Little red flags are flying high

 

A few months ago, I was asked to speak to a group of distinguished gentlemen about the current state of Canadian golfers on professional tours.  The group, of which I’m a decidedly-not-distinguished member, is called the Rosedale Walking Club.  It is not affiliated with Rosedale Golf Club, nor dedicated to the joys of walking, for that matter; yet the Club has been in existence since 1912, solely for the purpose of holding five golf outings and a black tie dinner each season, and it’s good fun.  (I’ll write about the RWC more fully another time.)

My speech pointed out that we are, I hope, on the verge of a new era of success on professional tours.

On the men’s side, we’ve seen relatively slow but steady progress from David Hearn, Graham DeLaet, Nick Taylor, and Adam Hadwin on the PGA Tour.   I also mentioned names like Taylor Pendrith, Brad Fritsch, Eugene Wong, Ryan Yip, and Adam Svensson, who will be playing on the second-tier Web.com Tour this year.  Corey Conners, who finished second in the 2014 US Amateur, will be playing on the Latin American PGA Tour, along with David Rose, out of Capilano GC in Vancouver, who just won the Qualifying Tournament for that Tour.  And on the Senior Tour, Jim Rutledge and Rod Spittle are two regular competitors.

On the women’s side, everyone is expecting huge things from Brooke Henderson, of course, on the LPGA Tour… and my only hope is that Brooke can avoid all the distractions, and the pressure of being unofficially anointed as Canada’s Sweetheart, and achieve her potential, which is unlimited.  There are three other Canadian women on the LPGA Tour aside from Brooke… Lorie Kane, whose best days are clearly behind her, but who serves as a den mother and mentor to the younger girls (is “girls” still an acceptable word in the English language?)… and Maude-Aimée Leblanc and Alena Sharp, both of whom have been – again – slowly improving from week to week.  There are at least six Canadian women on the lower-level Symetra Tour… perhaps the most prominent name to watch there is Augusta James from Bath, ON.

Canada has never had so many golfers playing at such a high level.  And yes, you can say there are many more tours to play on today, but clearly something is going right.  That something, no doubt, is the golf development system that has been in place at Golf Canada for over a decade.  One can certainly question why anyone should care, or why major corporate dollars are being spent on giving a few talented kids the opportunity to play a game and get personally wealthy.

But I, for one, feel a good deal of pride each Monday morning when I look at the results from the various weekend tournaments, and see more and more little Canadian flags in the left hand column of the leaderboards, above the cut line.  One of these days, mark my words, a Canadian will win another major.  My money’s on Brooke Henderson, but any one of the names above has the talent to do it.

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During my Christmas hiatus from writing this column, I received a copy of the very first “Golf Facilities in Canada 2015” report, recently published by Golf Canada and the PGA of Canada, in conjunction with the National Golf Foundation in the US.  Kudos to the participants for producing this snapshot!

Leafing through the 24-page document, I found a few things quite surprising, and I’ll share them with you here, with my quick thoughts:

  • there are 2,346 golf facilities in Canada (I would’ve thought at least double that)
  • 1,379, or 58% are 18-hole facilities
  • there are roughly 6 million golfers in Canada (I assume that means more than 2 rounds a year – that seems reasonable)
  • there are 220 “private facilities” (seriously? I would’ve thought four times as many)
  • there are 9 facilities that offer 12 holes (despite several calls to reduce the game from 18 over the last decade, although the Report suggests that this is a developing trend)
  • the golf industry is worth more than $14.3 billion to the Canadian economy and represents more than 1% of the nation’s total GDP (really? I would’ve guessed a fraction of that)

According to the Report, “31 courses [are] in various stages of planning or construction across the country. While all of the courses are expected to be open to the public, nearly three-fourths are linked to real estate projects, resorts or both. This suggests that while the majority of Canada’s facilities rely on local play, signs point to future golf development being driven by golf-related tourism and real estate development.”

Well, good luck with that, I’m afraid to say.  Canadian tourism is surely very cyclical. And golf-centred real estate development?   It may work okay in the southern US, but I’m not sure I know of many successful “Happydale Links” in this country.

I’ll be delighted if I’m wrong.

 

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