September 2, 2003
MODERATOR: Today we have Stephen Ross, director of the Royal Canadian Golf Association. We also have two special guests, and I'll let Stephen do that introduction.
STEPHEN ROSS: Thanks, and let me thank everyone for coming. Just by way of introductions, you'll see some RCGA in dress like Victor. They are part of the staff of governors, and I'm not going to introduce them because I might miss a few. But I see our director of player development; Henry Brunton, our national coach; and I see Bill Paul at the back of the room just checking to see what I'm going to say.
Thanks again for coming. This is a special time for everyone in the RCGA. It's Open time and it's especially exciting to return to a venue that's so rich in history the Hamilton Golf and Country Club. The Open touches virtually every golfer, as the proceeds from the Open help offset costs associated with the delivery of our programs.
With thanks to Victor and his staff for putting together a general update and highlight of every program that the RCGA produces across Canada. I do not intend to cover all of those aspects today. I do intend to cover a few. What I want to do as well is come back to this map you see to my left and talk about how we are going to -- part of our strategic plan, regionalize the organization and get closer to the golfer in terms of the delivery of those programs.
Then we'll talk a little bit about the Open, Bill Paul's favorite subject, your favorite subject this week.
Before I do, I want to introduce two players who are going to speak in a minute. For those of you who don't know, on my left, has developed quite a career for himself this summer. If you don't know him you haven't been following the golf pages. He's won virtually everything there is to win, but James has won virtually everything there is to win this summer including as an amateur a Canadian Tour event in Vancouver; so James Lepp from Vancouver. And on my right as you know is our Canadian Amateur champion, Richard Scott.
These two have battled over the years and you'll understand why we have them up front in a minute, and they will comment on that in a minute.
But let me just say, Richard, you've had a wonderful summer, as well, and congratulations on your victory at Shaughnessy, on a course that's as difficult as this is going to prove to be. You played every round of match-play to perfection. I want to congratulate you and I want to congratulate you for finally beating James -- you didn't play head-to-head, is that the point? These two have quite a career going head-to-head over the years.
Let me talk about programs first. I'm only going to talk about a couple. I want to talk about our Amateur Championships. We have been excited, pleased, all those descriptive words, to present for the first time a Canadian College University Championship this past summer and that should tell where you we are headed with Canadian colleges and universities as far as golf is concerned. We will not stop with a National Championship. We will carry that tradition on and run it in years ahead. We plan as an organization to try and bring golf back to Canadian colleges and Canadian universities.
I want to talk about the Amateur and the Junior. We have a call within the RCGA is that we wanted to deliver the best events that we possibly can and I think we have accomplished that very well over the years. We have made a concerted effort this year to even go beyond that, and I think in years ahead you're going to see the Canadian Amateur. The Canadian Junior, if you think about it, it's the Canadian Open for best Amateurs in the country and the Canadian Open for the best Juniors in this country and we are going to take those two events to the next level.
We introduced something special this summer which was a test for us: Live scoring for the first time. That will be a program that we include in all of our Amateur Championships, but with the Amateur and the Junior, we are going to focus on those two events going forward and that's the emphasis I want to make today.
I want to put you on notice that the Canadian Amateur and the Canadian Junior are going to be world-class events going forward. Live scoring is only the beginning.
It's a natural for me to talk about player development because we have two of our best athletes, I guess, in the country sitting beside me and I've watched their careers grow over the year, not only as executive director, but as a parent, I've watched them play a lot of golf.
Player development, though, is not just James Lepp and Richard Scott in their career today. Player development is two aspects: Future Links and the Elite Program, which is what now they are a part of, Elite Player Development Program.
Now, I hope I don't have to explain what Future Links is, but just in case I do, I will, because Future Links is all about introducing new players to the game at a very young level. When we conclude this year, Future Links will have introduced and touched 240,000 children in the last five years, and guess what, two of them are right here beside me. Two of them, these two graduated through Future Links. Future Links is all about being a national junior program, it's all about instruction, three levels, 5 to 16, 5 to 18, it's all about clinics and camps, it's about the Kids Club Connection Depots. We have 180 Depots across Canada that offer free equipment, cut down equipment, grip, to youngsters just to be introduced to the game.
