Putting more Canada in the Canadian Tour: New commish wants more domestic events
Friday, August 5, 2005
Robert Thompson On Golf
To many, the Canadian Professional Golf Tour all but dropped off the face of the Earth over the past few years.
Maybe that has something to do with the fact that it has a short season and a number of its events now take place outside Canada, in places with exotic names such as Mazatlan, Mexico. Even the tour championship is held outside of this country, in Brimley, Mich., which is southwest of Sault Ste. Marie.
Rick Janes doesn't want to change all of that, but he's also keen on building a foundation for the tour in Canada, and specifically in Ontario where it has languished for years.
Janes is the tour's new commissioner, having taken over in January from Ian Mansfield. He was in Niagara Falls this week, alongside PGA Tour bomber John Daly, to promote next month's Canadian Tour event there.
Daly was also in Niagara Falls to talk about his role in creating a new golf course where the Canadian Tour event will be held and to draw attention to the facility by attempting to hit a golf ball over the Horseshoe Falls.
It turned out Daly couldn't pull off the stunt. Long John hit more than 20 balls into the water, never making it over the falls entirely. Janes is hoping his task of resurrecting the Canadian Tour also won't come crashing down on the rocks.
"I'm not going to mince words," says Janes, an expression he uses regularly during our interview. "People just don't understand what the Canadian Tour is about."
Part of that problem rests with the individuals who have run the tour over the past decade. While great players such as Kirk Triplett, Tim Herron, Hank Kuehne and Mike Weir have graduated from its events, the organization has struggled for any notoriety recently, overshadowed by other tours, and unstable because of poor leadership and questionable business decisions.
Former commissioner Jacques Burelle managed to land a television deal with the Golf Channel but was ousted by the players in 2002 and replaced by former Telus executive Ian Mansfield. One of Mansfield's first acts was to announce that Ceres Corp., which operated under the Perfectly Natural brand, would sponsor a British Columbia-based event. When that fell apart amid some corporate intrigue, Mansfield's reputation as a rainmaker who could turn to Bay Street for support took a hit from which it never recovered.
Now there's a lot riding on Janes, a former executive director of the CPGA and a former marketing executive with MacLaren Momentum. He knows a thing or two about sports sponsorships.
All of which makes the Niagara Falls event so important to the tour. By operating without an event in Ontario, the tour was cut off from Bay Street and the potential sponsorship money that can flow from the myriad of banks and businesses which operate in Toronto's downtown core.
"This event is hugely important for us," he said of the Niagara Falls Casino Resort Pro-Am scheduled for Sept. 12-18. "In order to create a national tour, we need national coverage. We need to get into the board rooms and present our product. We need to get out there are pound the pavement. We need people to know what we are about."
The aim is to expand the tour within Canada, though Janes admits it would likely be easier to grow in the U.S. But the current goal is to avoid the U.S. market and add three events in Ontario within three years, along with more events in other provinces.
Prior to taking over as commissioner, Janes was best known in golf circles for a failed attempt to bring a European Tour event to Canada. Will he try it again?
Janes says his attention is firmly rooted on the Canadian Tour these days, and that his dalliance (he tried and twice failed to bring an event to Canada) with the European Tour is now behind him.
"My job is to build the Canadian Tour," he explains. "My role is to create a centrepiece for the Canadian Tour."
It is a role Janes takes very seriously. He says if the Canadian Tour disappeared, Canada's place as a top golfing nation would take a serious hit.
"If there is no Canadian Tour, it will be tough for a Canadian to have a legitimate shot at success. Where would the next Mike Weir come from? Where would the next Jon Mills come from?" he said. "If we can't pull this off, we risk becoming a third-world golfing nation."