GAO Tournament staff tackles challenges from winter

UXBRIDGE— To say it has been a difficult spring for the Golf Association of Ontario’s Tournament Department would be an understatement. Director of Rules and Competitions Dave Colling and the rest of the department have been busy ensuring the 2014 tournament schedule goes on in full despite the challenges.

Colling says that he has never seen anything like this in his 39 years being involved in the golf industry. “There hasn’t been a season like this. There have been small pockets of problems in portions of the province before, but not across such a big area.”

He says that it was only when courses started to thaw from the snow and ice did the department realize they could have additional work to do. “Only when courses started to open did we get notice that there could be problems. Most of the problems were related to the greens. Older courses that have poa annua grass for their greens were harder hit than courses with bent grass.”

“The ice did the damage to the greens forcing clubs to re-sod or re-seed. Because the spring temperatures have been so cool, it has been difficult for new grass to grow,” added Colling.

That created numerous problems for the department. “Our major problem was finding a new site for our Men’s Mid Amateur Championship. Luckily, we had Taboo Resort step up and take the tournament, but there is a ripple effect. Anytime you move an event, not only from a site but also to a new date, it creates a conflict for golfers. We had to offer withdrawals to players who were unable to play on the new date.”

The qualifying sites were another challenge for the department, as they needed to find new dates and new venues for previously scheduled sites. “One site only had 15 playable holes for us, another only nine holes that we ended up playing twice. However, we did everything to make sure we got the rounds in. I feel bad for the players because, for some, their own clubs weren’t open and some only played one or two rounds before a qualifier.”

Not only is there a challenge with the players and venues, but also in rescheduling volunteers, a major component of GAO tournaments. “You have to find different volunteers when you move and you run into conflicts. In the case of our Mid-Am, it will be the second event that Taboo hosts so we needed to get volunteers out to both.”

However, despite all of the challenges this season has produced, Colling says that all the work is pretty much done. “I think we are done now. We changed the last site that we needed to and can move forward.”

He acknowledges that the changes couldn’t be possible without the support of the golf community. “We turned to other clubs and worked with them to make sure there were solutions to the challenges. Whether we needed a new site or to change a date, the clubs were a big help to us. Even if we called one up that couldn’t help, they would recommend another nearby. The entire community really came together to help us.”

It was that support from the clubs that allowed the GAO’s Tournament Department to make sure the schedule stayed intact. “The GAO member clubs have been fantastic through the process and really stepped up. “

Colling says that there was not much that could have been done to prevent the challenges of this season and chalks it up to simply an act of nature. Still, he feels that clubs will learn from it and will make necessary decisions to avoid their own issues in the future. For now, Colling and his department, that includes Tournament Manager Larry Longo and Interns Rob Blaker and Ryan Bond-Gauthier, can focus on running the GAO events now that the challenges are behind them.