We have events for the better players and that's where these two have succeeded growing up and we have a partnership with the CTGA that's as strong as ever. As we end our five-year cycle, we could not be more pleased with the success of Future Links. Elite Player Development Program is here to stay, and in the next five years it is going to grow to 400,000 and that's our goal. More on that in the months ahead.
As far as the RCGA, it's all about international events, coach training facilities. We talked a lot about that in the strategic plan we have outlined before and the Elite Player Development Program and Future Links is costing the RCGA $1.3 million and that should tell where you our focus is. It helps grow the game. These youngsters need a mentor and they need a hero and the people following them are going to be their mentors and their heroes and that's what Future Links and our Elite Player Development Program is all about.
As I said to you, I'm really proud of both of them. I've watched them growing up. I've watched them when they could barely hit a 250-yard drive and now 300 is a norm for them. I haven't given James an awful lot -- maybe I'll start with Richard because he said he couldn't wait to say something; that's what he said. I'll let Richard go first as our reining Canadian Amateur Champion and whatever comes to mind in terms of your history with Future Links, history with the RCGA and where you stand today in college golf at the University of Georgia.
RICHARD SCOTT: I'll start off by talking about Future Links. It's definitely a great thing. The RCGA is doing a great thing as far as introducing the game to younger players. Mike Weir is showing that playing Canadian golf can prepare you and if you work hard, you can succeed. That, and, you know, having a place to play for young kids, having a place to play is huge. It's just going to expand Canadian golf to just extraordinary capacity, and also, the elite player development program has been great for me working with the coaches, Dave Brunton, working with those guys, learning things that you need to do to get to the next level is great. You're not going to be -- without the RCGA, I would not be getting that anywhere else. And the coaching, swing coaching, all of that kind of stuff is just great. I hope it continues in the future and I'm sure it will with the great staff the RCGA has.
STEPHEN ROSS: You are only 19. When Future Links was governed, you may not have been introduced through the instructional level, is that fair? So you're a little too old for that. You were introduced to the game by your father. But the next time we sit in front of you, the next James Lepp, will have experienced those instructional camps. So when I say you graduated from the Future Links, you probably graduated from the competition side of it, would you agree with that?
JAMES LEPP: Yes.
STEPHEN ROSS: Talk about your year, James. You've had a wonderful year.
JAMES LEPP: I'll get to that later. Going with what Dicky said, he brought up with what the younger players have in front of them with the Future Links tournaments and stuff like that, but as for us, being from Canada, you don't have top events like you would in California or Texas. A major resource that you need is money to get to these tournaments and the RCGA, with their international events, their tour events, all of these organizations would pay for that. But even the ones that are not the team ones, I've talked to Lee Curry (ph) about this a lot, an older guy, the bigger tournaments in the States from the players, all of these huge events you need to play in to get to that next level, the RCGA is there for you if you need help with a plane ticket or housing and stuff like that; and without that, a lot of that isn't possible. So definitely, a key to get to that next level.
STEPHEN ROSS: Thank you, James. It might be a good time for me to refer to the map and you may want to help me with this.
As a lot of you know, we introduced a plan a few years ago now that we are trying to regionalize this organization and trying to branch out to parts of Canada that can really benefit interest it the most. We talked about the big events, the big properties, we talked about three 45-hole facilities in Montreal, Toronto and Calgary. Those 45-hole facilities will host the Open. They will host our Elite Player Development Program with our coaches and they will feature Future Links programs but they will go beyond that. They will also talk about green section. We are about to announce the hiring of a new green section director, Julie a specialist in turfgrass care. Julie will be part of our Montreal program, and that project, by the way, is about to be unraveled or unfolded. We are about to clear the land to begin construction this fall. As a matter of fact, our team as out there staking out some of the holes as we speak. We have not announced the architect. We will do that immediately after the Open. That 45-hole facility is real and we plan to host, as we indicated, the 2006 Open there.
The Toronto project we have not -- I have no update on that. We have not found a piece of property yet and we have talked about doing some partnerships with some existing golf courses.
Calgary we have a partner. We found some land and abandoned that land about six months ago as a result of a lack of water. But we recently found 1,300 acres to match what we are going to be doing in Montreal and we are looking to close that property in the next couple of months. So that's Calgary. Those are 45-hole facilities.
In Vancouver we talked about a training center. We have done a partnership with Legal Quest (ph) and we currently have our program at the Coyote Creek facility in Vancouver. In Calgary we have not started the big 45-hole facility, so we actually acquired a short course and range complex called Four Seasons. We currently own and operate that.
