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A Texas Scramble – The Ampersand October 2021

October 1, 2021

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Dear Friends and Colleagues,


For those who don’t know, a “Texas Scramble” is a form of team competition in golf whereby all members of the team tee off yet only one of the drives is chosen to be used for the next shot. All members of the team place their ball where the chosen drive ended up and the team then plays a second shot from this spot. And so on until the ball is in the hole. Each team returns one score for each hole and the team with the lowest score for the round wins.


A complicating factor of most Texas Scramble tournaments is that each member of the golfing foursome must use a minimum number of tee shots; typically, four per person. This is complicating because if you have one very bad player in your group (let’s call him Jason) you must use Jason’s tee shot on four of the 18 holes.  Strategically, you want to try to get Jason’s required drives out of the way early so as not to place greater pressure on him later in the round when fewer holes and options remain.


This is more difficult than it sounds. Consciously declining to use a great drive on an early hole from your best player requires discipline, foresight, and clear communication amongst the team. Yes, you could take your best player’s great drive and bank the good news, but you would be mortgaging your future in the false hope that the immediate gratification of a good score on an early hole will be worth it later. Thing is, that’s not how it works.


Logic dictates that if Jason is even remotely in play off the tee – for Jason can easily find the woods, the water or miss the ball entirely – the prudent, longer-term strategy is to confront that reality head on, use Jason’s awful drive early, unpopular though that may be among the team. By delaying the gratification rather than devouring it, you take the pressure off and then your team is unburdened by player selection later in the round when it matters most and when bad players tend to wilt under the pressure of being forced to use their shot rather than having the option of doing so.


Which leads us to the scramble that was “Alberta’s Best Summer Ever” and Premier Kenney’s “Mission Accomplished” moment, reminiscent of George W. Bush on the aircraft carrier declaring victory after a six-week war that lasted 20 years. What is it with these guys?



Appropriately, the Texas Scramble analogy came to me as I was driving to Canmore for a charity Texas Scramble golf tournament on September 16th, the morning after Premier Kenney scrambled to announce the latest round of lockdowns in Alberta amid a spike in cases and deaths that was the most inevitable and predictable thing since that morning’s sunrise. A sunrise which, I’m told, was quite beautiful. I missed it because I was busy managing a scramble of my own.


The news of the sudden though entirely avoidable lockdown meant scrambling to communicate to 80 CEOs, including our two guests of honour, both recently transplanted Texans no less, that our Rooftop Cocktails & Conversation event, months in the planning, scheduled to be held five days later, on September 21st, was now cancelled on account of, well, waiting until the 18th hole to have to use one of Jason’s drives.


We seem intent in these parts to consistently defer the correct decision today only to then be forced into a less appealing one tomorrow. Having squandered earlier opportunities to mitigate a bad situation before it became a horrific one, all in the name of a good headline and a parade, we’re now stuck with Jason on the tee, hopelessly flailing away, even his own teammates barely able to watch.


Alberta’s Best Summer Ever.  FORE!


Reopening for good.  FORE!


$100 intransigence gift cards. FORE!


Seeking military for assistance the day after the federal election.  FORE!!


Even the occasional good drive Jason hit during our Scramble was frittered away. Unable to bring himself to call it a Vaccine Passport (apparently such utterances in Alberta are akin to saying Macbeth in the theatre), he reluctantly dribbled the Restrictions Exemptions Program off the tee. We had no choice but to use it and we wound up birdieing the hole anyway, a massive uptick of vaccinations following on the heels of what others had successfully done months earlier.


It should come as little surprise that we are losing this contest, just as we lost the opportunity to hold our event, all in the name of a good early headline and a Stampede parade. Indeed, we knew when we started planning our CEO event back in April that only two things could scuttle it: the weather and COVID. When you plan an outdoor event in Calgary and it’s not the weather that messes it up, things have gone terribly wrong indeed.


Though an inconsequential inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, the reception was important to us and to our clients. For we, and they, were genuinely looking forward to the opportunity to connect — in person — albeit under the canopy of empty downtown office towers. As I explained in my pre-dawn cancellation note:


“This is incredibly frustrating, but we feel it’s the most prudent course of action under the circumstances. While strictly speaking there appears to be nothing in the announcement that would prevent us from hosting the event (though it’s hard to decipher exactly what we can and can’t do), we feel it’s not a great look to have the city’s leadership community gather in a large group at this time, not to mention the potential health consequences that could arise. We will always put the best interests of our clients and our community ahead of our own, well intentioned though they may have been.” 


Foregoing this event to consider the longer-term impacts also meant the cancellation of food, wine, servers, live music, tents, tables, and much more; an entire ecosystem of other purposely procured small businesses like our own, simply trying to transact and interact in a safe and responsible manner, now unable to do so.


Having scrambled to send the note and regretfully cancel all the suppliers, it wasn’t until about the 6th hole of our Texas Scramble at beautiful Stewart Creek under a perfect late summer sky that I managed to relax and try to enjoy the day.


And then, as if on cue, the sponsor for the next hole we were playing appeared as we approached the tee: the United Conservative Party of Alberta and the affable Banff-Kananaskis MLA, Miranda Rosin, one of 16 UCP elected officials who signed a letter back in April in opposition to the very provincial public health restrictions meant to avoid this mess, and her frustratingly partisan side-kick wanting to talk politics in my backswing. Golf’s hard enough.


Where does one direct one’s frustration in the face of ICU’s packed with unvaccinated people, being treated (on yours and my tab) by doctors and nurses whose very place of work had, earlier that same week, been the scene of protests against vaccine mandates whilst surrounded by elected officials opposed to the overdue restrictions that ultimately came too late?


Add the soundtrack provided by Ms. Rosin’s helper, prattling on with his infuriatingly biased banter whilst our foursome was trying to chip marshmallows into a milk carton (it’s not easy), stopping only to breathe before concluding loudly “well, it’s not like you’re ever going to vote NDP-P-p-p?!” His lonely nervous laughter echoing off the majestic Rocky Mountains. “Even if that were true, which it is not,” I responded to his dismay, “is that a justification for being bad at your job? Because the other guys are worse at theirs?” With that sort of logic, is it any wonder an element of the party thinks a vaccine that millions of people have safely gotten will kill them, but a virus that has killed millions of people won’t?


Once again annoyed, I hit my tee shot. Suffice to say, we did not select my drive on that hole.  FORE!


Yes, golf is hard. So, too, is running a small business with Jason Kenney in your proverbial foursome. Don’t get me wrong. Neither golf nor running a business is as hard as losing loved ones to COVID, for I have done that too. I am well aware that writing about a cancelled rooftop reception in light of relatives dead but not yet properly buried could come across as missing the point. To the contrary, I completely get the point. And that is this: there is a solution right there in front of us, yet we seem determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory because the leader of our team hasn’t a clue and the deadly combination of his wilful obfuscation and need for gratification has emboldened a fringe minority to hold the rest of us hostage. And they complain about their freedoms?


Look, we all want to hit the perfect drive. Throw the perfect event. Chase the great headline. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s how you get there that matters. And just as passing up a great drive can be frustrating in the moment, and even appear to not make sense, the longer term, bigger picture considerations must be accounted for. Could we have held our event? Yes, but we passed on it. And in so doing passed on a perfect drive striped right down the middle; a glorious fall evening on our rooftop with Calgary’s leadership community would have been a tempting shot to take, indeed.


But, as a wise man once wrote, yes you could bank the good news early, but you would be mortgaging your future in the false hope that the immediate gratification of a good score on an early hole will be worth it later.


Thing is, that’s not how it works.