senior circuit, he has earned a total of $5,373,593.

Story by: Mario Annicchiarico