Since a copy editor at the National Post cut the bottom four paragraphs of my Thursday column on new RCGA exec-director Scott Simmons off, I thought I’d reprint it entirely here:
In aiming for a brighter future, the Royal Canadian Golf Association dipped into its past yesterday in naming the man it hopes will restore the beleaguered organization to former glories.
At a press conference at its Oakville, Ont. headquarters yesterday, the RCGA, the governing body of golf in Canada, announced Scott Simmons as its new executive director. The position has been vacant since the firing of long-time executive director Stephen Ross in March. Simmons had previously served as the organizations director of marketing and communications for eight years before taking a job in marketing in the beer industry in 2000,
Speaking like someone from the business world, as opposed to the golf industry, Simmons didnt directly answer many questions beyond talking about the RCGAs brand and the need to have it focused and reenergized.
But as RCGA President Garry West noted, the organization faces some brutal facts. Simmons will face the most pressing of those issues during his first day on the job “ July 23 “ which coincides with the start of the Canadian Open.
The event has been without a title sponsor since Bell Canada asked to be let out of its contact last year. The inability of Ross, who was executive director of the organization from 1988 until earlier this year, to deliver a sponsor to replace Bell was widely believed to have resulted in his dismissal.
Without a title sponsor in place, the Canadian Open leaves the RCGA with annual financial shortfall of around $3.5-million. The tournament has had solid fields in past years, but has rarely been attended by superstars like Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods or Sergio Garcia. It is further limited by a new U.S. television deal with $2-million in additional costs and a tournament date following the British Open.
It was expected the new individual in charge of the RCGA would have deep connections within Canadas corporate community, allowing the person to tap into these contacts to find a sponsor. Simmons, 45, spent the last seven years working for The Beer Store and Lakeport Brewing. He said hell tap into both his contacts and those of the RCGA in delivering a sponsorship deal.
Ive developed quite a network [of contacts] over the past 23 years, he said.
While Simmons had few answers to the tough questions asked of him yesterday, he said the organization needs to consider its direction, as well as the future of the Canadian Open.
I dont have a plan today, he said, adding, as much as the RCGAs brand needs to be clarified, so does the brand of the Open.
While Simmons may not have a complete program in place to fix the Opens ailments, West said the new hire came to his second interview with a compelling presentation that demonstrated his knowledge of the issues facing the event. West added Simmons outgoing personality and team-based approach to business will be a significant benefit to him in trying to close a deal for the Canadian Open.
We felt Scott really brings a great mix of golf and business to the role, West said. The title will allow him to open pretty much any door in corporate Canada, and his personality will allow him to make his mark.
Despite Wests positive remarks, the hiring of Simmons left some in the industry shaking their heads. Many had expected the RCGA would look to someone who had no affiliation with the organization and who could bring a fresh vision to the organization, which is the governing body of golf in Canada.
Im stunned theyd hire someone with this background and ties to the RCGA, said one golf industry source who asked not to be named. Scott is a nice guy, but one has to wonder if the connections he made during his time [at the RCGA] will keep him from making tough decisions.
The RCGA currently has around 70 full-time employees who are responsible for everything from the operations of the Canadian Open to the running of amateur and developmental golf events. The organization had $30.6-million in expenses last year and lost $781,687. It expects to lose a similar amount this year.
West said many pundits are focusing their attention on a single sponsor for the Canadian Open. And while theres a great deal riding on Simmons to be a rainmaker and secure a deal, West said other solutions are also possible.
Yes, theres a lot of pressure on Scott to deliver the goods, West said. But delivering the goods doesnt necessarily mean having a single Canadian Open sponsor. There are other options.