I was saddened to hear today that OG magazine, which has run under several names, but most notably Ontario Golf News, will not be continuing after its fall edition, which should be hitting clubs this week. The issue is a good one — the Top 100 courses in Ontario issue, which always generates a lot of discussion. I’ll talk about that tomorrow.
I’ve been affiliated with the magazine for more than a decade, and have been a regular contributor and columnist for the last five or six years. Interestingly, I took over as the magazine’s “insider” columnist when caddie Steve Duplantis became too unreliable. A year or two later, Duplantis was killed in an accident in a town near the San Diego tour stop.
Not only is the magazine ending, but Ted McIntyre, the publication’s long standing editor, is out of a job, having accepted a package to depart Sun Media, which took over ownership a few years ago. In many ways Ted is responsible for taking a shot on me as a golf writer, first when he was an editor at ScoreGolf, and later at OG. I wrote some of my first large magazine features for Ted — including pieces on ClubLink (which I’d revisit a number of years later), as well as the interview with Ron Joyce that would lead me to write the autobiography of the Tim Hortons’ co-founder. OG was the first course ratings panel I sat on when frankly I didn’t know enough about design or hadn’t seen enough courses to actually warrant it. Ted liked to take chances.
Ted was always generous and every year we’d get together to mull over stories for the coming season. It became a regular stop on my schedule and something I looked forward to. He was always full of ideas, even though many of them didn’t amount to much more than discussion. When the industry was pushing pablum, Ted liked meaty stories. I first got sued for libel for a story I wrote for Ted (which I consider a badge of honor since we’d done nothing wrong), and interviewed the likes of Terry Matthews, Alex Lifeson, and many others for the magazine over the years. It was a fun place to write and Ted gave me the space to do it. We also created the “most influential” list when Ted ran the National Post’s golf magazine, something I’d love to revisit. He took chances in assigning stories and I’d like to think they paid off. He is also an excellent editor, and his perspective and tweaks always made my writing better.
This isn’t, of course, an obituary for Ted. He’ll find a place to work, though increasingly one has to wonder whether it will be the golf business. If you haven’t noticed, there are fewer and fewer golf writers in mainstream media. The other day I played a round of golf with a public golfer. He said, ‘There aren’t many of you doing this on a national level, are there? You, Lorne Rubenstein and Bob Weeks….” He trailed off there. He wasn’t exactly correct — Jason Logan at Score has a lot of influence and insights, as do a handful of others — but his point was clear: golf writing and golf writers are becoming less commonplace the mainstream media. The largest paper in the country — the Toronto Star — doesn’t have a golf writer, and Lorne Rubenstein at the Globe writes more online these days than he does in newsprint.
Yes, there are still a handful of regional publications hanging on, but I think they are doing just that — hanging on for dear life, hoping advertising will rebound. There’s also Golf Canada’s attempt to do something with The Globe and Mail (and its print magazine), which has apparently garnered some traction, and there’s ScoreGolf, which continues to provide solid golf journalism online, in print and in television. Beyond that there isn’t much.
What does this say about the health of the game? It always strikes me that one can sense the fitness of a sport based on the media coverage it generates. In the U.S. golf is on the wane; T&L Golf, one of the publications I contributed to was a victim of that. Most have survived, though amalgamated with other publications and links to other news organizations. Maybe that is the way forward in Canada as well, though OG was a part of media giant Quebecor, and look what that did for it. Certainly OG didn’t have much of an online strategy — and that was something that likely hurt it in the long run.
Dave Mills, head of the GAO, who had a hand in the magazine’s content, suggested in an email that there might be a chance to resurrect the publication: “At this stage we haven’t figured out our plans…hope to do so over the next month or so.” I hope it works out, but I wouldn’t say I’m optimistic.
In the end, I’m sad to see a quality publication, something I took pride in contributing to, has disappeared. I’m sure Ted will land on his feet, but this is another blow to golf in this country. The business is poorer for it.