Canadian Tour Commissioner and CEO Rick Janes spoke with golfcanada.ca about the new agreement announced between the Canadian Tour and the PGA Tour which should provide the 40-year-old Canadian circuit with some immediate financial relief and, moving forward, expertise in areas as tournament development and sponsorship.
Q: What was the Canadian Tour membership asked to consider when it came to the PGA Tour offer [which was presented Wednesday night]
JANES: We’ve asked our members to come together to consider a proposal from the PGA Tour. We have been developing a relationship with the Tour over the last 10 years. It started in early 2001 when the Tour granted us two exemptions for our top players to go to an advanced stage of their Qualifying school. In 2007, when the Presidents Cup was in Montreal, we developed a campaign to help the PGA Tour to promote the Presidents Cup across Canada so that brought us a little bit closer to them and built up elements of trust and relationship. In 2009 we became a full member of the International Federation of PGA Tours and we started to work closely with the PGA Tour on anti-doping policy and then we started to become very active about lobbying for advanced standing for our members, particularly in the last two years, we’ve really become active in seeking an alliance with the PGA Tour. It’s been part of our strategic plan for some time.
We’ve had some financial issues over the course of the last three or four months and I had reached out to the PGA Tour for some assistance and advice and that has actually culminated in an agreement [that was put forward to the membership Wednesday night] Essentially that agreement will allow us - the board of directors and the Canadian Tour - to enter into an agreement that will provide us with some support in the areas of tournament development and sponsorship, certainly over the course of the next year. What it looks like beyond that, this is still very much a great opportunity to work close. We have a lot to do in order to stabalize and solidify and grow the Canadian Tour. With the help of the PGA Tour that’s our goal, our mutual goal, to keep this Tour strong.
Q: Is this a similar arrangement that the PGA recently announced with the Tour de las Americas?
JANES: It’s not the same. The new PGA Tour Latinoamerica is actually a brand new tour. It is wholly owned by the PGA Tour. This is a very different situation. Our business will continue to operate under the guidance of our board and our current structure. Over the course of 2012, there won’t be any changes to our business structure. All we are doing is taking full advantage of the expertise that is going to come our way by being involved with the PGA Tour.
Q: How will the Canadian Tour be positioned under the PGA umbrella?
JANES: It’s premature to say. I know there’s been speculation about a bail out, a buy out or takeover. That’s not the case. I think this is something that’s been built on the wonderful relationships we’ve had over the years. They recognize the value of the Canadian Tour in professional golf . Over the years this has proven to be a very valuable system in terms of developing players. Mike Weir and Steve Stricker to Nick Watney and Stuart Appleby and so on who have gone on to the PGA Tour and that’s well recognized. Make no mistake, Adam Hadwin actually did a lot of good for us this year in terms of his fantastic performance and profile - that certainly caught the attention of the PGA Tour as well. This is really something that is born of good relationships and working together over the years. We’re really looking forward to it.
Q: This arrangement sounds similar to what the Canadian Football League went through several years ago when it reached out to the NFL for financial and marketing support?
JANES: The CFL is a great analogy. We often consider ourselves very much like the CFL in that, traditionally, our tour has been very strong in Western Canada. One of the things we’ll be working on over the course of this coming year with the Tour is to strengthen and grow our tour in Eastern Canada.
Q: You had some successes out West this year with a couple of new events and the Players Cup in Winnipeg. The hole of course is east of Manitoba where there are no events in the Greater Toronto Area, Quebec or the Maritimes. What can you tell me about the schedule moving forward for next year?
JANES: Eastern Canada is absolutely fundamental. We have six good events in Western Canada and we have the opportunity to put in one or two more. But it’s Eastern Canada where we need to grow. We think there are as many as 15 good playing dates in Canada over the course of our golf season. In 2012, we will likely have 9 to 10 events. The growth next year will come in Eastern Canada. We are hopeful to announce a new event in the Atlantic region. We are also working on Quebec and the corridor from Windsor on through to Kingston and Ottawa as well. So our schedule will come out when its complete in January once we’ve gotten into this new arrangement. Our schedule drives everything. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. Our players are a critical asset - without them we don’t have a tour - but without a good schedule we don’t have quality players.
Q: Will South America and Mexico continue to be part of the Canadian Tour’s long term schedule?
JANES: Our focus is exclusively on the Canadian marketplace going forward. Mexico and South America are going to be the domain of the PGA Tour Latino Americas and whether we integrate at all with them that’s just speculative at this point. Clearly our seasons are complimentary in that the new Tour in South America operates essentially opposite of ours. So we’re hopeful that we’ll see a lot of players from that Tour from that region continuing to play in Canada. But for the time being our focus is exclusively on the Canadian marketplace and taking care of our own home turf.
Q: From a financial standpoint, where does the Canadian Tour stand today? How close were we to losing the Canadian Tour?
JANES: We were very close to losing the Canadian Tour. It’s hard to say that because we wouldn’t lose the events, we have some very, very stable events. Our event in Victoria, for example, will be celebrating its 30th anniversary. Our events in Alberta are very, very strong. Similarly in Saskatchewan and to a certain extent Winnipeg, where we’ve got some wonderful sponsorships and long term support. Those events would continue, it’s just the operating infrastructure may well have dwindled to a skeleton of what it is today. Not that its currently a big operating entity but it would have been difficult. Where we are today is not only the best situation we could be in today, all things being equal, its the best situation we could be in, in my opinion.