Tennis Executive Laurence Applebaum Named New Chief Executive Officer Of Golf Canada

Golf Canada's Newest CEO Is Laurence Applebaum. He Has 20 Years Of Sports Business Experience - Image Courtesy Golf Canada

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

Golf Canada has reached into the world of women’s tennis to find its new chief executive officer.

Laurence Applebaum, who has spent the past five years as executive vice president of the Florida-based Women’s Tennis Association, was introduced as Golf Canada’s new boss at a news conference Tuesday morning in Oakville, Ont.

He succeeds Scott Simmons, who resigned in November after leading Golf Canada for 10 years. Applebaum will begin his new duties on July 10.

“I could not be more excited or honoured to take on this role,” Applebaum said. “A position like this is really rare and it’s rare because it touches participation, it touches membership, it touches the professional game and big sports events.”

A native of Toronto, Applebaum has more than 20 years of sports business experience. Prior to joining the WTA, he served as the Toronto-based president of Salomon Canada from 2006-2011. He also worked in a number of roles for Wilson Sports and the brands of its parent company, Amer Sports, including Atomic, Suunto and Precor. Applebaum also spent two years as sales and marketing manager with Nike Golf Canada from 1997-1999.

He said strengthening Golf Canada’s two national championships -- the RBC Canadian Open and the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open -- is his top priority. “That really is such an opportunity for us to drive the organization forward and to also help fund some of our development initiatives,” he said.

Applebaum said he wants to turn the two events into what he called 'big sporting events.' “We are really going to evolve these into next-level championships,” he said. “A phenomenal job has been done by the staff to be on that level and we are going to continue to drive that forward.

“I think in Canada there are so many competitive sporting environments for fans to choose from and our goal is to engage the fans and make the championships must-attend events.”

One of Applebaum’s first tasks will be to try and extend CP Rail’s sponsorship of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, which expires in 2018. But it is the RBC Canadian Open that is really Golf Canada’s bread and butter and there are a number of questions hanging over that event.

For starters, where will it be played? In recent years Golf Canada has seemed to abandon its strategy of moving the tournament to different areas of the country. Glen Abbey, in Oakville, has once again seemed to become a semi-permanent home for the Open, but there are questions regarding future development of that site.

Applebaum seemed non-committal on the subject of location for the Open, which has had its most financial success when it has been held in the Greater Toronto area. It was last held in Vancouver in 2011 at Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club. “We are thrilled with our home today at Glen Abbey, we are thrilled with our partnership with (Glen Abbey owner) ClubLink,” Applebaum said.

“I personally have been to about a half-dozen of the Canadian Opens and have seen incredible locations like Hamilton, like St. Georges, like Angus Glen, as well as Royal Montreal.”

The Canadian Open’s place on the schedule also figures to be a big part of Applebaum’s early days on the job. The Canadian Open is currently sandwiched between the Open Championship and a World Golf Championship event and the PGA Championship in late July. That makes it difficult to attract many of the world’s top players.

“I can tell you we will look at all of our options when availability comes our way,” Applebaum said. “We will have robust discussions with our partners and figure it out. Obviously we have had a number of different opportunities with the Canadian Open and where they have been date-wise.

We are going to look at what this new world looks like. I know from direct conversations with the (PGA TOUR) operations staff there that (new commissioner) Jay Monahan has made it a priority to make a real strong calendar, to make great events. It is a real key priority for us to continue that discussion.”

Applebaum was hired after an exhaustive search process following the departure of Simmons. “Laurence is a fresh, but experienced face,” said Roland Deveau, president of Golf Canada’s board of directors. “He brings a powerful combination of leadership, senior management skills and visionary thinking that can move Golf Canada into the future.”

Applebaum, who calls himself a passionate golfer, said he hopes to convince more Canadians to golf. “We have the strongest number of per capita golfers in the world,” he said. “I was told that many times during this process and I know it and I feel it. The passion for golf in this country is off the charts and I look forward to having those golfers who play, to play more, and bring new people into the game.”

He also spoke of the strides Golf Canada has made on the development side of the game, noting the record numbers of Canadian players currently competing on the PGA and LPGA Tours. He also noted the success of the country’s young players, mentioning Sunday’s victory by 13-year-old Jeevan Sihota of Victoria at the Future Links Pacific Championship at Chilliwack Golf Club.