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Scott Simmons New ED at RCGA: Out with the Old, In with the Old?

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.

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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.

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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.

8 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I think you’re right, Robert. Even setting aside the optics (which I’m not sure the RCGA can afford to do right now), one could’ve expected the incoming executive director to have expected (and come prepared to answer fully and with confidence) questions about his overall vision for the RCGA and his plans for the Canadian Open. After all, didn’t those questions and answers come up in the interview for the job? If they didn’t, they should have.

    Peter

  • I thought he made it pretty clear that a main priority was to build bridges with other Canadian golf organizations.

    What do you expect during the course of a 30 minute press conference; to have him give a step by step plan to solve all the issues? It’s not that simple.

  • I am with you RT. Visibility and exposure is just as important as growing the sports at the grass root level.

    I wonder if the search commitee (if there’s one) was at the press conference and answered some questions of their decision.

  • I think it may take a few weeks to a couple of months to get a ‘clear vision’ of where the RCGA’s future path lies…but it should include consultation of the Provincial and Professional Organizations. At that point it should become clearer what direction, and what past problems Simmons needs to address…

    Robert, I know there is a passion on most people’s minds to fix things (first off is the sponsorship issue)…but if he stood up at and started to spell off a list, most journalists would jump on him right away for that…

    If he was there before and didn’t like the direction, now he has a chance to change that…and I for one would like to see where that is going to be.

  • Matt: You know I respect you and your role, but all I wanted was something other than, “I don’t have a plan,” or “I don’t have an answer to that — yet.” I know he presented the hiring committee with a plan involving the Open — so why not share a little of it, even if it is incomplete. It would have demonstrated how he thinks — and it would have cast aside a lot of fears many have.

    I’m one of the few golf writers that doesn’t know him — so I come to this with a clean slate while my compatriots in the press were pleased to call him “Scotty” during the media conference. It’ll be interesting to see whether they are so kind in a year if no sponsor has arrived on the scene.

  • I think you should acknowledge that you were wrong 2 years ago. Scott Simmons has added an edge to the RCGA that they have never seen before. Congratulations Scott!!!

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