Last week I wrote a quick note about a press release I had received mentioning that Gary Player was to receive a lifetime achievement honor at the National Golf Course Owners’ Association meeting in BC. Strange, thought I, as Player hasn’t really done anything in Canada to warrant an honor. But I wasn’t attending — so what difference did it really make?
But I was wrong in my perspective on Player, says NGCOA executive director Jeff Calderwood. Calderwood rarely minces words — so here’s his response to me:
Hi Robert, returned from Vancouver conference last night, getting caught up today¦
I wish you had taken the time to do a little research before defaulting to that ever so easy negative journalism ploy. A simple email or phone call would have been the respectful thing to do, and provided your audience with some actual value, in my humble opinion.
So for next time, allow me to elaborate on what you missed¦
Our Golf Business Canada Conference & Trade Show was strategically positioned this year with an Olympic theme. Every year we apply a unique theme that connects back to the business side of golf, providing our delegates with a total experience rather than a normal conference. This approach is one of several reasons why our conference is the most successful of any golf business conference in the world, and there are dozens of them.
So we chose Vancouver for that reason, we picked dates right before the Olympics, we had a former Team Canada Olympic skier as our closing keynote, various other Olympic moments, and a more international scope that other years. Analogies such as the pursuit of excellence, importance of team work, setting high goals, discipline, stiff competition, going for gold, etc., were worked into our context throughout the 3 days as we connected the Olympic theme to business success in Canadian golf. Our opening ceremonies included the torch lighting the flame, and a look back at George Seymour Lyon, the reigning gold medalist from Olympic golf in 1904. And the announcement of golf in the Olympics for 2016 was obviously another relevant highlight.
And so we engaged Gary Player as our opening keynote speaker to support. As you know, hes one of very few within PGA Tour circles who is an effective enough communicator to carry a keynote speech. Normally, I wont accept anyone who isnt a professionally trained speaker, and even then I weed out any of them who are charging less than $12,000 per hour, no room for poor performances in a conference of this caliber. But Mr. Player is an exception communicator. And his stature as International Ambassador for Golf, including efforts to secure golf for 2016, and a whole career of helping to globalize the game outside of the USA and Britain, made him a perfect fit for us this year.
In terms of the Golf Business Canada Lifetime Achievement Award itself, it is not a competition. There are a number of deserving recipients, and they Ëœreceive the Award rather than Ëœwin it. And we arent putting them in any specific order, more a case of finding the most appropriate moment for any one of them to be honored for a career of leadership in golf. Therefore, absolutely nothing to do with what, Arnie and Jack were not available? They simply were not as relevant to this moment for our audience.
I should also note that the Award is not about designing courses in Canada, or winning the Canadian Open, etc,. Those kind of reference points are more suited to consumer or media awards, ie catering to golfers. The National Golf Course Owners Association Canada is focused on the trade side of the industry, substantial difference.
So, within that context, and assuming you do have an appreciation of all that Mr. Player has done to benefit golf around the world, can you suggest any more appropriate moment for the NGCOA Canada to honor him than during our annual conference, in front of hundreds of golf course operators from across Canada, in Vancouver, right before the Olympics, a few weeks after golf announced for 2016, and in conjunction with his opening keynote speech?
Jeff Calderwood, CEO
National Golf Course Owners Association Canada
So let me get this straight — there’s a link, however loose, between Gary Player and the Olympics, in that he lobbied for it. And the NGCOA meeting was in Vancouver, and there will be a winter Olympics there. And though Gary Player hasn’t done anything directly for golf in Canada (aside from picking Mike Weir for the Presidents Cup team, which is something I suppose), he is a fine speaker and fits that bill. And if you need someone to keep you interested after the rubber chicken dinner, Player will do a fine job. He can talk about golf and the world, how it is exploding in Asia and how he’ll design marginal golf courses there and inflict them on the world. He is a legend — there’s no doubting that, and I can attest to Player being an engaging speaker having interviewed him on a couple of occasions.
Interesting though, that an organization built on golf courses seems to think that awarding those who create them is “more suited to consumer or media awards.” Like Thomas McBroom or Doug Carrick haven’t changed golf in Canada over the last two decades. Tom loves to talk — he’d make a great speaker, and he’s contributed to golf in Canada. Or maybe someone like Mike Keiser — the man behind Bandon Dunes — could be brought up to explain how to create truly world-class golf and create a destination while thinking outside of the expected norms. Now I might have flown to BC to hear that.
As for golf around the world, there’s no doubting Mr. Player’s influence. But none of that was referenced when the initial news of Mr. Player’s award was announced to the media. Would it have hurt to have included “Mr. Player is receiving the accolade for his service to golf not just in Canada — but worldwide?” Would fewer people have turned up on the conference call?
Anyway, a tempest in a teapot. Golf course owners in this country surely have more to worry about than whether Gary Player can point to Calgary on a map or explain why his much-discussed BC real estate development went silent. I’m sure their problems were addressed in one of those keynotes as well, right after the Olympic skier and before the British Open winner….