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Canadianizing the Canadian Open

With Stephen Ross now out of the picture at the RCGA, whomever takes over as executive director will have to think long and hard about how they restructure the organization and what that means for the Canadian Open.

One school of thought that I’ve had lengthy conversations about recently is the notion of “Canadianizing” the tournament. I can’t take credit for this one, the concept comes from someone else. But it sounded like smart advice considering the event has struggled to draw the absolute top names (ie. Tiger and Phil) in recent years.

The concept would be to promote the event as a truly Canadian golf tournament and though it would remain part of the PGA Tour and still (hopefully) attract some of the top golfers, it would become part of a celebration of golf in this country. In other words, the marketing of the event would be more about the Canadian players — Weir, Ames, Baryla, Lepp, Scott, Rutledge, etc. — and less about the likes of David Toms and Mickelson (both of which have been the central focus in past marketing efforts for the tournament who then didn’t show up.)

I’ve also heard about a couple of intriguing possibilities. One involves[photopress:bell_logo_1.jpg,full,alignright] dropping the title sponsor altogether in an attempt to make the Open more like the British and the U.S. This would involve asking for more money out of the member clubs or raising it some other way. That would be a huge task, but one that could become the focus of the new executive director. And if that person had more goodwill with the market than Ross did, it could become an interesting opportunity to really make the tournament a national title again without being devalued (in the eyes of some) by a title sponsor.

The other discussion I’ve heard floated is to make the event a link between the U.S. and Canada, bringing on a number of Canadian companies that wish to improve relations with our neighbour to the south. This concept would involve using the event as a mini Davos, with the tournament as a part of a bigger Canada-U.S. summit. The notion is that several Canadian companies might be willing to buy into this notion who might not be willing to ante up for the golf tournament itself. An unusual concept, but one that might just work.

Regardless, the new executive director is going to have to wade through all of this and make a decision that is best for the tournament and for golf in this country — and that’s no small task.

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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.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I am not sure we have enough top Canadian golfers to pull off a ‘Canadianized’ open. Outside of Weir and Ames, I am not sure enough Canadians would really care (or have heard of) the others.

  • Interesting approach of “Canadianizing” the tournament. It brings the brand of Canada into play and one that could work with the right strategy and execution. It would also differentiate the tournament from others on the PGA tour…which could generate additional interest from the tour pros.

    Canadian golf has a long and storied history which combined with a new image that leverages a wealth of young talent in conjunction with established stars could be a formula for success. Of course, the RCGA needs to retrofit the other aspects of the Canadian golf scene to ensure a steady supply of good golfers in the years to come in order for this strategy to be effective…and this retrofiting needs to start now and in place and working for several years before beginning a new brand for the Canadian Open. A long term strategy with vision is required…not a stop gap marketing plan that sounds good for the moment.

  • While I and most Canadians would support more focus on Canadian content in the Canadian Open, the PGA Tour and the US networks would not. One of the major reasons Bell dropped out and another Title Sponsor has not been found is that the television coverage is all American and a Sponsor has to buy ad space on American T.V. Even the Canadian Networks who broadcast the Canadian Open have to pay CBS for the right to do so. The PGA Tour treats the Canadian Open like any of its other tournaments, which are all, save two, in the U.S. Until the Tour changes its attitude towards the Canadian Open and treats it a little differently than the rest, we will always have these challenges.

  • Great concept, but let’s not just stop there….Masters honor past champions and amateurs, and PGA Championship has a disporportional #s of club pros compared to other PGA events. Along the same line, perhaps the Canaidan Open can be an occasion to honor Canadian champions golfers in various levels – such as amateur, senior, junior, club pros, and other forms of nationally contested golf champions.

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