The Red Deer Golf and Country Club will celebrate a special anniversary next Tuesday with the playing of the 2009 Skins Game.
“It’s our 10th annual and we’re looking to make it our best yet,” said RDG&CC head pro Ken Frame, who for the 10th consecutive year will be part of the five-man field competing for a purse of $6,750 as well as bonus money for various sideline events.
“We have a great lineup this year with some very good players, leading money winners with great personalties. It’s going to be lots of fun.”
Indeed, Frame calls this year’s field — consisting also of defending champion Graham DeLaet, Wes Heffernan, Mike Mezei and Red Deer product Brett Bingham — the ‘best ever’.
DeLaet, a native of Weyburn, Sask., who resides in Boise, Idaho, is returning for a second year after winning $3,500 in skins and $750 in various bonuses in 2008, and Mezei has competed in the previous two events.
Heffernan is making his first Skins Game appearance and Bingham, a resident of Murrieta, Calif., is back after a four-year absence. All are Canadian Pro Tour players, with the exception of Bingham.
Heffernan was second on the Canadian Tour order of merit last year with earnings of $96,154.
“He had a lot of money in his jeans at the end of the year and he’s a player who’s going to go far. My guess is that he’ll be on the PGA Tour within the next few years,” said Frame.
The Calgary native won four Canadian Tour events in 2008, is a three-time Alberta Open champion, and was a member of Team Canada — with Mike Weir in 2007 and DeLaet in ‘08.
Heffernan is 23rd among 2009 Canadian Tour money winners with $10,340 in three events.
DeLaet, meanwhile, was fourth on the Canadian Tour order of merit last year with winnings of $66,065, and excelled on the South African Sunshine Tour earlier this year, recording two top-five finishes and one top-15 placing while pulling down roughly U.S. $97,000.
He’s currently No. 252 in the world rankings and is the third-ranked Canadian player, behind only PGA Tour regulars Weir and Stephen Ames.
“His stock value has gone up hugely in the last eight months,” said Frame.
Mezei, from Lethbridge, was runner-up in the 2008 RDG&CC Skins Game with overall winnings of $1,950.
He tied for fourth in the 2009 Mexican PGA Championship, won the Canadian Tour’s Manitoba Open in 2007 and this year sits 17th on the Canadian circuit’s order of merit with earnings of $13,650.
“Mike is doing very well this year and we’re looking forward to having him back,” said Frame.
“He’s quite a character, an entertainer.”
Bingham has played on the Canadian Tour as well as the Nationwide Tour and the Asian, South American and Australian PGA circuits. He has also competed in two major-league events — the PGA Tour’s Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 2006 and 2007 — on a sponsors exemption.
“I believe he has plans of playing a couple of Canadian Tour events and he’ll be here visiting his family next week,” said Frame.
Bingham was not on Frame’s initial invitation list. The RDG&CC head pro was attempting to secure Canadian Tour player Andrew Parr for the 2009 Skins Game, but Parr has since qualified for this week’s U.S. Open.
“It just didn’t work out with Parr, but at the end of the day having Brett is as good, or better,” said Frame.
“With him already scheduled to be here next week, the timing is perfect.”
While spectator interest grew steadily over the first few events, attendance for the Skins Game has leveled out in recent years despite the fact admission is free.
“I think we’re to the point where we’ve kind of maxed out at about 250,” said Frame. “It surprises me that there’s not a lot more. We have room for a couple of thousand (spectators). That would be nice, although I’d be way too nervous with a couple thousand.”
Frame has never grown tired of watching the various shots his Skins Game foes are capable of delivering.
“The shots these guys hit, their recovery stuff and the putts they make . . . they’re just one step below that PGA Tour level, or even a half step below,” said Frame. “All of these guys are good. These are young guns we have here.
“We appreciate the support that we’ve had from the likes of (veteran Skins Game competitors) Kent Fukushima and Paul Devenport, but it was time to move on and get a younger breed of player.”
Due to the first hole being temporarily closed, this year’s Skins Game, starting at 5 p.m., will start at the 10th hole, then will skip over to No. 2 and play through to No. 9. The players will hit from new tee boxes on the fifth to eighth holes inclusive, which have added 230 yards in total.
“That not going to be great for me necessarily, but it will give the other players a really good challenge,” said Frame. “They’ll love those tee boxes.”
Contact Greg Meachem at firstname.lastname@example.org