Area Golf: Tom Lehman on board for CRMC Championship
EAST GULL LAKE — It’s officially official.
A press conference Thursday, Feb. 20, was conducted at Cragun’s Legacy Clubhouse to announce the CRMC Championship will be the newest tournament for the Mackenzie Tour’s — PGA Tour Canada with the tournament slated to be conducted Aug. 17-23.
A press release sent out Jan. 16 broke the news the Mackenzie Tour and CRMC Championship agreed to a six-year deal for Cragun’s Legacy Courses to host the event. It will be the first Mackenzie Tour event played outside of Canada.
“We are excited to expand the Tour to the United States,” Mackenzie Tour Vice President Scott Pritchard said. “We are super excited about our players, 75% of our players are U.S. born, and so we really believe they will see this as a destination event for their families.”
The Mackenzie Tour is a series of golf tournaments played around Canada (and now Minnesota) in the summer. It’s one of three international tours with PGA Tour China and PGA Tour Latinoamérica.
“This is how they start their PGA Tour career,” Pritchard said.
By adding the CRMC Championship to its schedule the Mackenzie Tour now plays 13 events. At the end of the season, the top 10 money winners of the Mackenzie Tour earn status on the Korn Ferry Tour, which is a step below the PGA Tour.
In the history of the Mackenzie Tour, 41 of its members have played at the PGA Tour level and seven have won on the PGA Tour. Most recently, Nick Taylor, who won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Feb. 6-9.
“We are excited about Cragun’s taking on the role as host of this event,” Pritchard said. “The six-year deal is a historic deal, not only coming into the U.S., but it’s the first time we have announced a six-year partnership.”
It was announced the open qualifier tournament for the CRMC Championship will be played Monday, Aug. 17, at Deacon’s Lodge in Breezy Point with the top eight finishers getting into the field for the CRMC Championship.
“It’s a natural fit,” Mark Neva head PGA professional at Deacon’s Lodge said. “Both Breezy Point Resort and Cragun’s have such a solid relationship. We play host to each other's guests. And certainly, the golf course itself will be a fair and appropriate venue for this type of qualifier.”
There are expected to be 156 players playing for a purse of $200,000 at the CRMC Championship, with the winner earning $36,000. The top 60 players and ties will make the cut after the second round of play Friday. Aug. 21.
Minnesota native and 1996 Open champion Tom Lehman was named honorary chairman for the CRMC Championship. Lehman is one of Minnesota's most decorated golfers and currently plays on the Champions Tour.
“There’s a whole bunch of really strong stories that will come of it,” Lehman said of the CRMC Championship. “From the golfers’ perspective, it’s a true stepping stone type tour. It’s not where you want to end up at, but it’s a great place to get a great start at.
“In the long picture, there is going to be a time where you look at the guys who are playing in the Masters, US Opens and guys at the top of the PGA Tour and you are going to remember when that guy was here in Brainerd.
“One of the most compelling stories that it will bring is that this tournament brings kids in the area into the game, closer to the game. They are to develop relationships with guys out there and watch them play and want to be like them. So I do think having a tournament there will help grow the game of golf in Central Minnesota without question.”
Lehman added the CRMC Championship will help build the brand of the Brainerd community.
“Whichever way you look at it, it’s a positive thing,” Lehman said. “The community can really get involved and take ownership of this. It’s not too big where the average person doesn’t just think they are a spectator and it’s not too small that’s it’s insignificant.”
Lehman’s son Thomas Lehman will participate in Mackenzie Tour Q School this March and the father hopes to visit Cragun’s for the CRMC Championship to watch his son play.
“That’s really his goal for this year is to be part of the Mackenzie Tour,” Lehman said. “He’s working on his game. He’s a guy who really needs a tour like this and the type of player it's intended for.”
With any PGA Tour-sanctioned event, there is a charity aspect, where through the CRMC Championship money will be given back to the community.
“We are excited that this will be a week-long event,” CRMC CEO Kyle Bauer said. “It will give more exposure to our charitable programs.”
Other events for CRMC Championship week will be announced as the Aug. 17-23 approaches.
“Some of my very, very best experiences in golf have come in the smaller towns, in the smaller tournaments, where the community really wraps its arms around it,” Lehman said. “And that’s the opportunity (the tournament) has and that’s why I’m quite happy to help in any small way I can.”