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RCGA Charting Its Future

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, said Simmons. First one done. Second one, great progress, about halfway there.
The strategic plan may eventually 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 territories in trying to make things happen for those very same golfers.
When youre slammed for doing too much and doing too little, it becomes clear that its 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 RCGAs 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 RCGAs various programs. Proceeds from the Canadian Open have traditionally gone to supporting those programs, but will now be reinvested back into the tournament. The same goes for the CN Canadian Womens 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 fund raisers, as well as find other new revenue streams for its programs.
Thats 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 will also take a long, hard look at the RCGA internally.
In simple terms, my personal view is that, since 1895, the RCGAs 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, said Simmons.
Now that weve been designated the national sport organization (for golf) by the federal government, were no different than Hockey Canada if you want to use that analogy.
Its 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.
Thats going to be, I think, a core component of our strategic plan, said Simmons, adding that the plan is just the first step.
Ive been trying to manage expectations because once the plan is completed, thats all it is is a plan, he said. Thats when the work starts.
Its not as if this plans going to come out and solve all the worlds problems. The simple way I describe it is the plan will tell us what were doing that we should keep doing, what were doing that we should stop doing and what were 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.
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 RCGAs Jim Fraser with a distinguish service award from the organization.
Fraser is a former governor and a well-respected rules official who played key roles in the RCGAs slope system and developing the Future Links junior program.
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Toronto Sun Editor's Note: Ian Hutchinson is golf columnist for the Toronto Sun and senior writer for Pro Shop Magazine, a Canadian golf trade publication, and Canadian Golfer Magazine. He is also a frequent contributor to Golf Scene and Golf Canada Magazine, the official magazine of the Royal Canadian Golf Association.