Canadian Tour wrapping up at Desert Dunes

The Canadian Tour makes its final stop of the season this weekend in the California desert and Winnipeg connections are everywhere.

Touring pros Tyler Mancini and Scott Loewen are in the field at the $150,000 Desert Dunes Classic in Desert Hot Springs, Calif.

The Desert Dunes course, a Robert Trent Jones design, was purchased by a Canadian group (mainly partners from Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary in 2009) and it has hired Winnipegger Pat O’Donnell as its director of golf.

“Lots of old connections here and the reason we’re involved is that there didn’t seem to be much point in ending the Canadian Tour season in August,” O’Donnell said from his office.

The tournament is a great bridge for those aspiring Canadian Tour stars, like Desert Dunes defending champion Adam Hadwin, who are trying to stay sharp while traversing the tightrope that is PGA Tour qualifying school.

Hadwin, by the way, has received an exemption straight to Q school finals based on playing five PGA Tour events this season and making five cuts, worth more than $440,000.

Others, like the two young Winnipeg pros, are working more on their development in the pro game.

“Playing this one, then will be looking at the Gateway and All-American tours (mainly in the U.S. southwest) over the winter,” Mancini said from the desert this week.

Both he and Loewen plan similar schedules, with an eye on requalifying for the 2012 Canadian Tour in late winter and the spring. Of course, assuming they don’t find the pot of gold at the end of the desert rainbow this week.

This week’s tournament includes a 14-player celebrity division playing the tournament tees. It includes the likes of Rick Rhoden and Ozzie Smith.

CanTour regulars who ought to be in the hunt in addition to Hadwin are Jim Rutledge, Notah Begay III, Byron Smith, Stuart Anderson and Chile’s Hugo Leon, who could win the 2011 money title with a high finish.

– Golf Canada has chosen its 2011 membership contest winners from across the country.

In Manitoba, the members, league players and regulars have brought honour to one of Winnipeg’s municipal traditions, Windsor Park Golf Course, for having the most Golf Canada membership card activations in the province.

The Golf Canada card program began in earnest in 2010 as the national governing body tries to enhance its membership benefits beyond that of a simple handicap card.

– One of golf’s most enthusiastic newcomers has lost his battle with cancer.

Transcona Golf Club’s Andy Jacobsen, 50, died Oct. 27.

Jacobsen took up the game “all-in” in 2009 and as a virtual beginner, played more than 300 rounds in 2010, including the Manitoba mid-amateur championship.

His illness limited his on-course action to only a few holes in 2011, according to friends.

Family and friends will gather today at 1 p.m. at the Transcona Golf Club for a celebration of his life. It will include a 21-golfer salute of tee shots.

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