Whether golf is eligible for the Recreation Infrastructure Canada program announced in the most recent federal budget remains a question that is yet to be answered, but the game does want a clarification soon.
If you read yesterday’s blog, you will recall that the government has allocated $500-million over the next couple of years to build or upgrade facilities such as hockey rinks, swimming pools, community centres, etc.
In the original description of what the program was all about, nowhere was it mentioned that golf is eligible for the funding and the belief that golf would be excluded came from Bob Munro of the Golden Golf Club in Golden, B.C., a facility that is looking to add another course.
Munro has heard that golf would not be eligible and he is working with his local MP, Jim Abbott, to change that. Munro also contacted the Royal Canadian Golf Association.
Executive director Scott Simmons and Jeff Calderwood, his counterpart at the National Golf Course Owners Association, joined together to send a letter to John Baird, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, which is responsible for the program, asking to discuss golf’s potential inclusion.
Reaction in the golf media to this perceived insult to the game was swift, with some blogs and columns criticizing the government for this exclusion, even if no official word has come out of the Ministry. In the middle of it all, both Simmons and Calderwood say they’re willing to let cooler heads prevail for now.
Both are willing to wait and see if Baird or one of his representatives will clarify the government’s position and/or discuss how golf facilities can benefit from the program. So far, Baird’s office has not replied to their letter.
“When I get back, I’m going to do some follow-up,” said Simmons, who is representing the RCGA at the Masters this week.
“I don’t want to speculate, but when you think about what the funds are going to be used for and you think about the sport of golf, it seems like a perfect fit, so we’ll do some due diligence next week, but I’m as much in the dark as everyone is right now. We’re just looking for answers.”
“I wish I had more information. That’s what I’m trying to get right now is more information. Until someone responds to our calls, we won’t know,” added Simmons.
“Mr. Munro seems to think (golf is) excluded, based on what he’s heard.”
Calderwood agrees that cooler heads should prevail until the game hears from the Ministry and that the time to follow up on the previous letter is next week.
“We appear to have been overlooked in this. That doesn’t appear to be fair or reasonable, so let’s see if we can do something about it,” said Calderwood, who hopes golf isn’t being persecuted because of a preconceived image of the game.
“Golf is not immediately perceived correctly by the people making those decisions and we do have to climb up and over and through that barrier,” he said. “We are perceived as elitist and that’s not correct. Once upon a time, it was but that’s not today, so clearing up that misconception is part of it.
“I also don’t think golf as a sport yet gets the recognition that it deserves. I guess that’s closely connected to the elitism. It’s almost a social pastime for the rich and famous – that’s the way it’s perceived, which is wrong,” said Calderwood.
If that is the case, then Calderwood and Simmons have a huge obstacle in front of them if and when they meet with Ministry officials, especially in this era of white collar executives taking questionable big dollar bonus and major corporations looking for government bailout packages.
Should golf be included in the RInC funding, another potential controversy lies ahead and it will be internal with golf. Chances are good that the funding will be skewed towards public and/or municipal courses that cater to the masses, which many privately-run owners will see as an unfair competitive advantage.
“Those golf courses are taxpayers,” said Calderwood. “They’re actually sending money into the government and the government is turning around and giving it to their competitors, who are going to turn around and take the best tournaments from them.”
While Calderwood feels all golf courses should be eligible, getting past the first barrier is the first priority. “Hopefully, that never becomes an issue. We need a united stand to say the golf industry, particularly Scott and myself, have one message.”
That message is that golf deserves a piece of the pie, but Simmons says they need to get to the table first before actually knowing that they’ve been denied.
“I want to wait until I do get some facts,” said Simmons. “There’s no use dealing in speculation. If golf has been excluded, I want to know why, what criteria they based it on.”
That makes the funding story a non-story at this point, but that won’t last long.