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Gilchrist on RCGA: "Player development program has been a failure."

In an interesting piece that reader Neo pointed out, Kent Gilchrist in Vancouver has posted an interesting story to Canada.com about the split between former PGA Tour pro Richard Zokol and the RCGA. In 2008, with some fanfare, the RCGA asked Zokol to come on as a consultant. Without as much as a mention, it didn’t renew the deal with Zokol this year.

According to Zokol, an independent thinker, the decision might have had something to do with stirring things up at the RCGA.

“I interviewed all the players and talked to a lot of other people,” said Zokol. “The staff was very leery of me because I’m going to tell it like it is.

“They wanted me to endorse what they were doing and I told Scott (executive director Simmons, whom Zokol says he has a `great relationship with’) that I cannot endorse it. It hasn’t been successful for 10 years. It isn’t going to work now. It should be blown up and they should start over. The bottom line is I think the RCGA is out of touch.”

Hmmm. Interestingly, Scott Simmons has had a pretty safe ride since coming on as executive director in 2007. That’s not surprising, he is smart and honest. But there are rumblings behind the scenes from industry insiders these days — about the decision to bring Peri Luel on to run commercial operations without joining the RCGA full-time, and slow revenue growth (up only $2.5 million last year, despite RBC joining as sponsor of the Canadian Open). The loss last year was $2.4 million, and the RCGA can’t sustain that for long (though if that’s a steep drop from a $5million loss the year previous). Even its professional tournaments — which includes the Canadian Open and the CN Womens Open — ran at a slight loss last year, likely due to poor weather at Glen Abbey. The entire RCGA financial statement for 2008 can be found here.

That’s not the focus of Gilchrist’s piece, which really jabs at the RCGA’s failure to find the next Mike Weir. Of course this story was written before the NCAA win of Matt Hill…

Gilchrist writes:

The overwhelming reason for the RCGA to listen to what he has to say, of course, is that their own player development program has been a failure. A decade after the program was instituted, the only honest to goodness Canadian on the PGA Tour is Mike Weir. Stephen Ames lives in Calgary and has taken Canadian citizenship, but he learned to play in Trinidad & Tobago. None of the RCGA national team members of the past have advanced past the Nationwide or Canadian Tours. David Hearn and Jon Mills have been up for a year and so has 49- year-old Jim Rutledge, but the Victoria native predated RCGA help.

What is the RCGA saying? It needs more time according to Doug Roxburgh.

RCGA director of high performance Doug Roxburgh thinks the program needs more time to work.

“We’ll just have to wait and see. There are a lot of good players in the pipeline,” he said. “There’s not much else we can say. We’ve had a lot of discussions with Dick. He knows where we stand. Dick and the RCGA have agreed to disagree.”

Now Doug is a great player, but maybe time isn’t what the program needs now. Of course with the success of Nick Taylor and Hill, it’ll surely give some at the RCGA some time, for better or worse.

Gilchrist’s whole story is here.

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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.

15 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Why does the RCGA have to produce PGA Tour players?
    I still fail to see why that would fall within their mandate.

  • Ian.

    The vast majority of the players who participate in the RCGA’s development program would love to make it to the PGA Tour. They’re not putting in the hours to become just good amateurs, or accountants for that matter.

    Having a development program that does not realize that…and meet it head on (as other nations do) is pointless imho.

  • As a past program participant, I must agree with Mr. Zokol’s perspective on the situation.

    Bottom line is that this program & the decisions made in & around it are largely political, which unfortunately falls in line with too many other decisions made by the RCGA.

    A small example I would site in 2009. Your 2008 Canadian Amateur Champion (in the 1st yr. it was a true test as 72 holes of stroke play I might add, + finished 2nd in the Ontario Am) is left off the National Team ??? I would love to hear the rationale behind that !

    The program participants stay involved for the financial benefits it provides them & not much else.

  • This is hilarious. Matt Hill wins NCAA, Nick Taylor is top 10. Both are ranked Top 10 amateurs in the world…and people label the program as a failure. Too funny.

  • It sounds like they hired Richard to do exactly what he did. I can’t imagine them dumping him for that – shoot the messenger. I wonder if Richard thought this was a multi-year relationship or that they brought him on board for a fact finding mission. In the end, they may take his advice, but have other ideas of who should lead the change.

  • With regard to Ian’s observations does anyone know what the particulars of the RCGA’s Player Development Program are? Do they actually have objectives and goals actually written down in some document? Is there a 5-10 year plan with expected results? Anyone?

