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Golf Canada's controversial hiring decision raises questions from PGA members

Golf CanadaYesterday Golf Canada announced it was hiring Tristan Mullally of Ireland to as the coach of its women’s national team, a position vacated when Derek Ingram left to take over the same role for the men’s team.

It didn’t take long for me to get emails from PGA of Canada members questioning the decision not to hire a Canadian for the job:

When golfcanada selects a non-Canadian coach for their womans team, what message does that send to the CPGA and other Canadian coaches?

This emailer, a noted instructor, felt while Mullally is a good coach, there surely had to be someone in Canada who measured up.

It is an interesting decision. Would Canadian golf organizations, for example, hire a foreigner as the coach for the golfers Canada sends to the Olympics in a few year’s time? And at a point when both Golf Canada and the PGA of Canada are promoting a coaching agenda, what does this say to members who have gone through the program or are currently going through it?

Jeff Thompson, who heads up the national team program for Golf Canada, said over 100 applicants applied for the position and that the organization did consider the optics of hiring someone from outside of Canada:

Our number one criteria was to find the right candidate that had the skill sets and experience that we were looking for in this role, full stop.  We have PGA of Canada members that have strong qualities, and if they applied, they received full consideration.  At the end of the day we felt for this program, with the girls that are on the Team and the ones that we see coming up the pipeline Tristan was going to be the best candidate to move them forward.  As a nation trying to move our players performance forward we can’t be afraid to look globally.  High performance sport is a business and not unlike any business, ultimately you are looking to build your “team” (in this case our coaching staff) with the right mixture of skill sets and experiences to elevate performance.  We certainly saw this as an opportunity to do this and feel very good about the staff we have in place and look forward to the strong performances moving forward.

 

The PGA of Canada also publicly supported the decision. PGA president Glenn Cundari, a golf teacher himself, had this to say:

“There were many very strong candidates from Canada. It just happened to be that the skill sets deemed to be critical for this program at this time were best served through a candidate from outside the Canadian system,” Cundari says. ”It is our intention to utilize the experience and expertise that Tristan has to assist in helping to mentor and further develop our Canadian coaches,” further saying, “this is a good news story for all of us that Golf Canada was committed to finding the best coaches to elevate the performance of its national team athletes.”

Of course I think this is sort of a tempest in a teapot on one hand and a mistake on another. I don’t actually think the “coach” of either of the Canadian national teams does much instruction or coaching in the way most golfers would define the term. Most — if not all — of the players on both the men’s and women’s teams already have coaches or instructors they work with prior to joining the team. To many, the role of “national coach” appears more administrative — someone who works through logistics and makes the trips to tournaments. Similarly, most coaches of American college golf teams do little to no instruction with the team members.

On the other hand, given all of that, it is easy to see why Canadian golf teachers and professionals would see this as a slight.

While it is possible Mullally is the best candidate, I wonder if was the correct decision politically. With Canadian golf often divided in to various camps, this seems like a move destined to further divide and in turn make some pros more distrustful of Golf Canada than they already are.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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