Rubenstein: New beginning for tour golf in Canada
Friday morning I had a call from Dick Grimm, everybody’s Mr. Golf in Canada and a man who from 1993-1997 was commissioner of the Canadian Tour. It’s now PGA Tour Canada, of course. Dick, a close friend, a Canadian Golf Hall of Fame member, and somebody who cares deeply about the game, wanted to know what I thought about the announcement on Dec. 13th that Jeff Monday had been named the president of PGA Tour Canada.
As it happens, I’d spoken at length with Monday shortly after the announcement. I told Dick that I thought Monday, who had visited Saskatoon and Winnipeg only last week in tournament-related work there, clearly cares about generating a series of successful events across Canada that will be good for the players and the local communities. Above all, Monday is a businessman with a nearly quarter-century of experience with the PGA Tour. He’s worked in many areas of the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Web.com (formerly Nationwide) Tour.
This is all in the way of a new beginning for tour golf in Canada, and it’s far too early to say whether the PGA Tour’s imprimatur and involvement will make the new venture a success. Monday had been visiting Canadian Tour events for a year as part of the PGA Tour’s due diligence before making a decision as to whether to take it over. The decision to do that was announced in October.
“Once we made that decision we needed to figure out the best way to move forward,” Monday told me. “There’s a lot going on, with the changes to qualifying for the PGA Tour (through the Web.com Tour in particular, with the end of qualifying school as a direct route to the PGA Tour). I worked closely with Bill Calfee (Web.com president and a former PGA Tour player). We weren’t sure that my going with PGA Tour Canada would be the right thing. We wanted to make sure and we decided that it would be best for the organization and for me to devote all my time to PGA Tour Canada.”
Monday said that the office would remain in Oakville, Ont. and that the staff there will include five people. The group includes Scott Pritchard, the director of business development and communication for the Canadian Tour since March 2011. His title changes to Director, Tournament Business Affairs, which reflects PGA Tour job titles. Brian Decker, hired last summer on a contract to work with media, will take over as PGA Tour Canada’s media official.
Tournaments will maintain their current structures, within an overall PGA Tour Canada framework for each event. Monday emphasized that the idea was to work with the local communities, as happens on the various tours that the PGA Tour runs. He said that the PGA Tour would bring in its national presence to support local efforts.
One important area, Monday indicated, is to ensure that PGA Tour Canada becomes a true feeder ground for the Web.com Tour. The money leader next year will become fully exempt for the 2014 Web.com Tour, while the next four players on the money list will win conditional status and therefore get into some tournaments. Golfers from sixth to 10th position will be exempted into the final qualifying school for the Web.com Tour.
But making PGA Tour Canada an authentic feeder tour also means making each tournament as comprehensive an experience as possible. Monday said he would like to see opportunities for fitness trailers and equipment repair on-site at tournaments, as happens at every PGA Tour event. Moreover, Monday said talks are underway to work with Golf Canada because of its interest in player development.
“We (the PGA Tour, that is) have a good relationship with Golf Canada through the RBC Canadian Open,” he said. “Their mandate is unique relative to the U.S. because Golf Canada is responsible for developing a national team and high-performance players. (The USGA is not involved in player development). “So there are some nice synergies. We’ve had some good conversations with Scott (Simmons, Golf Canada’s executive director) and his team to learn about their priorities. It’s been preliminary to this point.”
A strong and stable set of tournaments across Canada, and, Monday hopes, an umbrella sponsor, are critical elements. Monday hopes to widen media exposure for PGA Tour Canada, which would include providing footage from tournaments to local television. He doesn’t envisage live coverage of events. He does envisage programs at every tournament whereby players would do clinics, visit schools, and attend events with sponsors – all in the interest of making every tournament a community event.
As far as community events goes, Monday spoke of wanting to see tournaments across the country, and in every province. He even said Friday morning on Talk of the Tour, a Sirius/XM radio show, that this could mean a tournament in Cape Breton.
Wouldn’t that be something? I’d love to see a PGA Tour Canada event on the new Cabot Links in Inverness. Rod Whitman designed Cabot Links, which has had more buzz this year than any course in North America. Maybe that’s dreaming, but PGA Tour Canada is all about turning dreams into reality.
The key, Monday said, “will be sustainable development.” Dick Grimm, who spoke well of Monday from experiences with him 20 years ago, will be watching to see if this happens. He hopes it will. Monday and his associates are committed to ensuring it does. That doesn’t mean this will happen, but the commitment is firm.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein