June 13th, 2024

Mexican Tour success makes Seb Szirmak’s path to RBC Canadian Open murky

By John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press on April 12, 2024.

Toronto's Sebastian Szirmak, seen in an undated handout photo, has the most wins of any Canadian pro golfer in 2024 but, ironically, his success on the Gira de Golf Professional Mexicana may prevent him from playing in the RBC Canadian Open. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Courtesy of Sebastian Szirmak **MANDATORY CREDIT**

Toronto’s Sebastian Szirmak has the most wins of any Canadian pro golfer in 2024 but, ironically, his success on the Gira de Golf Professional Mexicana may prevent him from playing in the RBC Canadian Open.

Szirmak won the Villa Rica Classic in Alvarado, Mexico, on April 6 for the second victory of his first season on the Mexican Tour. That moved him up to 1,003rd on the official world golf ranking, fourth on the tour’s points list and in position to win the circuit’s overall title.

“That last tournament coming I think if I win that, then it’s an absolute lock to bring the whole money list home,” said Szirmak from his home in Playa Del Carmen. “So that’s my short-term goal right now.”

The 34-year-old Szirmak joined the Gira de Golf Professional Mexicana this year because it’s one of the few tours outside the PGA Tour’s tiered system that offers official world ranking points, and travelling within one country keeps his financial overhead lower than the demanding schedule of the PGA Tour Americas. That plan started to bear fruit when he won the Wipa’s Open on March 9 and then repeated the feat at the Villa Rica Classic.

He hopes those ranking points will put him in a better position to play in more Challenger Tour events in Europe this summer and then play his way up to the European-based DP World tour.

“I want to be in top 1,000, that’s my next goal, so I’m just three spots short of that,” said Szirmak. “After that is 750 and if we can just keep taking chunks out like that and play well on the Challenge Tour, because there’s more world ranking points on that tour and follow that natural progression, I hope to one day be the top ranked Canadian.”

Winning the overall tour title in Mexico, however, has created a snag in his plans to participate in this year’s Canadian Open, the national men’s championship.

Szirmak signed up to play in a regional qualifier for the Canadian Open at Oshawa Golf and Curling Club outside Toronto on May 13. However, he signed up for that event before the Mexican Tour announced that Etapa 10 Tour Championship, its finale, would be May 7 to May 12.

Held in San Miguel de Allende, a city nearly 300 kilometres northwest of Mexico City, it is a four-hour drive to reach the nearest international airport with flights to Toronto. That distance, and the timing of the two golf tournaments, makes it impossible to play in both.

Szirmak posted to social media when he realized the two dates were in conflict, looking for another golfer with a berth in another Canadian Open qualifier on May 16 at the Tarandowah Golfers Club in Springfield, Ont.

The idea almost worked, with a friend willing to swap dates. However, Golf Canada turned down the trade.

Szirmak said that he was told his only option is to play at Sirocco Golf Club in Foothills, Alta., on May 16. That’s a more expensive flight, would require paying for accommodation, and might mean he has to play in a second qualifier if that field isn’t filled.

“Allowing players to swap qualifiers or trade spots … goes against the spirit of the registration process and would be unfair to other players, including those on a particular waitlist,” Golf Canada’s director of rules and competitions Mary Beth McKenna said in a statement to The Canadian Press. “We have had significant interest in our qualifiers with three already full and with lengthy waitlists.”

That leaves Szirmak with two options: drop out of the Mexican final and play in Oshawa or play in Foothills, Alta., on a course he’s never seen before, and potentially have to play in another qualifier.

“It is what it is. I don’t want to sound like I’m kicking and screaming over it,” said Szirmak. “It’s just going to be way more expensive and probably two trips instead of hoping for just the one.”

The Challenge Tour begins its European swing on May 9 at the Challenge de Espana at Real Club Sevilla Golf in Seville, Spain – already not an option because of his double booking – and continues with the Danish Golf Challenge at Odense Eventyr Golf, in Odense, Denmark, on May 23-26. That second event could also clash with the Canadian Open qualifiers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2024.

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