Thunder Bay

Staal Open golf tournament prepares for another round of charity fundraiser

Professional hockey players and rising golf stars will tee off at the Staal Open in Thunder Bay, Ont. for the fourth consecutive year on July 20, 2017.

'Big shoes to fill' as newly established board of directors takes control of 'important' event

The Staal Foundation Open annual golf event, hosted by the four Staal brothers, drew thousands of spectators, and gave $250 K back to the community in 2016. (Mackenzie Tour- Twitter)

Professional hockey players and rising golf stars will tee off again this July at the Staal Foundation Open in Thunder Bay, in what is becoming one of the most important events on the circuit, says Scott Pritchard, a director with the MacKenzie Tour - PGA Tour Canada.

The annual tournament in northwestern Ontario has collected nearly $500,000 for charity in its first three years, making it a fundraising leader in the MacKenzie Tour, he said.

"The tour collectively raised just over $1 million for charity, and the Staal Foundation represents a quarter of that, so that alone explains how important this event is to our tour," said Pritchard.

But the week-long tournament at the Whitewater Golf Club is also earning a solid reputation for its development of young golfers.

Scott Pritchard, director of tournament business affairs with MacKenzie Tour PGA Tour Canada, says the Staal Open in Thunder Bay is one of the most important events on the circuit. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

"The MacKenzie Tour is really all about providing playing opportunities for our players and helping them get to the next level and the past two champions of this event have proved that their win here has propelled them on to greater things, in particular J.J. Spaun who won here in 2015 and is now a PGA Tour member."

Another reason for the success of the Staal Open may lie in its very name. The event is hosted by the four Staal brothers, all professional hockey players, who in turn invite other hockey stars — such as Bobby Orr — to join them on the fairways.

"For our players, getting to play with Eric, and Marc and Jordan and Jared and pick their brains about their sport and some of their struggles they've had as athletes, I really think it helps them as well," said Pritchard.

The Staal Open will mark its fourth anniversary this summer, and there will be some changes from previous years.

A newly established board of directors will now plan and oversee the annual fundraising event.

The challenge will be sustaining, and even increasing, the enthusiasm the golf tournament has generated in its first three years, said Walter Flasza, one of the board members.

A newly established board of directors, including member Walter Flasza, will now oversee and plan the annual Staal Open. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

"We have some huge shoes to fill," Flasza said, "having new people, a bigger board will hopefully bring new ideas and we're going to strive to bring a better and better product, each and every year."

The Staal Open takes place July 10 to July 16, 2017.

The funds raised through the Staal Family Foundation support family and children's charities in northwestern Ontario.