State of the Nation – Golf Edition

by Adam Stanley, Flagstick.com Contributor

(Ancaster, Ontario) – The morning before the start of the 103rd playing of the RBC Canadian Open Scott Simmons, Executive Director and CEO of Golf Canada made a presentation and addressed questions from members of the Canadian golf media contingent about a variety of topics including Golf in Schools, the recently criticized CN Future Links program, and the Pan-Am and Olympic team selections.

Simmons was candid and open in his responses. There was no need to beat around the bush as many of the questions had been asked in some variation or another in last few years of Simmons’ Golf Canada reign.

Simmons, now in his fifth year as president and CEO – and in the final year of his five-year plan – was excited to announce many of the successes of the industry in the last 12 months, but, was also quick to defer some questions to the chief sport development officer of Golf Canada, Jeff Thompson.

“There has been progress in this country, but, like most businesses, successes go in cycles. 20% of people in Canada play golf and in all the studies of seen, this is the highest percentage of sport participation in the country,” said Simmons.

Despite this 20%, many in the country still feel that golf reflects the 1%.

“Golf is still viewed as a game for older, rich, white guys,” said Simmons. However, many of the programs that are being introduced by Golf Canada – and executed by the seven other national golf associations in Canada – are there to try to get kids into the game.

This is proving to be especially difficult as there are so many other things on the go for the youth of today, not just from a sport perspective.

Simmons and Diane Dunlop-Herbert, the president of Golf Canada, were quick to claim that despite the world-class programs being introduced, it is up to the other associations and the participating golf clubs to make sure that they reach the intended audience.

Case in point is the Golf in Schools initiative. Although great on paper, Thompson mentioned that although there are 300 schools in Canada who have adapted the program, it’s now up to the PGA of Canada to make sure that those schools link up with the appropriate neighbourhood golf clubs.

But, with more and more golf clubs closing in Canadian metropolises, Simmons mentioned that there may indeed be something that Golf Canada can do to intercept the cities and prevent golf course and driving range closures.

With respect to the Olympics, look for Golf Canada to build off of the Government of Canada’s “Own the Podium” slogan for 2016 – when golf is re-introduced to the Olympics for the first time since 1904 – and announce that Canada wants to “Defend the Gold.”

Canadian George Lyon was the last Olympic athlete to win a gold medal in golf, and after the completion of the London games, there is an opportunity for golf to pitch the government for more support and funding. Although golf thrives in the ‘participation’ category, it is lacking in the ‘excellence’ category that the government looks at when allocating funds.

Overall, Simmons said, the organization will break even in the next two years and will be healthy.

But, will golf in Canada be healthy?

“Not yet.”

Adam Stanley is a graduate of the Carleton University Journalism Program, a Digital Media Specialist for a Major Corporation,  and a regular contributor to Flagstick.com.  He maintains a personal Blog “Adam’s Touch” here.