A man with a plan

IAN HUTCHINSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

That was a large, collective sigh of relief that came out of the Royal Canadian Golf Association offices last week when RBC officially came on board as title sponsor of the Canadian Open for the next five years.

If there was any back-patting that went on behind the scenes, it is both understandable and appropriate, but the RCGA cannot afford to spend too much time congratulating itself.

Months ago, when the RCGA was looking to replace Stephen Ross, it was pointed out in this space that landing a title sponsor for the Open was just the beginning of a job well done by the new executive director. That person turned out to be Scott Simmons, who is in complete agreement.

"When I took over, there were two key mandates on my plate -- solve the sponsorship issue with the Canadian Open and write a strategic plan that will get us back on track," Simmons said. "First one done. Second one, great progress, about halfway there."

The strategic plan eventually may make the Canadian Open sponsorship seem like a picnic despite the dark clouds that hung over the future of the national championship in the past year or so. While the Canadian Open is the glittery part of the RCGA, Simmons admits that strategic planning is boring to most golfers.

However, the document now being worked on will chart the short-term future of the RCGA, which has been criticized for being irrelevant to most Canadian golfers and for trespassing on other associations and territories in trying to make things happen for those very same golfers.

When you're slammed for doing too much and doing too little, it becomes clear that it's difficult to keep everybody happy, but the RCGA has sought input from various sectors of the golf industry including pros, owners, the Canadian Tour, media, provincial associations and Canadian Golf Hall of Fame members.

It has been working with Managerial Design, an Oakville-based company, and will present a three-year plan at the RCGA's annual general meeting in mid-January.

One of the topics that will be dealt with in the plan is how to deal with funding the RCGA's various programs. Proceeds from the Canadian Open traditionally have gone to supporting those programs, but now will be reinvested back into the tournament. The same goes for the CN Canadian Women's Open.

That means the RCGA will have to use income from membership dues, investment income from the sale of Glen Abbey and other existing potential fundraisers, as well as find other new revenue streams for its programs.

That's just one aspect of what amounts to a redefinition of the RCGA, which Simmons says has stuck to its original mandate and bylaws over the years. He now says that both he and the board of governors are open to change through a document that also will take a long, hard look at the RCGA internally.

"In simple terms, my personal view is that, since 1895, the RCGA has been accountable to its members. I truly believe, philosophically, that we need to be accountable to the game as well, which means all golfers, growing the game," Simmons said.

"Now that we've been designated the national sport organization (for golf) by the federal government, we're no different than Hockey Canada if you want to use that analogy.

"It's our job to grow the game, which means that, while we still need to service the needs of our members, we need to service the needs of the game. That's going to be, I think, a core component of our strategic plan," said Simmons, adding that the plan is just the first step.

"I've been trying to manage expectations because once the plan is completed, that's all it is, a plan," he said. "That's when the work starts."

"It's not as if this plan's going to come out and solve all the world's problems. The simple way I describe it is the plan will tell us what we're doing that we should keep doing, what we're doing that we should stop doing, and what we're not doing that we should start doing."

Managing expectations may be the toughest challenge for Simmons because, unlike the Canadian Open sponsorship, there is no definitive conclusion on the horizon that will determine success or failure.

FRASER HONOURED

Simmons was in North Carolina on the weekend to speak at an International Association of Golf Administrators conference and one of his duties there was to present the RCGA's Jim Fraser with a distinguished service award from the organization.

Fraser is a former governor and a well-respected rules official who played key roles in the RCGA's slope system and developing the Future Links junior program.


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