Curling is one of Canada’s most-played winter activities, and with good reason.
Canada has been dominating on the world stage over the last few Olympics, too, and behind those gold-medal winners is Goldline Curling, a Canadian company set to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
“I remember 25 years ago I would have given my right arm to promote the game on television,” Mr. Flowers says. “Today, for the most part, curlers are attractive and exciting to watch. People are watching. When you have that many eyes on curlers, you want to make sure they’re wearing your product.”
According to a report by Yahoo in February, only the hockey finals clipped the curling finals at the Olympics in terms of viewership.
I’m lucky to call TJ Rule and Matthew McKay my friends. And good thing, too.
They might have one of the coolest jobs going – golf tour operators.
Despite Mr. Rule travelling to the Dominican Republic, Las Vegas, India, Ireland and soon to Italy (within a three-month span) for conferences and site scoutings, he says making a trip perfect is the part of their job that is most fun.
“We love to do it,” he says. “We live vicariously though our clients that way.” Sometimes, they even join in. They’ve arranged a Scottish trip this fall for members of a private club in Toronto and plan to escort them.
Despite a final-round stumble, Ottawa-native Brad Fritsch earned himself an exemption into this week’s PGA Tour event in Phoenix, and perhaps, earned a place at the top of many Canadian’s minds as an athlete to watch for 2013.
But, most likely, if you’re a young Canadian and into sports, playing professional golf is not one of your main goals.
This could be true for multiple reasons. The season in Canada is short; ten months maybe on the West Coast, realistically only six months anywhere else.
The game is expensive, and it’s singular. There’s no denying this. There are also no true public places to practice or play, unlike the frozen ponds or open fields that scatter both rural and urban Canadian landscapes.
Golf Canada, as the governing body for the game in this country, is putting programs in place to try to help to increase the engagement of young people with the game, programs like Golf in Schools, and CN Future Links.
These are the kinds of things that can help to encourage young Canadians to take up golf, yes, but now more than ever, kids need to be inspired.
Whether you’re a young boy or girl, there needs to be idols that you can look up to, try to emulate, and recognize as someone who has done what you want to do.
For Canadians, there will always be the never-ending list of Wayne Gretzky, Steve Nash, Haley Wickenheiser, or Christine Sinclair wannabes – men and women who have made it to the top of their respective sports, inspiring a nation of young boys and girls to do the same.
Mike Weir should be included on that list, too. A major champion, someone who once said that if “I can raise more money for charities, or get more Canadian kids to play golf, the green jacket will mean even more.”
Weir has not been as inspirational in recent years – inspiring questions more than anything about his game, and his own future.
But now there is a new crop of Canadians in golf – a first, in this new era of the game – that can, and should, take golf onto their respective backs and show kids that just because the average temperature for a quarter of a Canadian year matches Tiger Woods’ winning score from this past week’s Farmers Insurance Open, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a desire to be a professional golfer.
Take Fritsch, for example. The aforementioned Ottawa-native is a rookie this year on the PGA Tour, at the age of 35. He’s been through the grind of mini-tours, and so far has made the cut in all three of the events he has played. His tie for ninth yesterday earned him a place into the next tournament, where he is looking to build off of his early-season successes.
One of his main sponsors is his hometown NHL team, the Ottawa Senators. What could be more Canadian than that?
Take Brooke Henderson, another example. The native of Smiths Falls was victorious at the South American amateur women’s championship in Colombia last weekend, and earlier this month, she helped Team Canada win the Copa de las Americas team competition in Miami.
Henderson qualified for the 2012 CN Women’s Open championship as well, and was the youngest person ever to compete in the event. She has her eyes set on another appearance in that tournament later this summer. Did I mention that she is all of fifteen years old, and barely through high school?
One also can’t forget about Vancouver-native Adam Hadwin, who is grinding away on the Web.Com Tour – and making waves early on the PGA Tour season as well. There’s also LPGA Q-School medalist Rebecca Lee–Bentham, who is set to make her debut on that tour this year.
Or how about returning PGA Stars David Hearn, and Graham DeLaet? DeLaet, who tied with Fritsch for ninth this past week, has a good chance to represent Canada at this year’s Presidents Cup.
A Fritsch top-10 finish could just be the beginning of a successful 2013 for Canadian golfers. It may be cold right now across the country, but golf leaderboards are warming up with Canadian flags.
Inspiration is abound for young athletes, why not look at golf? Now is as good a time as any for that inspiration to be capitalized on.
It all started in mid-June of 2011, when representatives from the National Allied Golf Associations (NAGA) took to Parliament Hill to comment on the release of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s new budget and advocate for bringing tax fairness to the game of golf in Canada.
As first reported by my friend Scott Macleod, the editor of Flagstick, due to a 1971 tax reform, the Canada Revenue agency does not allow deductions for expenses incurred by business people who choose to entertain clients at a golf course. And yet, a corporate box rental at a sports arena, other client gifts, and annual dues to a business club can be deducted 100%.
