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Follow on the RCGA, player development and Zokol

Reader GolfGrrl raised some interesting points in a comment on Kent Gilchrist’s recent story about Richard Zokol and the state of the RCGA’s player development program. This is especially interesting in light of yesterday’s news that Canadians Nick Taylor and Andrew Parr managed to qualify for the U.S. Open.

The Grrl had this to say:

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 Hills shoes a few years ago; now hes 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 isnt working but why and what he would be doing differently. Perhaps he and the RCGA have different ideas of what the programs goals should be, or perhaps the RCGA didnt want to change its ways. Without more info we may never know.

I’ll say this — I’ve spoken with Zokol since the blog appeared and also been on the receiving end of several emails from RCGA executive director Scott Simmons. Needless to say the pair don’t see eye-to-eye on this. I haven’t managed to catch up with Simmons by phone yet, but I’m hopeful that will be forthcoming.

Zokol’s take is that he felt the RCGA’s player development system is too focused on a small core of players. His point is that having only nine players in the national development and national team is simply too small a number — that more players need to be included and there needs to be a focus on players prior to heading to college.

“At that point they become part of the NCAA system,” Zokol says. He should know. After all, Zokol led his team to the NCAA championships.

Zokol contends the organization needs to focus more on emerging pros — a gap everyone seems to agree exists — and younger players. He also feels the RCGA is missing a key component — golfers with professional experience who understand the transition to the pro ranks. Right now both the coaches of the men’s team — Doug Roxburgh and Henry Brunton — have no professional playing experience. That does seem like an unusual oversight — and with a number of quality pros around Canada, from Zokol through to current players, it is odd that someone isn’t directly involved.

The long and the short of Zokol’s departure from the RCGA seems to stem from his outspoken nature and his inability to work within the political structure of the organization. Perhaps there’s a bit of a bull in a china shop mentality that led to the RCGA deciding he wasn’t the right fit for what they wanted to accomplish.

All of this comes back to the question of who is responsible for bringing forth Canada’s next top professional golfers. Should the RCGA simply train young amateurs and step back once they hit college and head south? What about those that don’t follow that route? How do we determine whether our golf development programs have been a success? Does success in the pros necessarily suggest the program is on the right track? Is the success of Nick Taylor or Matt Hill attributable to the RCGA or to their college and coaching experience?

I don’t have answers for many of these questions — and look forward to the perspective of my readers.

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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.

7 CommentsLeave a comment

  • “Zokol contends the organization needs to focus more on emerging pros — a gap everyone seems to agree exists — and younger players. He also feels the RCGA is missing a key component — golfers with professional experience who understand the transition to the pro ranks. Right now both the coaches of the men’s team — Doug Roxburgh and Henry Brunton — have no professional playing experience. That does seem like an unusual oversight — and with a number of quality pros around Canada, from Zokol through to current players, it is odd that someone isn’t directly involved.”

    That statement is the most accurate, succinct description of player development and the RCGA, as it exists today that I have ever seen. What we need is more individuals like Dick Zokol to speak out & tell it like it is.

    Our players deserve better.

    Cut all this PR spin and concentrate on what the players want to achieve…not what the RCGA thinks they should achieve.

    Canadian golf shouldn’t be content to just get to the “dance”. They have to adopt an attitude similar to a country like Australia, where the goal is 1)the dance, and 2) leaving with the Prom Queen.

  • Trouble is George, the CPGA only considers a pro a pro if he goes through their program, ie “school”. Marketing 101 etc.
    If someone wants to be “just” a Tour Pro they are SOL.

  • Thanks for quoting my response Robert, but I notice you left out the part where I said that based on its stated goals, the RCGA’s amateur program seems to be doing pretty well when you look at the records this season of current and past players like Hill, Taylor and Parr but also Maude Aime Leblanc, Graham DeLaet, Adam Hadwin.

    The RCGA can’t take all the credit as these players have college coahces, teams, hometown coaches and family support, but I think it definitely deserves some. And the other side of the coin is that the RCGA can’t shoulder all the blame when a team member doesn’t make it to the pros or live up to expectations.

    As I said, there is a definite gap in support once these players turn pro. To be honest, I’m not sure whose responsibility that shoudl be – the plyers? their managers / agents? The CPGA? The RCGA?

    But in the meantime I’d like to see the successes of players like Hill and Taylor celebrated in their own right. Think we are taking something away from these guys by not doing so.

  • Robert, once these players leave Canada for college in the US, then their respective successes are attributable to the college or University. If they remain in Canada under the tutelage of the RCGA, in a team or whatever, then the RCGA can claim they had a hand in their success.
    Securing pros who have Tour experience to lead these players under the RCGA umbrella, would be a good move.

  • The RCGA is doing a fine job and the CPGA should be able to take the players to the next step (if they are male).

    The players start with the CPGA at their clubs, advance to the RCGA protected list program, then from college the CPGA/Canadian Tour should take over for a year ot two.

    However I think the RCGA should add Sandra Post to their roster, she has the experience of winning as a professional.

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