David Atkinson’s Year in Retrospect

David Atkinson/British Columbia Golf

RICHMOND, British Columbia — For British Columbia Golf, the year 2015 has been an interesting one in many ways, but for me it’s been mostly about the people in our sport.

Operationally, the dedicated Staff and Volunteers of British Columbia Golf have continued to deliver programs and services at a level of excellence which I am proud to say has made our organization a “best in class” sport association respected by its peers across this country and by other stakeholders around the world.

Under the new Governance model, the Board of Directors has worked tirelessly to provide strategic direction to our organization. While the Directors all come from different backgrounds, they have worked as a cohesive group to address our challenges, and pursue the opportunities for the future. The members of the Zone Council have continued their critical role in supporting the development of our sport with their Zones and working together with other organizations that also promote and develop the sport of golf.

Increasingly this past year I have come to appreciate the many individuals who support the game of golf with their volunteering efforts - people who give a lot more to the game than you could ever expect. Whether they have worked directly under the BC Golf umbrella, or simply supported golf in their community, their collective effort is something that greatly benefits our sport. We simply could not function without it. A special ‘shout out’ goes to Pat Irwin from Ladysmith, B.C., for his tireless and dedicated work with junior golfers. Not only did Pat receive BC Golf’s President Award as Volunteer of the Year in 2015, but also he was recognized nationally as Golf Canada’s Volunteer of the Year.

Pat Irwin (L) Recieves SportBC’s 2015 Presidents Award From British Columbia Golf President David Atkinson. (Photo/SportBC)

I have also had the pleasure this past year to meet more of those individuals who earn their livelihood from the game. They are the backbone of the industry given their critical roles on the front lines of the facilities. This includes golf professionals, owners, managers, superintendents, and others, many of whom work as partners with us in AGA (Allied Golf Association), and are the backbone of the industry given the critical roles they play on the front lines of the facilities.

The common element between our volunteers and those who earn a livelihood from golf is that we all share a passion for the sport. We all want a better future for the game we love.

2015 has also been a great year for our heroes – those golfers who began their competitive sport journey on the fairways of British Columbia and whose names are now seen on a regular basis climbing the leaderboards at professional tour events around the world; names that include Adam Hadwin, Adam Svensson, Nick Taylor, Jessica Wallace and Sue Kim to name but a few. Not too far behind these increasingly familiar names lurk an incredible number of juniors who also are demonstrating early accomplishments gained from following the BC Golf development pathway.

While it is undeniable that golf in British Columbia and across Canada, like any other business in these unpredictable economic times, continues to face challenges, there were encouraging indicators in 2015 for cautious optimism.

From its positive impact on health & wellness, on the economy and on environmental stewardship, there are many reasons for the British Columbia golf industry to be encouraged. Rounds in British Columbia were up by 6.45% in 2015, more of an increase than in either Ontario or in Quebec. Better weather generally across the province, in particular a relatively benign winter, has most golf course owners expecting early openings to their 2016 season. In addition, the lower value of the Canadian dollar is expected to result in more B.C. golfers remaining on this side of the border for their golf in 2016, and conversely more US golfers are expected to come to British Columbia.

Also in 2015, recognizing the changing landscape of golf club membership, Golf Canada and all the Provincial Golf Associations worked together to develop a fundamental change to their membership model. After extensive surveys and focus groups with golfers and facilities across the country, a new structure is being rolled out across Canada. The three-tiered program is so innovative that it is being viewed with great interest by other national golf associations who are considering revamping their own membership methods. This shift in focus is intended to embrace and connect with all golfers, not only those who belong to traditional golf clubs.

It’s been an exciting and challenging year, and everyone in the golf industry is looking forward to building on the positive momentum that began in 2015.