Golf In Canada Outlook Looks Good
by Scott A. Sumner
I sat down with Scott Simmons, CEO of Golf Canada at the Glen Abbey Golf course during the RBC Canadian Open and asked him some questions about the state of golf in Canada.
The RBC Canadian Open has come back to Glen Abbey in 2013?
This is the 26th time at Glen Abbey and the 104th Canadian Open. I grew up 45 minutes from here and have a personal fondness for this golf course. I watched Jack Nicklaus as a kid and think he did a great job designing this golf course. It is a very fair course for the average golfer but can be turned in to a monster for the PGA Tour players. I am not a fan of even par winning an event but like seeing low scores.
We have had so many great moments here such as Trevino winning the first open in 1977, Greg Norman in 84, Curtis Strange, Nick Price and Tiger in 2000. In 1983 the play between Johnny Miller and John Cook was amazing. I believe it is the best spectator course in the world. The course opened in 1975 and the first Canadian Open was held in 1977.
It has been easier to get a good field at the RBC Canadian Open as you help with the transportation?
We chartered a jet from Muirfield, the Open site this year. It is easy for the players with 100 first class sets turn key leaving from a private airfield with no customs or security. They left at 9 pm and got here at 10:20pm Toronto time with a 5-hour time change. They then got driven to their hotels and tucked in. It is pretty easy for the guys to get here and compete. The attendance has been good. The gates are very busy. You can’t control weather and leader board but both have been great this year. The crowds here at 7am were huge. As Canadians we need to embrace this event. It is the third oldest event in the world and is the biggest week in Canadian golf.
Golf participation had been good in Canada even though falling in some other countries?
We are blessed in Canada with hockey and golf and have the highest participation rates in the world, 1 in 5 people or 20 %. We have the highest per capita of golfers in the world with 5. 7 million and some 2000 18 hole golf courses. The popularity is huge. We do need to do a job to get our kids still playing the game. They have so many choices for their time. The sport of golf is great for the kids character and physical fitness. I have four kids and if they are out being active I don’t care. I prefer them to play golf though of course. We have many good public courses that are inexpensive. 90% of the courses in Canada are public. The green fees can be as low as $20.
The mandate of Golf Canada has expanded recently?
At Golf Canada we are proud of our National Sport designation. Our traditional mandate of handicaps and course regulations are still there but now we are starting our national team program and programs like Future Links in the schools. We are also going to start investing in our young professionals to create heroes. You have to take a long-term outlook, say 20 years from now. We are into over 2000 schools now but need to get that to over 10,000. We need to support our young pros and to help them get there faster.
We are negotiating with sites for 15, 16 and 17 of the RBC Canadian Open. We like to make some funds at this event to help fund amateur activities but it also a great stage to promote golf in Canada, the Golf Canada platform and important to our culture and the pride it creates for Canada. RBC has been a great partner and helps us in ways we couldn’t do on our own.
Scott Simmons is a member of the Brantford Golf and Country Club. He has played this course once this year and 4 times last year. Scott usually plays 15 times a year, mostly in the fall.