Some Friday thoughts on the week that was:
- Golfweek ran an interesting story on the declining number of golfers in the United States, according to the National Golf Foundation’s annual participation study.
In a nutshell, the Golfweek story pointed out that people are attracted to golf and will give it a whirl, but a disturbing number also leave the game.
The story compares 2007 and 2008 figures year over year and does note that the recession, which has been going on much longer in the U.S. than in Canada, may be playing a role in this NGF study, but it is a disturbing trend that Canadians should be taking seriously.
- You can read the entire story here >>
The last Royal Canadian Golf Association participation study was announced in 2006, based on numbers from the previous year, so may not apply four years later. Many within the industry felt that the RCGA study, which was conducted by Ipsos Reid, offered too rosy a picture, even back then.
If you’d like to take a look at the summary sheet from that study, go to www.rcga.org and look in the Golf Industry Research section under the Industry and Education drop-down.
No RCGA participation study is on the horizon, so it’s difficult to see if the U.S. trends are also affecting Canadian golf, but it’s becoming increasingly evident that the industry needs to find out why people are leaving the game.
- Hopefully, that was just Stan Jablonski simply putting up the corporate caution sign on Wednesday while discussing negotiations with the Royal Canadian Golf Association about extending its title sponsorship of the CN Canadian Women’s Open, an agreement that currently expires next year.
“We have had a terrific run and built, I think, a wonderful tournament,” said the senior vice president of sales for CN. “What happened in Ottawa last year, it was a heck of an event. We’ve managed to raise millions of dollars for children across Canada. We’ve managed to give back to communities.
I think you can appreciate that these are difficult times and this is a corporate board decision and certainly, we will be evaluating what we do going forward,” said Jablonski. “We’ve got a lot of positive feedback and a lot of positive thoughts going forward.”
Jablonski is correct. The Canadian Women’s Open has become one of the premier events on the LPGA Tour to the point of some saying it should return to the major status its predecessor, the du Maurier Classic, held for years.
It’s that rise in stature under CN’s sponsorship that makes Jablonski’s cautious words seem so ominous. When the Women’s Open was played at Glen Arbour Golf Club in Halifax in 2005, there was a pall surrounding that event with the sponsorship of BMO ending.
Of course, the exit of Imperial Tobacco due to federal anti-smoking legislation also led to tough times and the loss of the tournament’s major status, so the importance of a strong sponsor is clear just as it is on the men’s side with the impressive work that RBC is doing with the Canadian Open.
The highs and lows of the Canadian Women’s Open this decade and the disappearance of other sponsors from the LPGA Tour recently illustrate only too well how thin the line is between the penthouse and the basement for professional tournaments.
This may be nothing to worry about at all, but it does have potentially major ramifications if CN does exit, which makes it a story worth following.