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.
One of my favourite courses in the ClubLink family is Wyndance, just north of Toronto. The first Greg Norman design in Canada sees golfers play through and around an old quarry. Visually stunning, and lots of fun.
Unique. Visually stunning. A standout. These are the words used to describe Wyndance Golf Club, arguably one of the most popular courses in the ClubLink family, located in Uxbridge, Ontario.
Prior to the official beginning of the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show, TaylorMade-adidas hosted an event for approximately 1,000 industry professionals where CEO Mark King, Ted Bishop (the president of the PGA of America), Joe Beditz (CEO of the National Golf Foundation) and Gary Hamel (renowned “business thinker”) made a presentation introducing a new initiative called Hack Golf.
Hack Golf is crowd-sourced platform where the general golfing public can submit their ideas on how they think the game can be improved or changed.
“Innovation stalls when the same people keep talking to each other about the same challenge over and over,” said Hamel in a press release to the media. “We need to open the conversation up to a wider audience instead of continuing to try and innovate in the same ineffective vacuum.”
In about a month since its inception, the Hack Golf movement has acquired nearly 2,000 followers on Twitter and 420 likes on Facebook. Smaller numbers than they had hoped, perhaps (TaylorMade by comparison has 161,000 followers on Twitter and 371,000 likes on Facebook), but over 750 ideas have been submitted. The most popular idea right now is a pretty good one – it’s basically a proposal of an app that allows golfers to meet up with others in their area – and I can see TaylorMade-adidas getting behind it (they are committing $5 million over the next five years towards the most popular experiments that come from the site).
The conversation has started.
But what is maybe more surprising, Hack Golf has started a trend of other golf organizations and publications asking golfers what they love about the game.
Where Hack Golf is asking what people would like to see changed, Golf Canada, ESPN and Golf Digest are asking the golfing public to speak proudly about the game as-is.
Do you love golf? Then Tweet at @TheGolfCanada using the hashtag #WhyILoveGolf
Let's start talking about why we love golf! Tweet your reason to us using #WhyILoveGolf & we will re-tweet some of our favourites.
And hey, they’re even adding a contest element. Share your photos and you have a chance to win a trip to the 2015 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
ESPN just announced a new video series and campaign called “Falling For Golf” where they have (you guessed it) asked golfers to submit their stories using Twitter and the hashtag #FallingForGolf explaining how they got into the game.
These are some of the biggest organizations in golf in Canada and the U.S. And I’d argue, are a little more trustworthy to the general public than a multi-million dollar corporation.
ESPN, Golf Canada and Golf Digest are trying to become part of the conversation, while Hack Golf is trying to change it.
But maybe nothing needs to be changed?
Michael Bamberger, the long-time Sports Illustrated and GOLF Magazine writer said it best in a recent column.
“If your goal is to grow the game, you have to start with the premise that the game is great. You have to have confidence in your game, basically as it is. Should it be faster? Yes. Should it be less expensive? Yes. Should your ball be easier to find? Yes. Should shirttails come out? It doesn’t matter. Should making a par on any hole, for any golfer, anywhere, remain the challenge it has always been? Absolutely. Some will be drawn to that. Most will not. That’s our exclusivity. That’s why we are a band of golfers. We are not in the mainstream. We are different. The game is what it is.”
The game’s fun. Cool. Exciting. Frustrating. It’s a lot of different things to a lot of different people. If it needs to be changed, then there’s now a platform for your voice to be heard. But don’t change it for the sake of changing it. It’s pretty good just the way it is.
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.
This past weekend was the fourth annual Flagstick Golf Magazine Amateur Shootout, a premier amateur golf event held at Smuggler’s Glen Golf Course in Ganaoque, Ontario.
The tournament moved to a fully invitational format this year after being a relatively open event for the past few seasons. After trimming the applicants from over 130 to 90, the field was set and organized into three flights of players.
There was a buzz in the air for this edition as a new incentive was added to the already-generous prizing. An exemption into the new Canadian Tour event The Great Waterway Classic – set to also be played at Smuggler’s Glen during the week of September 3, 2012 – would also be awarded to the winner.
