Mickelson National Invitational organizers envision major party potential

With a prize purse of $110,000, the 2024 Mickelson National Invitational will feature many of the top talents — both amateur and pro — on Alberta’s golf scene

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The final round of the Mickelson National Invitational will be a fixture on the first Friday of the Calgary Stampede.

Organizers have grand plans for what could eventually become a can’t-miss parade-day party — no bulls, but loads of birdies.

“What we think it can grow into is a mini Waste Management feel,” said tournament chair Sam Hart. “We see it as a great way to kick off your Stampede celebrations. That’s the atmosphere we want to go with. You’re not going to find any ushers holding up any ‘Quiet’ signs or anything like that. We’ll have a deejay spinning music all three days. This event is supposed to be a bit of a party, as well as a golf tournament.”

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The Waste Management Phoenix Open is, of course, the biggest bash on the PGA Tour schedule, attracting hundreds of thousands of … um … well-hydrated fans.

It’s a tough scene to replicate, but it does sound a little Stampede-y, doesn’t it?

The Mickelson National Invitational debuted last July, with Andrew Harrison of Camrose winning this three-round shootout with a sizzling score of 9-under 207. The second instalment runs Wednesday-Friday at Lefty’s layout just west of the city. Tee-times will run from 8:30-11 a.m. each day.

“We literally have had people emailing us and saying, ‘I don’t know much about golf, but I can’t wait to come out and see what this is all about,’ ” said Jesse Galvon, both a founding committee member and a competitor. “I keep telling everyone, ‘Don’t judge us off the first couple of years.’ Give us four or five years to build this into what it could be one day. We’re really in the infancy of what this tournament could be.”

With a prize purse of $110,000, the 2024 Mickelson National Invitational will feature many of the top talents — both amateur and pro — on Alberta’s golf scene. Harrison is back to defend his title, while Brendan MacDougall (Glencoe) is coming off a career-best fourth-place finish on PGA Tour Americas and Wes Heffernan (Dynamic Motion Golf Performance) always seems to contend.

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The 90-player field also includes a rising star from south of the border in Ryggs Johnston and several popular influencers and trick-shot artists, guys like Mac Boucher and Snappy Gilmore.

Friday’s party is being hosted by two members of the Nelk Boys, who have millions of followers on social media.

The Mickelson National Invitational is a ticketed event, but you can register for a free pass. They’re closing in on 5,000 spectator sign-ups so far.

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“We wanted to create an event that could potentially help one or more of these players to take that next step and chase their dream of golf at the highest level,” Hart said. “Those last couple of groups coming down No. 18 on Friday, we’d love to give them a spectacle and a scene, where they have to endure a little bit of pressure and feel what it might actually be like in a larger tour event, trying to win coming down the stretch and seeing 2,000 or 3,000 people at the end.”

According to Galvon, who warmed up by winning the Calgary Golf Association’s City Medalist in mid-June, that’s the sort of pressure they all crave. The adrenaline rush is simply not the same when there is just a smattering of spectators around the final green.

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Galvon, also the vice-president of marketing for LaunchPad Golf, is hoping for a packed house Friday afternoon in what is branded as the Cowboys and Happy Dad Seltzer Saloon. And he’s aiming to give those fans a reason to roar.

“With how many people we’re anticipating, we had to get these signs made that say, ‘Players coming through’ and we’re going to have volunteers marching players from the ninth green to the 10th tee, hopefully through a huge crowd,” Galvon said. “And from a players’ standpoint, I don’t think there is anything cooler. I love playing in front of a crowd. To have the music going, to have the crowd out there and to feel the energy, I don’t think there is anything cooler than that.”

CHIP SHOTS: Calgary’s Brett Jones (Glencoe) earned provincial bragging rights at the Alberta Men’s Amateur Championship at The Derrick in Edmonton. Jones rolled to a three-round score of 6-under 204 and sealed the title on the third playoff hole …  Emily Cornwall (Springbank Links) topped the leaderboard at the Calgary Ladies Golf Association’s City Amateur. Cornwall fired a three-day total of 3-over 219 at Priddis Greens. Aliyah Hull (Willow Park) claimed low-net honours … Sirocco’s dynamic duo of Craig Gibson and Jason Renneberg combined for a rip of 8-under 64 to win the PGA of Alberta’s Tournament of Champions at Carnmoney.

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