RCGA GM: New Pres; R&A's Dawson, St. George's in 2010 and New Strategic Direction

[photopress:Simmons_Flag.jpg,full,alignright]If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be invited to the RCGA’s dinner for their annual meeting, I’d have said you were crazier than John Daly on a day when he hasn’t had 20 Diet Cokes. But that’s exactly what happened last night, as I was invited to the dinner by Jim Kinnear, the CEO of Pengrowth who was being presented with an award for his service to the game.

It turned out to be an interesting affair, led by the announcement that new executive director Scott Simmons had launched his new “strategic direction” for the organization at the meetings, which took place over a couple of days. At the dinner no one explained what the plan was, so after the meal I spoke with Simmons about it. We didn’t go into a huge amount of detail, but one key element is lowering the RCGA’s number of governors to 12 in order to make the organization more nimble. Surprisingly the governors agreed to consider the matter. Beyond that, the RCGA is going to be restructured, which Simmons says doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of job cuts. Instead jobs will be repositioned.

Throughout it all Simmons came across as an approachable, smart director who is doing what he thinks is best. No guarantee that it will work, but it is a start. He said talking to me was part of the RCGA’s goal to provide “transparency,” and he said he would send along the new strategic direction plan soon, though he admitted it wasn’t finalized.

Among the other intriguing developments at the meeting:

  • Simmons said the plan for the Canadian Open still includes St. George’s for the 2010 tournament. Apparently all levels of government have cooperated in making it a reality, but there is still one drawback: the range. The proposal is to build a range on the Eglinton Flats, about 7-8 minutes away by car. “We have to see whether the players are willing to do that,” Simmons said, adding the question has been put to Mike Weir and Stephen Ames. You might recall that Ames raved about the course this summer when he played a CJGA event after the Canadian Open. The question is whether he loved it enough to spend some time in a van. “How good would St. George’s be for the Open?” Simmons asked, clearly enthusiastic about the idea. Expect Shaughnessy in 2011 and the new Terrebonne course in Montreal for 2012. And there are “plenty of options” for 2010 if St. George’s falls through.
  • The R&A’s Peter Dawson was at the event and gave an amusing little speech that was self-deprecating and touched on a number of issues, including the game’s distance issue with the golf ball. He read an extended quote about the matter, and I turned to one an associate at my table to point out the quote was nearly 100 years old, which was indeed the hook to Dawson’s point. After the dinner I was introduced to him and we began a conversation about the matter. “There’s lots of things you can do about [the distance issue],” he said. I was just getting into that with him when someone from the dinner interjected, probably asking about how Dawson might help them score a round at the Old Course. Our discussion never concluded. An hour or so later I ran into him at the RCGA’s hospitality suite, but he was leaving. “We never finished that conversation,” he said, as he left. Indeed, I said, but I suspect he wouldn’t have had much time for my thoughts on the matter. I’m not a big fan of growing tons of rough — I’d rather see golf watchers grow more comfortable with lower scores.
  • Andrew Cook is the RCGA’s new president. He’s a member of Toronto’s Markland Woods. He faces a tenure that follows Gary West’s time at the head of the organization, one that saw unprecedented change, including the removal of longtime executive director Stephen Ross. Let’s just say West will be a tough act to follow. As a thank-you for a job well done, it was announced that West would receive a round at Augusta National.

UPDATE: RCGA ED Scott Simmons wrote this morning to clarify what the organization’s plans are in regards to restructuring the board. He had this to say:

1) The Governors did agree unanimously that a change to our current Governance structure was necessary. They did NOT agree specifically to a new Board size of 12 as indicated in your blog. They didnt say no either. The point is that we didnt get to that level of detail.

2) Board size is only one element of effective Governance. Equally important, if not more, is having the right people with the right skills in order to help staff with critical business issues that require certain areas of functional expertise. Whether the Board ends up being 8, 12, or 16 people is really immaterial, as long as it runs effectively.

Of course the suggestion in Simmons’ remarks is the current board size is unwieldy and doesn’t allow for the organization to react quickly. I assume this, and other matters, will be finalized in coming months.

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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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  • Other top flight courses do not necessarily have a driving range right a the course – at Pebble Beach the driving range is about two minutes away by van. At St. Andrews the regular driving range is not at all adjacent to the first tee of the Old Course, but they may use part of the New or Jubilee courses for the range when they have the Open.

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