Best will test Morningstar in Parksville

National University Golf Championships May30-June 3: winners advance to worlds in France

Morningstar Golf Club will host the Canadian University/College Championships May 30-June 3.

They are called championship golf courses for a reason and they will prove it in the next few months.

The Parksville Qualicum Beach region will host two big-time golf events this spring/summer, starting with the 2016 Golf Canada University/College Championships at Morningstar Golf Club. The event May 30-June 3 will feature the best 156 players from Canadian post-secondary institutions. It’s our country’s version of the U.S. NCAA championships.

Morningstar’s Mike Loftus and Golf Canada tournament chair Bill Klein came to council chambers last week to tell the city more about the tournament.

Loftus said Morningstar isn’t doing this for money. While he didn’t say it, the math is clear: Morningstar stands to lose some serious revenue during its prime season because it has to turn away green-fees-paying golfers for about a week as the university championships take over the course.

“We don’t do it for the money, we do it for the exposure,” said Loftus, suggesting the whole region will benefit from the national media exposure generated by the tournament.

An event like this also requires a big commitment from the membership.

“Not only do they not get to play, they have to give up the golf course,” Loftus said of the Morningstar members. “And they are glad to do it.”

Local businesses might be glad they do it, too. Tigh-Na-Mara is the host hotel and organizers are projecting at least 1,000 hotel nights generated by the event. There will be 156 golfers and dozens of coaches, physiotherapists and parents in the region during the tournament. Loftus estimated 6,000 meals could be purchased in this area during the event.

The University of Victoria is the official host school and teams are expected from as far away as Quebec City. Golf Canada’s Klein explained that only universities/colleges with accredited golf programs are eligible to send a team, which is comprised of five players and a coach (four players and a coach on the women’s side).

Each of these teams generally have up to a dozen players, so there is internal competition to see which men and women will represent their school at the Morningstar event this year.

“They can really play,” said Klein.

After two days of competition there’s a cut, meaning about 70 players will be in the region for a few days with time on their hands. “There will be a lot of people looking for things to do here,” said Klein.

Before they have time off, they are facing a tough test in Morningstar, rated No. 54 in all of Canada in 2013 (2,600 golf courses). Playing right around 7,000 yards, Morningstar was designed by famed golf course architect Les Furber.

“It’s a little tight, it’s very long and it’s very demanding,” said Loftus.

They will need about 150 volunteers for the university championships May 30-June 3.

Morningstar has hosted three PGA of Canada events, two CN Future Links Pacific Championships, the 2007 BCGA Men’s Amateur, the 2010 Golf Canada Senior Ladies National Championships and the 2014 Golf Canada Women’s Tour.

The winners at Morningstar will advance to the world university championships in June in France. Last year, the UBC Thunderbirds men’s team and the Université de Montreal Carabins women’s team were victorious at Cutten Fields in Guelph, Ont. Evan Holmes of Calgary was the top individual male and Brynn Tomie of UVic was the top female.

After this event, the next big tournament coming to the region is the 114th B.C. Men’s Amateur Championship at Pheasant Glen, July 10-15.

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