Catching up with Bruce Mitchell to reflect about his experience as the first Canadian to be named captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (R&A) is a daunting task. That, no doubt, is because he’s still doing his own catching up after a whirlwind year in the post, one of the most prestigious in the world of golf.
A member of the R&A since 1988, Mitchell was nominated by past captains to become just the ninth internationally appointed captain of the revered organization. The captain’s duties include representing the R&A and aiding its effort in developing golf around the world as well as attending all R&A championships while embracing the role of ambassador for the club. It’s an exhausting but exhilarating experience.
“They send you a letter telling you that the past captains want to bestow this honour on you,” Mitchell told SCOREGolf’s Rick Young. “I have to tell you I was in absolute shock. I read the opening paragraph, read it again and was simply lost for words. My wife and I were in the kitchen. She looked at me read it and she said, ‘Who died?’”
Born in Victoria and raised in Edmonton, Mitchell is the founder, owner and president of Toronto-based Permian Industries, a management and holding company with sole or significant shareholdings in two food companies and two software providers. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Bank of Montreal and other public company, private corporation and not-for-profit Boards. He is on vice-chair of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, on the Board of St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation and a trustee of the Ridley College Foundation.
His golf resume is as impressive as his business portfolio. A past-president of the Toronto Golf Club, Mitchell is a past club champion of Windermere Golf and Country Club where he was a trustee and co-chair. In 2001, he won both the Queen Victoria Jubilee Vase and the Royal Sydney Plate, which are matchplay knockout competitions played during the R&A’s autumn meeting.
Throughout his one-year tenure, Mitchell told Young, “Everywhere I have gone, I have been treated almost like royalty. It really doesn’t have anything to do with me as an individual, Bruce Mitchell, golfer or lack thereof. It really has everything to do with the respect and reverence in which the R&A is held throughout the world. There is a governing body heavily invested in golf while trying to do the best and everything it can to preserve a game we all love. I just happen to be the representative of it.”
Past captains of the R&A have included six members of the Royal Family including the Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward VIII. In 1922, during the ceremonial “driving in” for all new captains, he hit his shot off the toe of his club, scattering bystanders and striking a fence 50 metres away.
In contrast, Mitchell, despite feeling “huge excitement and a lot of nerves as I addressed the ball,” managed to sail his ceremonial tee shot down the hallowed first fairway of the Old Course at St Andrews.
It was an auspicious start to an incredible year.