Carrying on yesterday’s conversation with Scott Simmons, executive director of the Royal Canadian Golf Association, he believes the current economic climate will not immediately affect the two professional tournaments it operates.
The recent news that General Motors has parted ways with Tiger Woods, who endorsed Buick for nine years, is yet another sign that golf had better prepare for some tough times in respect to tournament sponsorships, corporate support and pro-am participation.
It isn’t only golf that needs to be concerned with word that advertising for the upcoming Super Bowl, usually the place to be for high-rolling companies, is slow.
“We’re fortunate that we have a very healthy roster of sponsors right now for both events. They are all committed to us for a number of years to come,” said Simmons.
“We actually had a sponsor forum a few weeks ago, with all of our sponsors and no one gave us any indication that they were looking to withdraw from their commitments,” he added.
“I think just the overall climate may make it a little more difficult for us to sell some of the other corporate product offerings, whether that’s corporate tents and hospitality offerings for both,” said Simmons, adding such sales for the 2009 CN Canadian Women’s Open at Priddis Greens near Calgary are currently beyond expectations.
While RBC is signed on as title sponsor of the men’s Canadian Open until 2012, the deal with CN on the Women’s Open expires in 2010 and negotiations with that company have already begun.
At this point, there doesn’t appear to be a reason for concern. Since CN came on board just over three years ago, the once-shaky tournament has returned to a status the Canadian event once knew as one of the most prestigious events on the LPGA Tour.
CN has showed a remarkable commitment to making the event work through raising the purse and adding a successful charity component to the tournament. There is even talk about the Canadian event returning to the major status it once had when it was known as the du Maurier Classic.
“We’re actually talking to CN right now, but they are thrilled with the event and, unless there are unforeseen circumstances, I don’t see any reason why we can’t come to a mutually beneficial agreement on 2011 and beyond,” said Simmons.
Having said all that, the RCGA can’t afford to ignore the worsening economy and the fact that discretionary income will be affected once the 2009 Canadian golf season gets underway, according to Simmons, who spoke at last week’s conference and trade show conducted by the National Golf Course Owners Association.
“They’re very concerned about the economy as it’s going to relate to their golf course operations,” said Simmons.
“There may be an impact on overall play and rounds played and the profitability of a lot of the clubs across the nation which, of course, as the (National Sports Organization), we’re very concerned about and trying to think of ways that we can help stimulate the industry,” he said.
The National Allied Golf Association will meet at RCGA headquarters at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ont., in mid-December to discuss the challenges ahead for the Canadian golf industry.
Meanwhile, Simmons says the RCGA’s three-year strategic plan announced earlier this year is on track. One of the goals of the plan is to make the RCGA a more financially viable organization, which was illustrated a couple of weeks ago through a high-profile downsizing.
Combined with programs to generate extra revenue next year, the plan to make the RCGA profitable will carry on as is for the time being, according to Simmons, adding that the national amateur championships it runs shouldn’t be affected either.
“There really isn’t a lot of corporate involvement with the amateur championships,” he said.
“As long as we can still afford to fund them – as we’ve done in the past and what we fully plan to do – I don’t think (the economy) will have an impact, unless players who want to travel from one coast to the other to participate just think they can’t afford to do that, given their own personal situations,” he said.
Anticipation is the key, for there is no indication how far or how long the economy will continue to affect spending decisions, but for now, the key word is caution, not panic, at the RCGA.