G4G: Golf Industry Year In Review

I’ve officially taken five days off the blog — the longest I’ve been away in nearly four years. But given the New Year has been sneaking up on me, it seems time to do a year in review, both of G4G, golf blogs, and golf stories in general.

We’ll start with a general look back at the stories that generated the most amount of attention, including blogs on Canada’s Sean Foley, Jon Mills, the RCGA and men-only lounges.


One thing G4G doesn’t back away from is trying to dig through the rhetoric and offer a clear perspective on hot issues. This year was no different. Take, for instance, the much debated Marine Drive/men-only lounge issue, which garnered more than 50 comments over two posts. Frankly after having a draft beer with Richard Zokol in the Bull Pen, I didn’t quite understand what all the fuss was about. I’ve played at men-only clubs and don’t really have an issue with it, and since the women at Marine Drive had their own facility, as well as a fine mixed gender area, the Bull Pen controversy seemed like misplaced feminism.

Not everyone agreed, and the issue was hotly contested among readers of G4G, including this priceless response from Funny:

Robert was actually imagining a Bull Pen with Pamela Anderson posters. When he didnt find any, then what was all the hysteria about? The conclusion was then quite simple. There is no Pamela Anderson posters here. What are does women complaining about. Why are they being hysterical?

A journalist that digs deeper? From a golf journalist? From a male golf journalist, chugging beer in the Bull Pen? Now that is really really funny.

Oshawa’s Finest

[photopress:mills.jpg,full,alignleft]Sometimes I didn’t expect the response some posts generated. A blog on an interview I had with Jon Mills, the Oshawa, Ont. native who will take another kick at the PGA Tour this year, wasn’t one I anticipated would stir up much notice. Except readers took great delight in debating Mills’ comment that it wasn’t that big a jump from the Nationwide Tour to the PGA Tour. To this day I recognize what Mills is saying — that it is only a couple of strokes a week that separates the best of the Nationwide from those on the PGA Tour — but others found the comment to be arrogant, like regularly contributor Weekend Enthusiast:

Look closely before you leap¦it is bigger than he thinks. I know he has one year of PGA experience under his belt but he has not been successful at it. He should be making these statements after he is successful not before it. Otherwise, it shows a level of arrogance. Tiger Woods gets away with it, few others can¦

Reader “KC” saw it differently:

For Jon Mills’ sake, he have to psyche himself into thinking that his game is good enough to compete on the PGA Tour.

He is having the right mind set going in the next step of his career.

Talkative Swing Coaches

Of course there was also my contrarion side showing through in a [photopress:foley.jpg,full,alignright]post entitled “Sean Foley: Canada’s Top Swing Doctor or Pretentious Wanker?”Now I knew that would generate some attention, and I still contend that Foley came across as a bit over-the-top in an interview he did with Lorne Rubenstein following Stephen Ames’ win in the fall on the PGA Tour.

Brent pointed out that maybe “wanker” was a touch harsh:

The dictionary defines wanker as follows:
1. a contemptible person; jerk.
2. a male masturbator.

I am not sure of your word choice, but Sean has justification to be upset. I read Lornes article, and the word wanker did not seem to come to mind. Obviously, you have some sort of bias or agenda, here. I am sure you would be upset if somebody referred to you as a wanker, for no apparent reason.

Mark Foley also took issue:

Mr. Thompson,

You say you have not read Chomsky for quite some time and have no plan to. Maybe you should think of broadening your reading material.

I think it is commendable that someone looks to broaden their knowledge and is not only able to speak about their own line of work.

Considering how many sports people or people who can influence young minds can often barely string a coherent sentence together I am glad to see that Sean, who works with young golfers, could share more than his knowledge of golf.

Foley eventually wrote me directlyto sorta defend himself, and make it clear that the discussion on literary matters was led by Rubenstein. I’ll say this: Foley’s work with junior Canadian golfers is commendable and everyone I know who has dealt with him finds him to be affable and a great self-promoter. But most of the best golf instructors are also terrific self-promoters, so you can’t hold that against him. The devil is in the details with this one — if Ames wins more or if Foley garners more PGA Tour students who also have success, then his reputation will rise with them. Until then I think he should be careful about making these sort of comments about teaching Tiger Woods:

I think I could inspire him to do amazing things, given his money and intellect, Foley said. I dont see why I should paint a small picture for myself. I believe it will happen.

Royal Canadian Golf Association

Finally, 2007 was an interesting year for all things RCGA, from the departure of executive director Stephen Ross in March, to the appointment of former RCGA marketing director Scott Simmons to the role in June, and finally the announcement of a new Canadian Open sponsor in the fall.

Life had been tough on Ross for more than a year before he was finally fired by the RCGA’s board in a coup led by current president Garry West. On the way out, Ross had this to say:

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

That led to the announcement a few months later that Steve Simmons would take over Ross’ role. It had been a much-discussed position, with everyone from former Magna ED Dave Kaufman to current IMG managing director Brad Pelletier taking a look at the job. It went to Simmons, a man who had previously worked for the RCGA before heading into marketing in the brewing industry.

My blog on Simmons appointment — “Out with the old, in with the old,” had this to say:

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 couldnt be removed from the process just because they had ties to the RCGA. Garry is a thoughtful guy, so hes probably right on this, but I still think the optics are poor.

Reader Bundy 316 had this to say:

Robert, I know there is a passion on most peoples 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 didnt 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.

[photopress:simmons_1.jpg,full,alignleft]I’ll add this — I had breakfast with Simmons a few weeks ago, and I believe him when he says big changes are coming at the RCGA. Given his remarks, I’d expect to see the system of governance revised, and the entire RCGA restructured. He’s working hard to make changes, but change takes time and I should have given him the benefit of the doubt when he started. The only problem is the RCGA’s track record on management doesn’t make one optimistic….

Finally, the Canadian Open— I mean the RBC Canadian Open — was saved when Royal Bank stepped inand paid a bunch of cash to keep the tournament afloat until 2012. As RBC marketing director Jim Little confirmed when the announcement was made, change is in the wind:

Make no mistake, we will be an active partner of the RBC Canadian Open, he said. We will be an active partner of its strategic plan and an active steward to make sure theres accountability for results.

Tomorrow: More G4G Year in Review — Courses and Critics

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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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