Ross exits from the RCGA

In a very strange move, the RCGA decided to hold a conference call this afternoon with president Garry West and now outgoing executive director Stephen Ross. Ross, as everyone now knows, was asked to turn in his blue blazer earlier in the day after working for the RCGA for 30 years, the last 18 of which he was the man in charge.

Of course, things at the RCGA haven’t been going well lately, especially since Bell Canada pulled its title sponsorship of the event last year. Unable to find another sponsor, Ross was under a great deal of pressure from many sources, especially after IMG was brought in to assist in locating a company willing to ante up between $4 and $6 million annually.

It is very unusual to have a conference call with the man who was let go, apparently standing next to West, who was one of the members of the executive committee who led the charge to remove Ross from his longterm position. Many in the golf industry through West might be a change vehicle, but I don’t think anyone expected this, especially within a month of assuming the president’s position.

On a conference call that appeared to only include a handful of journalists, Ross and West were asked some tough questions about the move. Ross, who was clearly still emotional from the whole affair, handled himself well given the situation. That said, I could have used less of the Canadian media offering their condolences to Ross like he was a dead man on the conference call, especially since many of them were exceptionally critical of him during his time as executive director. I’m sure he got a package that eclipses the annual salaries of all the journalists on the call combined. That said, just because people disagreed with Ross professionally doesn’t mean they disliked him personally, though I don’t think that was always the case with Ross himself.

Among the interesting things Ross said was that he was indeed fired:

I think I was in mid air and I got pushed — it was not a resignation. I don’t want to be seen as quitting.

He added that the job had “become a burden,” and that his health was suffering from the pressure.

He noted that his legacy will likely be mixed:

Has Steve Ross overly protected the game or not protected it enough? I don’t know…. the scope and complexity of the organization has been a real challenge.

However, he also added that despite the organization’s business issues:

The future is bright for the RCGA — our position in golf globally is very highly respected and I’m most proud of that.

It might be globally respected, but it couldn’t find a way to go forward with its biggest asset — the Canadian Open.

But Ross went down swinging to the end:

“My head is held pretty high. I think if you look at the last 16 years, you’ll see some dramatic growth.”

If you want to learn more about Ross and the turmoil surrounding his recent tenure, I’d suggest you check out my feature on the RCGA from last year. It can be found here.

West, who said the discussions to remove Ross started earlier this week, noted the skill set for the person assuming Ross’ role included: terrific communications skills, vibrant, passion for golf, not necessarily Canadian, “may not be quite in the C-suite.”

Yesterday the Toronto Golf Show was a buzz about the RCGA’s palace coup. Interestingly, several names came up regularly of people who might be a fit for the job. I suspect the person who ends up in the role might not even know they want the job yet.

Lorne Rubenstein has a fairly straight forward take on Ross’ resignation that can be found here. The Star’s Dave Perkins writes about the same subject here.

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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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