In Montreal, I talked about we'll be owning and operating that -- we'll own and operate that facility, RCGA will be there with the regional office working with the Quebec Golf Association and, once again, our player development Future Links program will be featured there. In Halifax we did a partnership with Archie Haddy, the links of Montague (ph), and that facility is terrific for our elite athletes out in the west.
I so tell that you each of these facilities offer free facility, free coaching and free golf for upwards of 50 athletes. Two of them happen to be with me today. If you take the five facilities that we play on when we are actually operational, we will have touched and be responsible directly for 250 athletes at any one time, and it's our goal to have more James Lepps and Richard Scotts up there with us in the years ahead.
That's our mapping and I should tell you that the board is so looking four years into it, we will look at opening another training center in Manitoba or Saskatchewan and also another facility in Atlantic, Canada and more on that in the next 60 to 90 days.
The board has also authorized the RCGA staff to find training facilities in the southwest quadrant of the United States and the southeast quadrant of the United States. One of the things that our young athletes are telling us today, graduates of our program that are young pros, the one thing they need most is a place to play in the winter months. They lack money and they lack coaching opportunities, and we intend to try and give them that and these facilities that we are looking to partner with, existing facilities, one in the southwest quadrant and one in the southeast quadrant. I would say in the next 90 to 120 days we should have something exciting to announce in that front.
I should also tell that you we've got 180 club -- Kids Club Connection Depots across Canada, featuring as I said earlier, offering free equipment to juniors. I should also tell that you we have 30 licensed Future Links licensed facilities -- and what is a license facility for Future Links? It's an existing golf course that must be friendly to juniors; and to be friendly to juniors you have to offer discounts and you have to offer prime-time tee times. Now, that's simplifying it, but that's what the facilities are. We have 30 across Canada right now.
That's our player development model and that's what we intend to do going forward.
I think what I'll do is open questions because these guys want to get back to the practice tee and, then I want to come back to the Open Championship, which is where many of you might want to go.
Q. A couple years ago, an RCGA official said, a little embarrassed about the lack of players in the World Rankings and hopefully to get more Canadians in the World Rankings in like ten years. Can you tell us me where we are now on that thought if you are ahead of schedule?
STEPHEN ROSS: Thank you for the question. I would say that we did. Our objectives are public with our player development program. We feel if we're going to spend $1.3 million on this program we should be accountable. So we went public with our vision and our vision was that we want five Mike Weirs in the top 200 in the Sony rankings. We are in year four of that program.
How many do we have on it now? Can we count Mike? And can we count Ian? We are not taking credit for either of them; so we are zero and I'm looking. I think we are on cue. When you look at the season that James had, Richard has had this year, you look at their success at school and you look at the success of the Derek Gillespies and the Jon Mills, all of these are graduates from our program. I don't think we could be any more positive about what it is we are trying to do and what it is that we have done.
Q. How has Mike Weir's win at the Masters accentuated your drive to go pro? Sometimes you're out there all alone on the course, you travel around on your own, sometimes you're not too sure about where things are going to go but when Mike Weir won the Masters, how did that inspire you to take that next step?
RICHARD SCOTT: I think it inspired all Canadian golfers and young professionals across Canada. Definitely, the single most -- single the greatest accomplishment in Canadian golf so far. I think if anything else, it shows that -- it just shows that Canadians can go out there and do it.
There's been success throughout the years, but seeing a Canadian win a major championship shows that -- just gives you that much more confidence, I guess, and makes you that much more hungry to get out there on Tour and do the things that you have to do to succeed.
JAMES LEPP: Aside from the fact that he is Canadian, we are built the same way Mike is. We are not big guys. Seeing a guy that's 5'9, 150, 160 pounds go out there and win a major that, gave me confidence. Like if he can do it, and he's Canadian, not that I'm by any means as good as Mike Weir, seeing someone like him do it gives me great motivation to get my butt in gear and go get it done.
Q. For both Richard and James, guys there are touring pros like Mike and Ian who said that the Canadian Open means as much to them as a Masters or any of the other majors, two-part question. For both of you, do you feel that you have the same drive or the same determination that would place the Canadian Open in the same level? And also how much encouragement have you gotten from Mike Weir or Ian Leggatt, guys that are established pros for this particular event, probably the biggest stage you will have played on yet?
