In all of the speculation leading up to the announcement that Mike Weir would be inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame later this year, media colleague Bob Weeks put forward a list of potential candidates on his blog at www.scoregolf.com.
Some of his picks I agreed with, some not so much. Some, I believe, will be good candidates should they continue on their current paths of contributing to Canadian golf beyond their playing days.
One of Weeksy’s picks I definitely agreed with, but both of us will be shot down by this potential inductee’s detractors and there are many of those who look at induction into the hall of fame as a popularity contest.
After 30 years with the Royal Canadian Golf Association, 18 of them as executive director, there is no denying Stephen Ross’ passion for the game, even if many people found him prickly and disagreed vociferously with moves Ross made during his time at the top of the RCGA.
The $40-million sale of Glen Abbey 10 years ago was particularly contentious, with everyone having an opinion on how that bundle should be spent.
Whether you agreed with the sale of the long-time home of the Canadian Open or not, or whether you agreed or disagreed with how the funds from the sale of the Abbey were being spent, there is no doubt that $40-million has helped the RCGA tremendously.
The original idea was to have those funds go to establishing Canadian Open venues across the country, but that never happened due to the contentious issue of the RCGA going into competition with its own member clubs in the areas in which these Open sites would exist.
The man who replaced him as executive director in 2007 shared Ross’ goal of establishing such a Canadian Open rotation and having places around the country where RCGA programs could also take place.
“One can debate until the cows come home why he sold (the Abbey),” said Scott Simmons, who was working during a previous tenure with the RCGA when the deal was done.
“I shared his vision and still do to this day that had we been able to build new facilities in this country that were capable of hosting our national championship and being homes for all of our national junior and elite training development programs, the game would be better off.”
Simmons adds that the capital from the sale of the Abbey has helped the RCGA through some rough times and will continue to do so as it struggles to break even by 2010.
“The investment returns off of that money have held us afloat for the last couple of years. Further to that, we’d be dead in the water without it,” said Simmons.
Ross left the RCGA with the future of the Canadian Open in jeopardy after Bell Canada pulled out and there appeared to be no replacement title sponsor in sight. Simmons believes that may be a deceiving for an outsider looking in to that situation.
“It was under his stewardship that Bell became the title sponsor of the Open,” said Simmons.
“While most people probably won’t admit this, I think Stephen did a lot of the foundation for the RBC deal that I seem to get all the credit for, but he was working feverishly on getting a title sponsor when he left the organization,” added Simmons, who says Ross’ contributions went beyond professional golf.
It was on Ross’ watch that the RCGA developed the successful Future Links junior program, the national team program, the slope system, university/college championships and the RCGA Golf Foundation. He is also a respected rules official.
“His entire working career was at the RCGA, dedicated to the betterment of the amateur side of the game because that’s where he started. He grew revenues and programs,” said Simmons.
“I think the man was a visionary. He wasn’t and isn’t a man that was ever out to toot his own horn and that came back to bite him because, by not talking, people made up their own opinions about him.
“I think he was 100 per cent dedicated to the RCGA, amateur golf, kids, the betterment of the game and, at the end of the day, I think he’s been given a horribly bad rap by Canadians and the media.”
“I’d be the first one to stand up and give him a standing ovation when he gets in,” said Simmons.
Weeks didn’t mention this one, but here’s another controversial Stephen to consider.
What about Stephen Ames, who lives year-round in Calgary?
The will be some who say Ames is from Trinidad-Tobago and didn’t learn his golf here, but he received his Canadian citizenship in 2003 after waiting for years and has clearly demonstrated that he wants to be here with his Canadian-born wife Jodi and their two sons.
Not only was Ames a Canadian when he won all three of his PGA Tour titles, including that memorable final round at the 2006 Players Championship, but consider also his work with the Canadian Junior Golf Association, the Stephen Ames Foundation for junior golf and the Stephen Ames Cup, which sees Canadian juniors against counterparts from Trinidad.
He also has restaurant interests in Calgary. That sounds more like a guy who has his roots firmly planted here and isn’t planning on fleeing back to Trinidad anytime soon. In other words, he’s a guy who wants to be here.
Unlike Ross, Ames has said plenty and some of it has ruffled feathers, but that’s just made him more interesting. It may not happen right away, but he is worth considering.