VICTORIA, British Columbia — The Mountain Course at Bear Mountain is gorgeous, and tournament officials take good care of the players, volunteers and media. The resort is a nice, self-contained village with lots of ways to foster well-heeled guests’ willingness to drop wads of cash. The crowds were good all three days, and mainly good-humored about the steep hikes on many holes from one green to the next tee. And still the future of the Pacific Links Championship at Bear Mountain Resort is, from many corners, nowhere near secure.
There is a contract in place for one more year of the tournament in the region, Champions Tour officials say, but not necessarily at Bear Mountain. The tournament was previously played in China, and some people predict it will eventually return there.
It didn’t help Bear Mountain’s cause that the championship was not on TV this year. Why it wasn’t is fuzzy: maybe it was the Golf Channel’s asking price and the inability or unwillingness to pay it or some combination of those and other things. It’s too bad, because this course is made for TV.
Better photographers than me took lots of better photos than me, so there are better representations – of, for instance, the dramatic par-3 No. 16 – than this shot from the teebox taken just after Tom Kite sent his ball soaring toward the green in Saturday’s second round. That’s Mount Finlayson as the backdrop.
Jack Nicklaus and his son Steve designed the Mountain Course and its adjacent sister, the Valley Course. The Mountain Course, opened in 2003, plays to 6,900 yards from the tips as a par-70.
The 50-and-over guys are long enough and obviously good enough that the course didn’t beat ’em down, but neither did it lay down for them.
Even with the sharp ups and the draining downs, the spectator experience was better here than another course in the region that hosted a big-time pro event — in fact, a major — in recent years.
Like Chambers Bay, it’s no sure thing the big tours will ever be back to Bear Mountain.
Jerry Smith was the lead in this space Friday and Saturday as the tournament co-leader both days, but he was out of the Sunday conversation before his front nine was over. After opening with birdies on two of the first three holes to get to 14-under, he didn’t see another birdie the rest of the day. He finished tied for 11th at 8-under.
But the Council Bluffs kid, who lives in Scottsdale now, has won $1.86 million since he joined the Champions in 2014, which should keep him from needing any fallback position he might have cultivated just in case. Like, I bet this son of a golf course superintendent could be a force on the competitive flower-show circuit. With, say, his champion dahlias. Can’t you just see it?