Quietly and painlessly, the Canadian Skins Game has died. It lived a long and healthy life, outlasting its American counterpart. It leaves behind a long list of memories from coast to coast.
Officially, of course, the Skins Game, which is owned by IMG, is only on hiatus, looking for another sponsor. That's unlikely to appear, at least in the short-term.
The announcement of the end of the Skins Game was made in the Vancouver Sun by Brad Ziemer. It came as a surprise to many, including a number of high-ranking television officials who were still under the impression it was moving ahead. The site for this year's event, Whistler, was in place and there was talk that one of Nike's top two athletes (you can figure out those names) was being lured to play. But without the financial backing of longtime sponsor Telus, everything fell apart.
The Skins Game in Canada goes back to 1988, when it was known as the Cadillac Classic. In the first go-around, reigning U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange took the loot but then Dave Barr went on a string of winning three in a row.
In 1993, it adopted the official Skins Game name and became a cash cow for Fred Couples, who earned more than $1.2 million in 10 appearances.
While many began to tire of the format and the made-for-television style, the Skins Game accomplished a lot. It brought big names to Canada to play golf, many who were infrequent visitors to the Canadian Open. The list includes Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd, Nick Faldo, Nick Price, Phil Mickelson, John Daly, Sergio Garcia, Colin Montgomerie and Vijay Singh.
The 1998 Skins Game at The Links At Crowbush Cove in PEI was a bit of a coming out party for Mike Weir, who was elevated to the main stage and turned the heads of those who had yet to learn of his talents.
Another aspect of the Skins Game that is often underappreciated is the fact that it travelled the country, bringing big events to notable and smaller locations that might not see a Canadian Open – Halifax, Whistler, Banff, Quebec City and Vernon were just a few of the spots it played.
And, despite some of the mocking and the negative comments from the peanut gallery, the Skins Game still drew solid TV numbers, which is a major reason why it continued. The fact that it was a very good client entertainment opportunity for sponsors didn't hurt either.
I was lucky enough to be on the broadcast team for the Skins Games for a number of years and over that time, there were some great moments. In Whistler, we had to hold up play when a bear wandered on to the course and decided to sit on the green as one of the golfers was about to play. The guy about to hit the shot? The Golden Bear, himself.
Another time, John Daly, usually the entertainment in these shoot-outs, hit a ball off a can of Coke and not only reached the green on a par three, but also opened the can with the swing!
And one year, David Duval showed up at Angus Glen after a trans-Atlantic flight from the British Open, which he happened to have won. Along for the ride was the Claret Jug, which was reportedly filled and emptied numerous times during the ride.
Will the Skins Game be resurrected? Probably not in the short-term. One of the recent driving forces behind it, Danny Fritz who was the co-managing director of IMG, just left the company, leaving a bit of a hole. I suspect something may fill the hole but it might not be a skins format. For now, we just have to live with the memories.