My column in the National Post sports section today focuses on the news of the appointment of Scott Simmons as the RCGA’s new executive director.
To most, Simmons will appear to be an outsider. After all, he spent the last seven years in the beer industry. But if you look beyond that you’ll see someone who spent a number of years as the director of marketing and communications for the Royal Canadian Golf Association.
And for many, that’s where the trouble lies.
I spoke with several industry insiders yesterday, and most said Simmons was a nice guy. Well liked. Friendly even. These characteristics will be a decided change from Stephen Ross, who could be rough and abrasive and rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.
But Simmons spent much of his working career under Ross. I would have thought the RCGA would have gone to some trouble to distance itself from “The Troubles” under Ross. Apparently they did talk about it. RCGA President Garry West said some on the hiring committee raised concerns about whether Simmons was simply another Rossite, who would protect those at Golf House in Oakville and not embrace change that is much needed. But West said the committee eventually came to the conclusion that someone couldn’t be removed from the process just because they had ties to the RCGA. Garry is a thoughtful guy, so he’s probably right on this, but I still think the optics are poor.
Simmons did his best to clarify he wasn’t all that thrilled with the RCGA when he left in 2000.
“I wasn’t completely enamoured with the direction of the organization,” he said.
Beyond that Simmons will start on the job the week of the Canadian Open after taking some holiday time with his wife and daughters. The optics aren’t great on this either — but everyone deserves holidays and apparently Simmons was willing to dump his if need be.
Lastly, I must admit I expected a more interesting and impassioned pitch from the new ED on the conference call. What we received was a lot of talk about how the RCGA’s relationship with the PGA Tour is “great,” and how Simmons doesn’t “have a plan” to find a sponsor and save the Canadian Open.
While I can’t expect Simmons to know all the answers, I really wanted to hear something that instilled confidence. I wanted it to be made clear that anyone who took the job had to have a clear path to fixing the Canadian Open. Simmons might have that plan — but he didn’t suggest as much during the call.
Am I expecting too much? Maybe. Is this an unfair expectation? Probably.
But I also think there’s a lot riding on Simmons’ tenure. If he fails to nail down a sponsorship arrangement of some sort in the next year or two, there is going to be a concern the Canadian Open may not exist. And that’s not good for the golf industry in Canada or the game itself.
“I like to think the glass is more than half full,” Simmons said in reference to the RCGA.
Let’s hope he’s right. Here’s to hoping Simmons is the rainmaker the RCGA thinks he is.
One interesting remark was made during the call yesterday in regards to the relationship between the RCGA and the PGA Tour. Rick Desrochers, who has been acting as ED since March, said the relationship was much improved “over the last four months.”
What’s changed during that time?
Well four months ago would have been March — exactly when Stephen Ross was asked to step down from his position.