It isn’t being overly cynical to discuss the business aspect of what is being presented as a good for the game, feelgood story with ClubLink Corporation contributing roughly $4-million in cash and use of its facilities for Royal Canadian Golf Association programs and initiatives (See the News Now story for more).
It’s the way of the world.
“We’ve got approaching 20,000 members playing golf and we obviously want them to continue to love and enjoy the game of golf,” said ClubLink president and chief executive officer Rai Sahi
“Since my involvement going back 10 years ago, at the time, there were only 6,000 members. If you keep going at the same rate, we could have 30-40-50,000 members, so obviously, it is in our interests as well as the game of golf continues to grow.”
Charles Lorimer, vice president of sales and marketing for ClubLink, added that the various junior programs that ClubLink currently runs internally and externally, including support for the Canadian Junior Golf Association, have benefits that are more long term.
“A typical new member in our system is in around that 35 to 38 years of age bracket, so certainly the work that we’ve done as ClubLink hasn’t materialized, but that’s not to suggest that we shouldn’t have a long term view,” said Lorimer.
“Anecdotally, I personally gave junior golf clinics at Glen Abbey back in the ‘80s. I’ve had people approach me over the years and say, `You may not remember me, but I participated in your free junior golf clinics at Glen Abbey in 1982 and now I’m a member at (ClubLink’s) Heron Point,” he added.
So ClubLink obviously sees the benefits and, have no doubt about it, there’s potential for the RCGA as well, outside of the cash and use of the facilities. There’s marketing through ClubLink and the opportunity to roll out its Golf Canada brand, which will be given a big push next summer, at 33 ClubLink golf courses.
“We’d love to expand the distribution,” said RCGA (Golf Canada?) executive director Scott Simmons, “I think merchandising of that is a tremendous opportunity for us that ClubLink, through its vast network of clubs, could certainly assist us with, for sure.”
With a multitude of national championships coming ClubLink’s way over the next 10 years, it’s logical to wonder if the RBC Canadian Open will be included in the mix. The RCGA did have a deal to bring the Open to Glen Abbey, the site of the 2008 and ’09, events as part of its sale to ClubLink back in 1999.
Simmons said there’s a couple of Abbey Opens left on that deal prior to 2020, but indicated more of them may be in the works, although he didn’t say it was part of the recent deal.
“It really is a carryover from the previous agreement,” he said. “If I have anything to do with it, Glen Abbey will be part of the rotation for years and years to come.”
Take that however you like and the same goes for Sahi’s and Lorimer’s response to another question after they were asked the benefits of this deal to a company with facilities only in Ontario and Quebec currently.
“First of all, Ontario and Quebec, I think the last count I had represents 60 per cent of the Canadian population and probably more than 60 per cent of golfers,” said Sahi.
“The second part is it’s not decided yet that ClubLink would not be in another part of the country as well, in some form or another, so I don’t think just being in Ontario and Quebec would be that relevant,” he added in response to the question.
So, are we talking ClubLink expansion beyond Ontario and Quebec?
“The majority of golf across Canada is played in Ontario and Quebec and, as Rai has pointed out, it doesn’t mean that ClubLink won’t be in other provinces at some point in the future,” said Lorimer.
“You have to refer that question to Rai,” he replied about expansion being close.
Over to you, Mr. President.
“Every business must grow all the time. If you don’t, you start going backwards,” said Sahi.
Again, take that as you will, but they’re talking up the benefits to both sides with the deal announced on Wednesday.
“We certainly hope this gives the RCGA some ammo to approach other golf operators, one-off or cluster operators, to challenge them and certainly, that would be good for all of us in golf in Canada,” said Lorimer.
Simmons said this deal brings the golf industry closer together.
“We’re no different than any other country,” he said. “I think the golf industry in most countries is very fragmented and disjointed and while everybody has the best of intentions, unless we work together, we won’t be effective.
“ClubLink is just demonstrating leadership in this area by stepping up to the plate and doing what’s good for the game and hopefully, at the end of the day, what will be good for them in their business.”
Fatigue didn’t seem to be affecting Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., who returned from last week’s World Cup in China to PGA Tour qualifying school where he shot a two-under 70 in a windy and occasionally rainy first round at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Wednesday.
That left DeLaet tied for sixth with fellow Canadians Ted Brown of Peterborough, Ont., and Julien Trudeau of Montreal tied for 11th after each shot a one-under 71.
Up I-95 at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Montreal’s Lisa Meldrum was tied for 10th after the first round of LPGA Tour Q-School after shooting a one-under 71. Adrienne White of Red Deer, Alta., was tied for 17th after an even-par 72.
To see the first round results for all Canadians at Q-School, see Your Q-School Leaderboard on the GNN home page.