JAMES LEPP: I think it's tough to say because the only PGA tournament I have played in is the Canadian Open. I have not played THE PLAYERS Championship and other big events. So it's kind of hard to compare it to other tournaments and which one means more. Obviously it means a lot. It means our national professional championship. For sure, it's kind of hard to keep in contact with those guys. They have busy schedules and stuff. But I know Jim Weir does Mike's Web site and I have kind of kept in contact with him. Every time I win a tournament or something he e-mails me and says "we'd like to hear a few words from you" and "congratulations" and stuff like that. They are definitely a help, mainly just by the way they are playing.
RICHARD SCOTT: I would have to agree with James. The Canadian Open is our national professional championship and it does mean a lot. You know it means a lot to Mike Weir and Ian Leggatt and it means a lot to me and James, too. It definitely means a lot for me to be playing in it, my first professional event. It feels likes it should be the Canadian Open as my first professional event.
As far as encouragement from some of the other guys, I've yet to meet Ian or Mike or even talk to them, but throughout the week I'm sure I'll get to do that. I've received a lot of encouragement from Jon Mills and Dave Hearn and those guys. So definitely, it's great to have the encouragement from young touring pros like those guys.
Q. You guys obviously go to U.S. colleges and have instructors there. How does the relationship work, obviously you have coach there is and coaches up here, how does that work? And Stephen, following up on that last question, a few years ago there was a mentorship between the top pros and top amateurs, is that still continuing?
RICHARD SCOTT: Stu Hamilton mentors me.
JAMES LEPP: Doug Oxford (ph), all the time.
Q. How do you combine your college coaching and your elite program coaching?
RICHARD SCOTT: I don't know how it is with James, but at Georgia, we don't have too much instruction as far as our coaches. Our coaches are basically just -- they help us out with practicing, scheduling, all of that kind of stuff. But at my school, there was kind of a reason I picked that school was because it wasn't so much coaching and wasn't going to change much with my game. I stuck with working with Henry in the RCGA coaches.
I think that's probably what I'm going to be sticking with. If I have trouble, I can always get in contact with them when I'm down at school or even send them a video if I really need to. So I'm just going to -- my plan is to stick with working with the player development coaches.
JAMES LEPP: Same goes for me, also. I'm not the kind of guy -- I don't think Dicky is, either, that we are swing mechanics by any means. We are mainly feel players and we are not going to -- you have to have a lot of trust with the person to kind of go through those changes of a swing and stuff like that. Most college coaches I know don't really do that. I don't know if they really have the credentials to know what they are doing. I know there are some coaches that really do know what they are doing, but I don't think I would put my trust into a golf coach. I'd just stick with the player development program I guess.
Q. Stephen, first of all, we had heard in the rough was going to be as much as five inches high and now we hear it's three 1/2 to four. Has the PGA persuaded the club to go easier on the rough?
STEPHEN ROSS: No. I read that in the paper this morning and I don't quite agree with the reporting there. What's occurred here is topping. The key as these players will tell you is to have punishing, challenging rough that's consistent. And what we do is topping rough is simply trying to make it consistent. The density is terrific. I cannot tell you how proud I am of this golf course. But there has been no cutting of the rough. The rough is four inches. We've stopped cutting it now. By the time Saturday, Sunday comes, it will be five, six inches and it will be consistent. You miss the fairway here and you will be challenged. But there has been no relaxing in terms of how difficult we set it leading to this event. There's been none of that.
Q. What are your expectations going into this tournament, making the cut, top 25? What do you expect?
RICHARD SCOTT: It's my first professional event, like I said, and I don't think I'm going to set too much high expectations. I'm kind of coming into the week, take it as a learning experience, learning from some of the other guys like Mike and Ian and see what they are doing and use that to my advantage.
Haven't really set a goal for myself yet this week. Obviously I'd like to make the cut. It would be great to play over the weekend, but I'm not going to put too much pressure on myself.
JAMES LEPP: I don't really put too much expectations on myself. Basically go out there, try to get the ball in the hole in the fewest amount of shots as possible; that's my mindset. If it in the make the cut, so be it. But that's just what I'm going out there trying to do.
Q. What's your lowest round here as a member?
STEPHEN ROSS: You're not trying to embarrass me, right?
