Gretzky Nationwide Tour Event — "The Place Gave Me a Bad Vibe"

A few years ago I made the drive up to the Collingwood region for the inaugural Gretzky Celeb Nationwide Tour event. I interviewed Gretzky, spoke to one of the Nationwide Tour officials, and went home. Turns out most of my peers in the media did the same thing — only a couple actually went up for the tournament. I recall the Globe and Mail’s Jeff Brooke complaining about the lacklustre logistics — officials there didn’t actually know where to park the media, though there really wasn’t any there to start with. And this was an event that struggled with its image from the start — especially when it initially ignored the Canadian media and handed the initial announcement to the Golf Channel. Perhaps it isn’t surprising the media has largely ignored it since.

Since then the event has flown largely under the radar. Too bad — there are some great players there.

Anyway,I stumbled upon this column by Toronto Sun writer Steve Buffery. He’s hugely critical of the way he was treated at the tournament:

Covering golf tournaments always leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and from the moment I arrived at the Raven, the place gave me a bad vibe, or at least the people running the tournament.

After receiving my media pass, I was told that a media room was set up in the main clubhouse. But as I walked up the stairs toward the clubhouse, I was immediately surrounded by volunteers, those retired bank managers and insurance company executives who wear their official tournament shirts like they’re Victoria Cross medals.

One guy looked like he was going to spit when I told him I was only trying to get into the media room.

“It’s over there,” he said, waving toward a smaller building. No smiles, no hellos, nothing but a look of contempt.

Then, after entering the smaller building, I asked a lady sitting in a room with computers and papers if it was the media room. I was assured that it was, so I placed my computer bag on a table.

After conferring with young Mr. James, who couldn’t have been more co-operative, I went back into the room to drop something off and as I walked out again, some guy in yet another official tournament shirt yelled: “Excuse me, can I help you?”

It was not a friendly tone.

“No, I’m good thanks,” I replied, walking away.

“Excuse me, can I help you?” he repeated, as if I was some kind of moron.

“No, I’m good,” I repeated.

“No, I don’t think you are,” he said.

At that point, I figured something was amiss.

“Isn’t this the media room?” I asked.

“No it’s not,” the guy said.

“So I can’t set up my computer here?” I asked.

“No you can’t,” he said. The scorn was overwhelming.

You know, if there’s ever a revolution in this country, and the way the world economy is going I predict there will be, I hope the angry masses with their pitch forks and flaming torches overrun golf courses as a first order of business.

There are some comments following the article that are critical of Buffery, though CanTour pro Stuart Anderson weighs in talking about how even the players have issues with volunteers. I’ve experienced it both ways — overzealous volunteers who weild their power (what little they have) with an iron fist and those who are extremely helpful. I’d say there is more of the helpful sort — but I have seen one reporter with Score get taken to task by a volunteer for no apparent reason.

That said, this can’t be the sort of coverage the Gretzky event was hoping for.

Interestingly, one of the comments that is critical of Buffery comes from a PGA Tour rules official named Rich Pierson:

rich pierson Report CommentJuly 11th 2010, 5:44pm
I was forwarded your article……………its amazing how you view your day. since I witnessed your rudeness first hand and have witnesses to your story of what happened in the rules office I believe you are just a writer with a sense of entitlement. your version of the story is a lie because the conversaton you say took place did not. as far as the volunteers go, they are some of the finest people I have ever worked with in my 18 yrs with the tour. the only pain in the ass I see is you.

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Jeff Lancaster

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Interesting piece. I’ve never covered a golf tournament, but have plenty of experience with volunteers. Just like everything else a few bad apples seem to ruin the good work that the majority of volunteers do. Many of the volunteers also have no idea how the media functions, which is an issue that should be dealt with before events like this.

  • There are good and poor volunteers…likely mirrors the general population of nice warming people with @ssholes. I would say the same about writers / media….some warm and pleasant folks (like RT!) mixed with entitled @assholes who think the world should revolve around them. Reading Steve Buffery’s work above, I have a hypothesis on which camps he resides…

  • I have been a volunteer at all 3 Gretzky golf tournaments in the Collingwood area. I enjoy the experience and have one of the hardest jobs, a walking scorer, – spending the entire day walking the course with the golfers. The event seems to have gone downhill since the first year. The number of volunteers had gone down, and as a result the quality of the “customer service” to the golf event has gone down, from not having enough marshalls on the holes, to not having enough standard bearers. The look has also gone downhill. On the 18th green the first year there was the requisite grandstands you see at PGA tournaments. The last 2 years, spectators had to sit on the grass around the 18th hole. It is little things like this that has made it seem like a rinky-dink event now.
    As for the volunteers, you get all kinds, some are very chatty, which is not appreciated by the golfers. Some are grumpy. In the end, they are all just volunteering about 8 to 10 hours a day to help out at this event.
    I will do it again next year…if it comes back.

  • played the raven last year on a blue mountain ski pass special,nice course for $75. wouldn`t pay full rate, staff were rude right from the first hole.

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