  • Thanks for addressing the Peri Luel issue. I have no idea how they can hire a guy part-time from another sports agency and expect good work and expect him to be non-bias. That is a joke.
    Robert, any idea if they are addressing this?

  • Ian, I donlt believe the program is meant to produce PGA Tour players. The aim is to be a top 3 amateur golf nation. As NSO for golf in Canada I think that would fall within the RCGA mandate.

    Greg M – rcga.org might be a good place to start…

  • Matt…you’re pretty funny yourself, and wayyy out of touch. No doubt one of the minions at RCGA headquarters who is feeling the heat of Zokol’s statements. Correct? They’re your employer aren’t they?

    There is just so much BS in golf it is unbelievable, and the RCGA’s development program is at the top of the heap. Next Matt Hill will be trotted out repeatedly for the obligatory RCGA friendly statements. It will only show one thing…he’s learning to play the game outside of the game. Just like those before…tow the line or forget about any Canadian Open exemption, amateur team involvement, etc.,etc. Time for wholesale changes.

    Dick is spot on.

  • Eh Neo, go easy on the personal insults…

    I’m simply pointing out the irony of having a young man who is part of the RCGA player development program win the NCAA at the same time people are labelling the program a failure. Irony often has a humourous element to it.

  • Some interesting questions and if we can put gratuitous RCGA bashing aside, the potential for some intelligent debate.

    I find it interesting that so many are quick to dismiss any role the RCGA might have played when a player like Matt Hill or Nick Taylor achieves significant success, yet they same people seem to place the entire blame on the RCGA when players don’t meet expectations. In reality I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

    So what is the goal of the national team program? According to the RCGA’s website, it’s to be “one of the top three amateur golfing nations in the world”. Sounds reasonable enough. And with a few clicks I was easily able to find the selection process and criteria mapped out so it seems pretty transparent. How does politics fit in the mix?

    So if that’s the program’s goal is it reasonable to judge its successor failure based on Canadian PGA Tour players? Seems unlikely, at least as a short or mid-term goal. The percentage of top-ranked golfers who make it to the tour, let alone have some success there, is minute. Plus the average age of a player joining the tour is 31. Most of the amateurs and young pros who went through the RCGA program are in their 20s. So maybe its too early to judge.

    Or do we judge based on other criteria? This week two team members (Hill and Taylor) are ranked the top 2 amateur golfers in the US and #s 4 and 5 in the world. I’d say that’s a clear win for the RCGA program. Other members, past and present, have had success this year: Graham DeLaet was widely praised for his run on the Sunshine Tour earlier this year. Several Candians did well in the college ranks including Adam Hadwin and Maude Aimee Leblanc. As the article notes several of the younger Canucks on the Nationwide Tour went through the program. Isn’t making it to the Nationwide Tour success enough? A look at the Canadian Tour leaderboard this afternooon shows former team members Richard Scott and Ryan Yip in contention for the title. In the big scheme of things I’d have to say many players are doing well and surely the RCGA deserves some of the credit.

    The biggest bone of contention – and I suspect this is where Zokol had issues – is what happens after these kids turn pro? James Lepp was in Matt Hill’s shoes a few years ago; now he’s selling shoes. Is it the fault of the RCGA for not providing enough support after he left the program? The fault of agents and managers who promised the moon and pushed for too much too soon?Or did he simply not have the chops to make it?

    It would be interesting to hear more from Zokol – not just that he thinks the program isn’t working but why and what he would be doing differently. Perhaps he and the RCGA have different ideas of what the program’s goals should be, or perhaps the RCGA didn’t want to change its ways. Without more info we may never know.

    These are the bigger questions that should be asked, especially if we are going to judge success based on pro tour performance. I don’t think there can be any doubt the program is helping improve the overall calibre of Canada’s top competitive amateurs. But is that enough? I think that should be the question.

  • I am with Ian on this one. The RCGA should worry more about the state of golf in this country and a lot less about putting a few players into the pro ranks.

  • i think it is sad to hear that the program has not been a success. the RCGA is doing their part, and they are trying to make great young players turn in to top class Tour professionals.

  • Every Canadian parent who wishes their child to be the next Tiger Woods, should have Doug Roxborough as their coach and mentor.

    I was a Nationally ranked junior Tennis player in Canada, and have some expertise in assessing junior development programs.

    The RCGA needs to promote the Sport of Golf in Canada and help kids grow up into fine mature adults with a University degree.

    Every Canadian kid that makes it to University through the RCGA’s assistance should thank their lucky stars that Doug R. and his extremely positive approach and dedication to junior golf in some fashion helped them along the way.

    If you want to measure success, as the kids.

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