There is a disconnect between recreational activities, and a group on the Hill, led by NDP MP Randall Garrison is looking to change that.
In combination with an all-party caucus and the NAGA lobbying efforts, a private member’s bill has been put forth by Garrison titled An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (Golfing Expenses).
Jeff Calderwood, the NAGA government relations spokesperson, said in a press release shortly after the budget was released, that “the golf industry in Canada suffers from an outdated 40-year-old tax policy that singles out golf businesses in an unfair manner.”
Someone like Minister Flaherty will of course argue that there are more pressing matters at hand than the request to have golf become tax deductible, but the fact of the matter is, there is evidence and documentation pulled together that golf is actually Canada’s most played recreational sport.
Canada is home to approximately six million golfers, and 2500 golf courses and practice ranges. The game of golf accounts for an $11.3 billion contribution to the GDP each year. Not to mention being responsible for nearly 350,000 jobs for Canadians equating to about $7.6 billion in household income. The gross revenues are actually more than all ski facilities, fitness, sports centres, amusement parks, and other recreational industries combined.
This is not a flash-in-the-pan lobbying effort by a handful of radicals on a niche topic. Golf matters to Canadians of all income levels and is no longer a game for just a small portion of society.
Instead of being lumped into the group of ‘illicit escort services’ getting a zero per cent tax deduction, it should be grouped in with other sporting events and client services. More often than not, four hours on a golf course is where deals are made or broken.
The closeness of only four people for that amount of time will usually result in business talk. Talk that is not always guaranteed while sitting in a box at a sporting event.
Inspired by a similar post from Bob Weeks, editor at ScoreGolf magazine, I’ve written a note to my Member of Parliament John Carmichael, bringing forth the efforts of the NAGA and others.
It’s important to notice that the golf industry, from what I’ve read, is not looking for special treatment, but instead looking for an increase in fairness when it comes to business deductions.
How the powers-at-be decided what could or could not be included in that bucket was a decision made long before my time, but, I’m happy knowing that I can perhaps play a small part in a change today.
Vancouver has seen a lot these past 18 months or so, and could arguably be called the greatest sports city in Canada right now.
February 12, 2010 saw the beginning of the 21st Winter Olympiad, where Canada won the most gold medals ever. June, 2011 saw the hometown Canucks make a wild run to the Stanley Cup, only to lose in Game 7 at home. Then July 21-24 some of the world’s best golfers descended on Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club for the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.
Yes, it certainly has been quite the ride for the city of Vancouver of late and it was top of mind when thinking about a vacation destination for the final week of July.
Somehow, while visiting for five days, not a single drop of rain fell and the two rounds of golf played were unaffected.
Teased by the pros on Sunday while watching the final round of the RBC in person and enjoying the incredible scenery at Shaughnessy, the excitement was building if this was what was to be expected playing golf on the West Coast.
Everything just seems different there, but in the best of ways. InOntario, one does not see signs that say: “Be bear aware” causing someone be wary of walking into the extremely thick brush to try to retrieve a lost ball – which happened more than once on this trip.
The lushness of the greens and the crispness of the air provided a golfing atmosphere unlike any I had experienced before. The views of pristine water, coupled with cloud-covered mountain tops and sky-high trees of all kinds gave both courses unique layouts which punished errant shots but thoroughly rewarded the fairways-and-greens player.
For most of the trip I caught myself saying, to no one in particular, ‘wow’ as I became overcome by not only the scenery, but of the eerie calm which seems to take over the land in rural Vancouver. A stark contrast to some of the layouts that I’ve been accustomed to playing.
Teeing off early in the morning both days allowed for the two courses to be at their most gorgeous – the sun rising over the tree tops, the misty dew rising off the freshly cut greens, and the light breeze coming up and down each fairway just encouraged you to breathe deep and take it all in.
Seymour Golf and Country Club
Seymour, located only 30 minutes from downtownVancouver, is a semi-private facility open to the public on Mondays and Fridays. The approximately 60-year-old club is immaculately groomed and is an eloquent challenge for golfers of all kinds.
Located at the base of a mountain range inVancouver’s north shore – glimpses of Deep Cove are rare but beautiful sights on the back-9 – the golf course features narrows fairways and slick greens which only add to the challenge. Each green seemingly elevated just slightly which will encourage shot-making and skill at every turn.
With a constant stream of people lining up around the first hole to tee off, the public certainly can not get enough of Seymourand somehow, the marshal and course facilitators kept things moving smoothly. Despite the seemingly never-ending line up of golfers, we did not experience a delay throughout the day – other than our own, invoked by a desire to enjoy the scenery.
As mentioned, the quick greens and tight fairways will test every part of your game, but each hole is so pristine that you feel encouraged to make good shots, as if you’re on a first date with the course and you’re hoping to impress it.
