One of the golf events that I have faithfully played over the past decade – and it wasn’t always easy due to scheduling – was what’s commonly known as The Fraz in honor of the late Rick Fraser, who may be teeing it up with Ben Hogan or Byron Nelson right now, for all we know.
The Fraz left us in 2000 and a bunch of media reprobates have been getting together ever since to slice, hook, four-putt and whiff in honour of the former Toronto Star and Toronto Sun sportswriter, who had a particularly soft spot under that gruff exterior for golf, which he covered with expertise and passion.
One of the great parts of being at The Fraz, other than the outstanding golf courses we’ve played over the years, was before and after when the tales of the event’s namesake seemed to get taller every year, but what do you expect from a bunch of wordsmiths remembering a departed buddy?
So, stories about Fraser’s adventures at countless bars, his salty language, his edge in launching an opinion mixed with the required compassion to truly bring the golf personalities of his era to life seemingly never get old to his media cronies and the people he covered.
Alas, the 2010 playing of The Fraz was the last and it went out in style at the magnificent Credit Valley Golf and Country Club in Mississauga, Ont., where those in attendance included World Golf Hall of Fame member Marlene Streit, eight-time LPGA Tour winner Sandra Post and “Mr. Canadian Open” Dick Grimm.
Being one of the truly unique characters in Canadian golf and sports in general, Fraser will live on with the people who regularly played the tournament – and I use that term loosely with most of this bunch – but the final playing of The Fraz wasn’t the reason for a touch of melancholy as I scanned the room last week.
What struck me was that this might be the last time that so many of us will be together, at least as part of the media. Sure, the round bellies, receding hairlines, stiff joints and gray hair made it all too clear that some of us are advancing in years, but many have some good years left before getting the gold watch.
The question in media these days is not when you choose to retire, but when you have retirement thrust upon you through layoffs, buyouts and other assorted bumps in the road that can at least temporarily derail your career. Too often these days, we hear about a media colleague getting axed ingloriously.
One of the Fraz stories told at Credit Valley was about his old school style. His response to the prominence of Twitter and other social media, websites and other mass communication would have prompted a flurry of salty expletives.
However, the main reason that people are let go in media these days is not that they are being left behind by the new world order, but because their years of experience means bigger paycheques to chop.
Of course, layoffs and other unfortunate ends are part of reality in business, but in media, it seems that print publications in particular step back on the competitive scale whenever they chop somebody who has the experience and work ethic that made him or her a regular stop for readers.
You may not have always agreed with what goes on in the media, but I’m sure you have writers, either in print or online, or broadcasters that you associate with their respective media outlets and who have earned your trust. When a media outlet loses that person, it give up a piece of its character, but it’s becoming more and more commonplace.
The media needs characters like the Fraz, just like golf needs the people who greet members and clients coming into the shop, being served in the dining room or being taught a lesson by a pro who establishes a comfort zone with students.
If those people aren’t doing their jobs, it’s one thing. Sometimes, due to the seasonal nature of golf, it’s necessary to cut back on people’s hours. Bottom line consideration is always important, but if it doesn’t hurt when you let somebody go, then you don’t understand the business of golf.
Thankfully, there have been some examples of how golf is still a people business illustrated in some recent GNN blogs.
As the rain continued to pour down on the Cottonwood Golf and Country Club, GNN blogger Tiffany Gordon was doing everything she could to avoid letting people go because of the deluge, pointing out that many among her staff were long-time employees or students saving to go to school.
Tiff and owner Lyle Edwards even went out of their way to buck up the spirits of the staff by raffling off the opportunity to have Gordon cover an employee’s shift, while Edwards would look after her duties in her absence.
In a business world in which the term “team” is used very loosely, that is one example where it seems to apply. Another example is how the industry has apparently come together in an informal way to help the St. George’s Golf and Country Club pull off the RBC Canadian Open.
General manager Joe Murphy and superintendent Keith Bartlett have pointed out in their guest blogs how nearby clubs are lending their staff members, who will benefit from the experience, while other golf courses are offering St. George’s members the opportunity to play there as their home club prepares for the Open.
Kevin Thistle, in his GNN blog, talked about this camaraderie and I hope that never changes because it’s one of the great things about working in the golf industry, one in which people still notice if somebody is absent from a buying show or some other event.
Technology will continue to change and business will always go in cycles, but when your members or clients are looking to get away from that reality in their own professions, a joke from the wait staff, a pleasant conversation with the shop staff or a spontaneous tip from a golf pro goes a long way.
You can’t train characters, but golf has had plenty of them. They are an integral part of a people business – an asset, not a liability.