Inside Golf House
Lift off from England
Dave Lafleur updates us from The Open Championship, where he is coordinating the charter flight for players to the RBC Canadian Open.
Dave Lafleur - Golf Canada's Chief Financial Officer
Published on Sunday, Jul. 22, 2012 03:40PM EDT Last updated on Sunday, Jul. 22, 2012 03:43PM EDT
Here I am, sitting in front of the Royal Lytham St. Anne’s Golf Club looking at the clear blue skies for the third day in a row -a rare occurrence here.
I have been here since last Friday, and my role is to co-ordinate the transportation of the players to catch the charter flight back to Hamilton to play in the RBC Canadian Open. Players are really looking forward to playing Hamilton Golf & Country Club. We have been doing this for six years now, to help entice players to come back to Canada. Flying on our plane we leave Sunday night in Britain, and arrive home in Canada Sunday night – so the players gain a day in their life.
We have many top players on the plane with us – Furyk, Daly, Kuchar, Singh, Goosen, Mahan, Schwartzel, Snedeker and Ames to name a few – 27 players in total. Els was schedlued to fly with us, but after winning the Claret Jug, decided to spend some time with his family before making the trip to Canada.
While what I have to do here seems simple enough, the challenges are different each year – mostly because of the facilities or sizes of the towns. Again this year, the biggest challenge is that I can’t get a bus close to the clubhouse – so I have to have players walk a bit through the crowds to get to our buses.
I come over early and use those pre-tournament days to meet with R&A staff, security, bussing companies and player transportation to work out the best logistical plan – it’s impossible to get done in advance because as you set up for a tournament, things seems to change on site daily, and I am more of an afterthought for them, not being part of their tournament. They do provide me with a small trailer or room to use as an office for the week, so players know where to find me, but for the most part, the best place to talk to the players is on the range.
A few players start to arrive on the Sunday prior, but most arrive on Monday. My goal is always to touch base with each player that has indicated they are coming to Canada by the end of day Wednesday. I spend most of my day standing around the driving range, watching players hit balls, waiting for the guys I need to speak to. Each year it gets easier for me as players recognize me and find me before I see them. For those I don’t know, I need to go through a full introduction, and for others it’s just a quick hello and a handshake.
By Friday, I need to send a manifest to Canada customs which has all the passport information from the players. Sometimes getting all the information I need becomes more difficult than it should be. And player’s plans change regularly – whether it’s an injury, or missing the cut here and deciding to go see their family before heading to Canada (just as Els did).
On Sunday, we are required by customs to collect as much luggage as possible and send to the airport early for pre-screening. This worked out well for me because it gave me a chance to see each player to get them boarding passes and make sure they have the right instructions to get to the airport. We start shuttling people around 5:00 so that we are out of here when play ends – there are so many spectators, we need to avoid the mass exodus as best we can.
We are flying out of a private terminal at Manchester Airport. There is a small departure lounge at the facility, so players will be able to relax there and watch the final few holes and enjoy the catered food and drinks. We will start boarding once the golf finishes, and hoping to leave around 8:30 pm. The plane is a 767, owned by Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks owner) which has 100 first class seats. Once on board we get hors d’oeurves and a meal is served shortly after we leave.
Once we get to Hamilton, we will clear customs – we will be the only people there as we arrive just about midnight – and then player transportation will be ready to give rides to all of the passengers to their final destinations.