CALGARY—With a renewal by its title sponsor and a solid field that includes many of golf’s biggest names, the Shaw Charity Classic is making improvements to the experience of spectators.
Whether it is the Birdies for Kids charity initiative, the changes to the spectator village, or happy hour being offered in conjunction with Big Rock Brewery, tournament director Sean van Kesteren says the event is looking to get better still.
Those improvements come despite the overwhelmingly success of the tournament to date, which has raised more than $4.6-million for charity in its first two seasons and had two prominent stars—Fred Couples and Rocco Mediate—as winners. The tournament is part of the Champions Tour, which sees golf’s best players over the age of 50 compete in a three-round tournament.
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“We want people to come and enjoy the tournament, and hang out after,” says van Kesteren, noting that with golfers starting on both the front and back nine, rounds should be completed by late afternoon.
“There’s been a lot of support and ticket sales are up, which isn’t common for a third-year event.”
The tournament, which is being held at Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club for the third consecutive year, was moved ahead by a month this year after cool morning weather hampered the event in its first two years. Shaw Communications announced earlier this year that it was extending its support of the event through 2017.
Among those returning to the tournament is the defending champion Couples, though that wasn’t always a sure thing. Couples, who has struggled with back injuries for much of his career didn’t play in the months following his appearance at the Masters in April. He’s only recently returned to competitive golf, with a tie for fifth at the recent Senior British Open at Sunningdale near London.
“Last year was the perfect storm of Fred battling Billy Andrade,” says van Kesteren. “And it can only really be topped by Fred coming back here again.”
Couples, who shot a career low 61 in the final round, ended up in a playoff with Andrade, which he won on the first sudden-death hole.
To promote the tournament, a four-hole putting and chipping contest has been held on Stephen Avenue SW in downtown. The top scorer of each day advances to the semi-finals on Wednesday, with the conclusion being held on Thursday with the top two finalists trying to recreate the chip that got Couples into the playoff last year.
The tournament is also benefitting from some fresh—though all over 50—faces, van Kesteren notes. That includes former British Open winner Ian Woosnam, Scottish star Colin Montgomerie, who will follow the Shaw Charity Classic by playing in the PGA Championship, and Spanish star Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is ranked 56 in the world.
“These are some of the games greatest characters and everyone knows who they are,” van Kesteren says. “These are the golfers people come to see.”
Canyon Meadows has also benefited from terrific weather, van Kesteren adds, meaning the course’s greens will play a little faster than previous years.
“The course is just about perfect,” the tournament director says. “I’d bet this is one of the best conditioned courses they play all year.”
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