Changing of the guard

Talk about having big shoes to fill.

When Bill Paul worked his first RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey Golf Club 38 years ago, his boss, the tournament chairman, was a man… no, a legend … known as “Mr. Canadian Open”—Richard (Dick) Grimm.

At the time, Paul was a Grade 12 student in Oakville, Ont., and was painting for Grimm’s son, Bob. Dick asked Bill to consider working at the first Canadian Open in 1977. He pounded in stakes, strung gallery ropes, hung signs and did all the other grunt work. When Paul, a varsity athlete, graduated from University, he declined an offer from the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League and came on board full-time at Golf Canada, learning the ropes (excuse the pun) about every detail of conducting a PGA Tour event under Grimm’s tutelage.

When Grimm left his post in 1992, Paul assumed the role of tournament director. Since then, he has indefatigably overseen much more than the convoluted logistics involved in putting on Canada’s only tour event, Canada’s national open championship. Starting in the mid-1990s, he ran our country’s first entry on the Champions Tour for several years, was the Tournament Director at the World Amateur in 1992, and ensured the LPGA Tour  went off without a hitch when Golf Canada took on the event in 2001. As golf grew, so did the scope of his job. Pounding stakes and stringing rope became the least of his worries. It was a whole new world with millionaire players, TV contracts, partnerships, sales, venue changes and more.

Now, four decades later, Paul and Golf Canada CEO Scott Simmons have determined that another transition is in order. As Chief Championship Officer, Paul’s evolving responsibilities have become enormous: liaison with players, the tour, sponsors, government, clubs, arranging for future tournament venues, assisting with business development, and much more. Inevitably, the ground-level logistics of both the RBC Canadian Open and the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open needed more constant and consistent attention.

Bill has played such an important role in championships and with our organization for so many years; now we have an opportunity to focus his experiences towards strategic activities that can impact the long term success of our championships,” said Simmons. “Succession planning is important and what allows us make this change with confidence is the quality of experts within our championship division ready to take on a larger role.”

“About 10 years ago, I saw that Brent McLaughlin was the one to succeed me in those responsibilities,” said Paul, 56. “He conducted himself so well with clubs and volunteers and has great attention to detail. He was the ideal choice.”

And so, in an orderly, seamless and predetermined transition of responsibilities, McLaughlin has been tabbed to be responsible for the successful operation day-to-day of both the RBC Canadian Open and the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, an LPGA event. Big shoes to fill again.

For McLaughlin, it is a natural progression. For the past 15 years, McLaughlin has proven himself invaluable in various portfolios including Rules, amateur championships and handicapping, and for the past two years, has been Tournament Director for the CP Women’s Open.

“Conducting world class golf competitions is a big part of Golf Canada’s mandate and I’ve been fortunate over the past 15 years to tap into some incredible expertise,” said McLaughlin. “It’s an exciting time; we’ve got a solid tournament operations team in place ready to continue a legacy of championship excellence driven by Bill and Dick Grimm before that.”

For McLaughlin, this evolution means Paul will continue to mentor him in the increasingly demanding role of conducting professional championships. For Paul, it means he can take a longer-term view of these tournaments.

But no matter how big the shoes, there is no doubt that all concerned have hit the ground running.