PGA TOUR Canada, Northern Bear Ink Three-Year Deal

By Gord Montgomery, Inside Golf

SHERWOOD PARK, Alberta — In for a dime, in for a dollar. That was the philosophy behind the idea the Jack Nicklaus-designed Northern Bear GC’s management took to the PGA TOUR Canada and the tour bought in. And that buy-in wasn’t just a one-shot deal.

Blair McDowell, the Director of Golf at the great layout just outside of Sherwood Park, noted that some past interaction he’d had with the tour had a large impact on making this deal happen. That agreement will now see the Edmonton-area stop on the Canadian golf tour, the ATB Classic, tee it up at Northern Bear for the next three consecutive seasons.

“I had a relationship with the PGA TOUR up in Fort Mac (McMurray) and brought the tour up there. I knew the tour from there. I knew the management company from there,” said McDowell during a phone call about landing the 2023, ’24, and ’25 events. “We (Northern Bear) were never on the original rotation (in Edmonton) but they knew our interest. It just happens we found a time that would work for both us and the tour and we’re really looking forward to hosting.”

The Nicklaus design isn’t a short layout topping out at over 7,300 yards from the very back. But, McDowell noted, the way pros hit the ball these days, nothing is ever too long for them. The thing here is with plenty of natural hazards and a variety of holes, the challenge will be there for the rising stars on the Canadian Tour.

As to what the pros can expect, McDowell said, “Every hole here is different. Every hole is a test. The par 3s are tough. The 4s are tough. It’s a well-treed golf course and it’s a good test for anybody, especially from the back tees. It’s going to take some serious thought as to where you position yourself off the tee, for sure. I think the type of golf course this is, you have to be pretty accurate off the tee and find the right place to hit it on the green as well. It’ll be a good test for those guys.”

“It really doesn’t matter how long you make a golf course these days. They’re so good that, ultimately, length doesn’t matter and even the rough length doesn’t matter. It’s a long course to begin with so we won’t trick it up. Ultimately, it’s a good test of golf.”

This will make the first time in Edmonton that the ATB Classic will be played on a public course as in the past the tourney has been pencilled in at private tracks. That fact though didn’t faze those in charge of the tour as they signed on the dotted line to play at Northern Bear for a period of time.

“We’ve committed to the next three years,” said McDowell about the beginnings of what could well be a long-term relationship, much as takes place in Calgary at the Country Hills GC, a longstanding tour stop. “We’ll see what happens after that but ultimately we’ve committed to three years.

“We’ve always thought that Northern Bear would be a great facility for something bigger, like a PGA TOUR Canada event, a Canadian Open ladies tour event, even a Canadian Open Championship here. We think that we have the type of facility that will provide a great test for tour golf. Like I said, for the next three years we’ll have this tour event here and then see where it goes from there.”

The dates of the ATB Classic in Sherwood Park, at the Northern Bear GC for the first time, will be held from June 29 to July 2.