Its quite a foursome. When the Telus Skins Game comes to Whistler July 4-5, it will feature one of the most colourful lineups of players in the history of the game.
In one corner you have Vijay Singh, an intensely serious player from Fiji who happens to be the top money earner on the PGA tour.
In another corner is Stephen Ames, the token Canadian who received his citizenship after relocating from Trinidad-Tobago. Polite and good humoured, Ames enjoyed 11 top-10 finishes on the PGA tour in 2004.
In another corner is John Daly, one of the most colourful and sometimes controversial golfers on the circuit. Not only is he a big hitter, hes also got a great sense of humour which is why hes participated in so many Skins Games over the years.
In the last corner is the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus, a living legend in the sport of golf. Any time Nicklaus plays is a big deal, but the Skins game is special for him for several reasons: its his last North American event as he will retire from the pro circuit after the British Open; Nicklaus designed the Nicklaus North golf course, which was named in his honour and is celebrating its 10 th season; and Nicklaus also rarely plays in the Skins Game, giving fans a last chance to get to know one of the winningest players in the history of golf.
"I dont think weve been this excited in a long time, this is Jacks swan song on the tour and the whole world is going to be watching. Its pretty special," said John Mikkelsen, Telus vice-president for corporate partnerships.
The players will be competing for a prize purse of $360,000 in the main event, but will also participate in other events over the weekend. While its a pretty good payday for some players, the Skins Game has never been about the prize money.
"This is entertainment, this isnt the Bell Canadian Open, we dont pretend it to be," said Mikkelsen. "This is just to get to know the players from a more personal point of view. Its the way players thank their fans and sponsors, show a side of themselves you dont see in regular events, and have fun with the game.
"Someone commented in a Vancouver paper that its not real golf but you cant tell me these guys arent playing to win. But its also an opportunity for these guys to give the other guys a friendly watch, let loose, try some shots they dont normally get to try, and thats why this event is attractive to us at Telus."
Both rounds will be broadcast live, then rebroadcast around the world in different time zones. Eastern viewers will be able to tune in during prime time.
The beauty of the Skins event, adds Mikkelsen, is that it will also be replayed again in the fall. "Its not like watching the Stanley Cup of 1942 when you know who won, this is to get to see John Daly have fun with Vijay, pretend to teach Stephen Ames to golf, goofing around with Jack Nicklaus. These are memorable moments in sports."
Nicklaus North was chosen by organizers this year partly because of a sponsorship contract with Whistler-Blackcomb, and partly because the course already held a successful Skins event in 1997. Jack Nicklaus played in that event, along with Greg Norman, Fred Couples and Nick Faldo.
"We (Telus) have always had a special relationship with Whistler, our partnership with Whistler-Blackcomb, supporting the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, supporting Crankworx this summer, and other community events," said Mikkelsen.
This is the first time in the Skins 13 year history that the same course has been used.
"This is not just a big deal nationally, this is an international event broadcast around that is worth millions to Whistler," said Mikkelsen. "If we get a nice sunny day, with that course and that view, you can just imagine what thats going to do for this area."
Tickets for the Skins Game are $129 for a two-day pass, or $75 per day. Both days will start with a Pro-Am event at 8 a.m. The front nine of the Skins Game is on Monday at 12:30 p.m., and the back nine on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m.
For more information or tickets, visit www.telusskins.com , or call Ticketmaster at 1-888-833-4447.