(NORTH PLAINS, OR July 26, 2016) With the third installment of the WinCo Foods Portland Open set to tee off in less than a month, tournament organizers are hard at work while also knowing that they will get to do so again in 2017.
The Web.com Tour event will return for a fourth year after agreements were finalized with WinCo Foods and Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club. This year’s tournament will be held at the Witch Hollow course Aug. 25-28, and the event will return to Pumpkin Ridge’s private side in 2017.
“There was some discussion about us playing Ghost Creek,” tournament executive director Jeff Sanders said, referring to the facility’s public 18. “But we’re actually going to continue to play, in our fourth year, Witch Hollow.”
Tournament organizers held a news conference at Pumpkin Ridge on Monday to publicize this year’s event and tout the accomplishments of the first two years. Chief among them was raising $1,875,000 for local charities, including $1,150,000 from the 2015 version, which event officials touted as the most ever contributed to charity by a golf tournament in the state of Oregon.
“WinCo has always prided itself in giving back to its community, and this WinCo Foods Portland Open has opened the door for us to do even more, which we really appreciate,” said Steven Goddard, president and CEO of WinCo Foods.
Sanders says golf fans in the Portland area have grasped that the Web.com Tour is no longer the developmental tour it was when it started as the Nike Tour in 1990 and golfers would spend a few years on it learning how to play professionally before graduating to the PGA Tour.
Instead, Sanders says, the Web.com Tour is a highly-competitive circuit with a deep pool of golfers who are PGA Tour caliber.
“It’s not minor league-major league anymore, it’s all an expansion of the PGA Tour brand,” Sanders said. “These guys are good enough to go out and win on the PGA Tour.”
Indeed, players who played in the first two Portland Opens have won 10 PGA Tour titles in the last two years.
Veteran touring pro Ryan Armour, 40, has played all over the globe, including the PGA Tour. He says he is most struck by the Web.com Tour’s depth.
“Having played pretty much everywhere in the last 18 years since I turned pro, it is harder to make a cut on the Web.com Tour than it is is Europe,” said Armour, who is No. 9 on the season money list. “Now, it may be harder to win in Europe, but it is harder to make a cut on the Web.com Tour. That’s how deep the field is.”
The Portland Open is the 21st tournament on the tour’s calendar, and the final event of the regular season. The top 25 on the money list at the end of play on Aug. 28 will receive PGA Tour cards for the 2016-17 season (under the PGA Tour’s “wrap-around” format, the new season starts in October), with a ceremony on the 18th green typically full of strong story lines and emotions.
The tournament also sets up the participants for the Web.Com Tour Finals, a four-tournament stretch that follows the Portland stop and through which an additional 25 PGA Tour cards are earned. The top 75 on the Web.com Tour money list at the end of the regular season are joined by the top 75 golfers from the PGA Tour who did not make the FedExCup playoffs.
The PGA Tour has eliminated its qualifying tournament, instead issuing cards through the Web.Com Tour, giving the circuit far greater weight than it used to have in its developmental tour years.
Because the Portland Open is in such a crucial spot on the calendar, it does not have some of the opportunities that other Web.com tournaments offer, such as spots in the field for locally-connected golfers through sponsor’s exemptions and Monday qualifying. The Portland field is limited to the top 156 golfers in the money list.
That why, for example, Lagardere Sports, the company that runs the event through its golf event arm in Beaverton, cannot give a sponsor’s exemption to Aaron Wise, the NCAA champion from the University of Oregon who has turned professional and is competing on the Mackenzie Tour (also known as PGA Tour Canada), where he tied for 10th in his first two starts. Lagardere signed Wise to the management and marketing deal, making him an obvious choice for a sponsor’s exemption, if one was available.
The tournament should still have local connections in the field. Jesuit High School graduate Scott Harrington will play in it for the third year, and at 49th on the money list, is in position to advance to the Finals for the first time.
Also, former Oregon State standout Diego Velazquez is 108th on the money list, and Ashland High graduate Jason Allred, hoping to return to the PGA Tour for a third time, is 147th.
Sanders figures it will take about $150,000 to finish in the top 25 on the money list, and the winner in Portland will earn $144,000.
— Mike Tokito, Oregonian