With the courses’ unique location, the wind whipped up and down through most of the day, causing club selection to usually go back-and-forth before finally settling on an appropriate one.
The whistling wind, along with elevation on nearly each fairway and green will definitely give low-handicap golfers a test, however, even the high-handicap player will enjoy the challenge that Seymour provides.
The 6,300 yard layout is at it’s best early on the back nine. The 11th, a 164 yard downhill par-3 is, on paper, a welcome hole after the very challenging 10th. However, one must be right on with their distance off the tee, otherwise they will get punished by either the creek running through the middle of the hole, or the small pond to the right of the green. The pin positions are usually, I’m told, tucked near that creek as if to taunt golfers to try to go for the flag.
Aim left and hope for a par, but also enjoy the stroll down the elevated tee box with a view of Deep Cove and the mountain range off in the distance.
Swan-E-Set Bay Resort & Country Club
For now, one could say that Swan-E-Set is best known as the host club for Happy Gilmore’s triumph over Shooter McGavin (Happy Gilmore was shot mostly at Swan-E-Set, along with another Vancouver-area golf course, Furry Creek), but for Vancouver area golfers, they know that the course is much more than just a Hollywood destination.
About an hour from downtown Vancouver, Swan-E-Set is located in the small rural town of Pitt Meadows, British Columbia where fresh berries grow in fields as far as the eye can see and the cathedral-like clubhouse stands out from miles away.
The Swan-E-Set Bay Resort features two courses, the ‘Resort’ course and the ‘Links’ course. Only getting a chance to play the ‘Resort’ course, the ‘Links’ has already been penciled in for a return trip.
Designed by Lee Trevino, both championship courses feed back into the massive 65,000 square foot clubhouse which truly remains the jewel of the resort. Trevino dug through the pristine and quiet Pitt River Valleyto provide golfers with views of some costal mountains along with natural streams, lakes, and forests which act as homes to much wildlife.
The peaceful surroundings of Swan-E-Set provide you with a very quiet golfing experience, the setting too pristine and calm to allow for any anger or frustration to surface. The only outside noise one will hear is the hovering of a helicopter or small plane across the farm-fields adjacent to the course (chalk the helicopter noise up to something you “don’t hear while playing golf in Ontario”).
The course couldn’t get off to a better start with hole no.1. A long, 611 yard par-5 greets the golfers with trouble right and trouble left. Your best bet is to keep it down the left side of the fairway, in order to have a good line for a lay-up on the second shot around a slight dogleg. The green is guarded by bunkers to the left and a pond to the right and, as usual withVancouvergreens, one will have to contend with slight undulations.
Swan-E-Set is flat by comparison to other courses in the region, but remains in good shape. The sheer number of rounds that are played each year contribute to the few patches of the layout which could stand to be improved – but as a semi-private course that is always open to the public and resort guests, this is expected.
A friend who calls Vancouver home, mentioned that he played golf during the Olympics last year, and to me, it was odd to see that some courses have ‘Winter’ tee-times and prices. One can only assume that if a course is getting played 11, 12 months a year it will certainly go through some wear-and-tear.
Travelling there I packed my clubs in an OGIO straight jacket travel bag, my first time ever going on a plane with my children (err… golf clubs). Despite feeling slightly tentative at the softness of the bag, it provided my clubs with excellent protection there and back. The wheels on the bottom were smooth and the overall weight of the bag balanced out nicely with my normal travel bag. I was able to fit my set of clubs inside, along with two pairs of shoes, and, without question, I could have fit in more. I did feel the need to wrap my clubs in a towel and then put them into the bag for added protection but I’m not sure if it would have needed it. As the old adage goes though: better to be safe than sorry.
If you’re not bringing your clubs with you, not to worry, as both aforementioned courses have a selection of rental clubs for use. A small mention of being from the GTA gave a friend (who didn’t bring his clubs) the premium set for the basic price at Seymour, and at Swan-E-Set, the pro shop attendant brought out a shiny new bag full of the 2011 line-up of Taylormade clubs making me think that perhaps I should have left my clubs at home, too.
Vancouver continues to grow as a bustling metropolis inCanada, and hosting the Olympics certainly helped that. I was lucky enough to spend five days inNorth Vancouverwith a friend, but any of the hotels in the downtown core will allow for relatively simple drives to the multitude of golf courses in the region. The weather was also a welcome change from the mid-30 degree temperatures I’d been experiencing in Toronto, which made everything – from golfing to sightseeing – all that more memorable.
Been a while since I’ve been able to toss anything up on the Blog. But that’s not to say I haven’t been writing.
Since my last post I was thrilled to have connected once again with my friend Scott Macleod, the managing editor of Flagstick Golf Magazine. A regional publication in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec. They’ve been really building up their online presence in the past few years as well and I’ll be adding my thoughts on occasion.
Look for mostly club reviews to come up, but I’ll also be posting a few pieces on the world of golf. I’ll also include the posts in their original format here, along with links to the Flagstick pages.