Q. You're sitting between two hot shots. Make you can give them some tips.
STEPHEN ROSS: Let me just tell these guys -- I think I've shot par here. I'll answer your question and then withdraw from anything I might have thought about saying.
We should excuse the players. They have an exciting afternoon planned and we don't in any way want to leave them short.
I just have a few comments. I just want to say as they are leaving, for those who are hanging in here, I just want to thank the City of Hamilton. I want to thank the members here at Hamilton. I want to thank the staff, how positive everybody has been, not just leading this event but to today. There is not much that can alter my enthusiasm about what we are going to see this next few days.
I think that it's exciting to know two things. I think once again, the RCGA has announced a sellout of the Open and the sellouts for the Open are becoming more the norm than not.
The other thing that's exciting for me is that we have 24 hours of national television coverage. That's unprecedented. That's unbelievable. That should tell you a lot about what's going on with the Open. I remind everybody that our 100th anniversary is next year and we'll have more news and maybe even some in your package about things that we are doing that's special to the Open. I should remind that you it's the 100th anniversary of the Amateur next year and we will be playing it at Beaconsfield Golf Club in Montreal and we'll be playing the Open at Glen Abbey and we are very excited about both of those anniversaries.
This week we have some special events we are trying to showcase, just like the reason I'm here right now. We are showcasing some of our programming this week. On Wednesday we are going to have a Future Links Walk with the public on 13. There's going to be a lot of excited kids and excited parents when you see them walking with the pro on hole No. 13. All day Saturday, we will be featuring Future Links clinics. That starts early in the morning. It's going most of the day and partaking -- involved in that will be our 12 regional coaches who are here all week, having meetings, watching some of the players that are actually there mentoring that are here and they will be on the tee featuring Future Links clinics all day Saturday.
I'm very proud also to tell you the Founders Council is an initiative we started two years ago now that will be meeting this week, the presidents of all the top companies will be here, meeting with me, talking . They actually mentor our player development program for those of you who don't know, but they are involved in other things and they are a great group, presidents of all of the Canadian companies in Canada. They will be meeting with me on Friday and at a cocktail party Friday night. And in the morning all of the executive directors and presidents, we will be having meetings Friday morning to talk about the state of the game and some initiatives we are working on together.
It's pleasing to me because what is happening is that the Open is becoming a rallying point. Everybody that's involved in Canadian golf, anybody that writes about the game, anybody that works in the game, anybody that is involved at any level seems to be here this week, and I've seen that grow over the years and we are going to try and grow it further.
So that's all I have, unless any of you have any questions.
Q. You talked about 2006 and Montreal, at a course for which ground isn't even broken yet. How realistic is it to assume that an untested golf course, unbuilt at this point, can hold a National Championship? And is there a backup plan; what is it?
STEPHEN ROSS: Well we do have a backup plan. I can't share that because we are focused on presenting the Open on that CCQ, we call it for now, golf course in Montreal. Partners and the architect we have not announced yet. All tell me that it is very doable.
We saw a golf course this past week in Boston that was fairly new, two years old, host a PGA TOUR event. I know there was some criticism. Right now we are very optimistic we are going to present the 2006 Open at CCQ in Montreal.
We do have a backup plan, to answer your second part question but I don't think it's appropriate for me to tell you what that would be at this stage.
Q. Can you talk about this week's field, 12 of the top 40 players in the world being here, does that meet your expectations, and what can you do to maybe attract some of the future top players next year?
STEPHEN ROSS: I mean, the player field, I'd like to talk about who is here, obviously, rather than who is not. All I can tell you is that the judged -- we are in the sports marketing business. You judge us as you deem fit. But I can tell you that the Open, in my mind, I'm as positive about it today as I was last week. Our job is to present the best tournament on the best golf courses with a competitive purse. And you know what, we do the best job we can. I hope that we are judged accordingly.
Q. Can you bring us up to date on your Presidents Cup bid plans?
STEPHEN ROSS: I can't, except to say that I feel like that subject is on the radar screen of the PGA TOUR. If you think about it, they are presenting a Presidents Cup in South Africa in three months, that is foremost. They have not announced a venue for the 2005 event which is scheduled for the United States, so we have hardly been on the radar screen.
They know we want it. And to my knowledge, they are not talking to any other country about it, but I can't sit here and tell you that I know we are going to get it. I'm more optimistic now than I was last time we talked about it, but I haven't got any more news than that for you.
End of FastScripts.