I was invited to attend by Scott Macleod, Editorial Director of Flagstick Magazine and one of the smartest guys in the business I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with. I also invited my girlfriend, Steph, to come along for the weekend as well.
Golfers had the option to stay across the road for the weekend at the Glen House Resort & Spa (I add in the ‘spa’ part as this was a great selling factor for me to get Steph to come along). The Glen House is a quaint, 75-room resort that has been on the shores of the St. Lawrence for 100 years. It features regular rooms, suites and cottages, along with two pools, tennis courts, beach volleyball, boat rentals, and a first-class restaurant.
Smuggler’s Glen was nominated as The Best New Course in Canada by Golf Digest in 2006. Despite the copious rounds played through a season, golf course superintendent Jason Boyce keeps the course in pristine condition and Doug Wark – a 1000 Islands Native – keeps things running smoothly as the Director of Golf Operations.
After arriving at the course, there was a palpable buzz in the air as the first groups came through their front-9. The weather was excellent – perhaps a result of everyone’s’ collective wish that the weatherman would be wrong in his prediction for a thunderstorm-filled weekend. I was lucky enough to finally meet Jeff Bauder, the publisher of Flagstick Magazine, along with Wark, who said the course had hosted five events in six days. He had prepped the fairways and greens the day before and the morning-of the tournament in order to get ready to host the premier amateur tournament in the region.
From there began my tour of the course, riding shotgun in a cart with Scott – touring around the tournament-specific layout of Smuggler’s Glen. A slight variation of the traditional layout, which saw a re-order of the first couple holes in order to ease the golfers into the challenge.
We posted up for a long while on the tee of no.12, where he introduced me to many of the players and, unfortunately, saw many stripe their drives down the middle only to have their shot gobbled up by a bunker, strategically sitting about 295 yards from the tee.
The leader after day one was 19-year-old Clayton Presant, a Kingston native who recently signed with Limestone College in South Carolina to play golf. He shot a sizzling 68 for a 4-under total, and a three-stroke lead over four other golfers, including defending champion Dwight Reinheart.
Looking up and down the leaderboard after the first day seemed like a who’s who of Eastern Ontario golf, which essentially, should be what the leaderboard of a premier event looks like.
The second and final day included a re-shuffle of players according to their scores on the first day. However, the leader stayed the same with Presant keeping his lead through the day, eventually finishing with a two-day total of 140, or 4-under. He ended up being two shots clear of runner-up Sean Lackey, who, thanks to Presant’s school commitments, would be the one to take the exemption for The Great Waterway Classic in September.
The weekend wasn’t all about golf though, as a dinner hosted at The Glen House provided for much camaraderie. Apparently The Glen House is famous for their prime rib. Not kidding. Literally the largest cuts of prime rib I have ever seen in my life, and according to the others at our table who managed to actually complete it, not a dish to be missed.
For me personally, it was a great opportunity to put many faces to Twitter handles. Having followed many of the guys in the tournament for a while, it must have been funny to see more than a handful of semi-awkward pointing and introductions, despite knowing a lot about each other already. Hearing about each of their experiences through the day was great, but a common theme was how impressed everyone was with both the golf course and the tournament set up.
I was particularly happy to have met Mike Doyon, the regional manager for Nike Golf Canada. From what I understand, Mike worked tirelessly to get a great set of swag together for all the competitors and acts as the main point-of-contact for Nike for many of the golfers in the region.
Overall, the two-day event could not have turned out better. The weather held off for the competitors and a new, young champion was crowned. The resort was also a great place for golfers and non-golfers alike.
With the Ottawa Citizen dropping their sponsorship of the Ottawa Citizen Amateur after 11 years, it appears that the Flagstick Shootout will take its place as the top amateur tournament in the Ottawa Valley. And next year, the Flagstick Shootout looks to celebrate its fifth anniversary in style with arguably the most anticipated event in its short history.
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.