Canadian News

A little-known exempt category is giving Mike Weir new life on the Web.com Tour

by Ryan Herrington

Former Masters champion Mike Weir, who turned 48 on May 12, is competing this week in the Web.com Tour’s BMW Charity Pro-Am in Greer, S.C.

It’s hard to figure out what’s the most surprising part of that sentence: The fact that the most successful professional golfer in Canadian history is actually 48 (time does fly, doesn’t it), or that a former Masters champ is playing in a Web.com Tour event?

It’s no secret that Weir’s halcyon days have passed. In his prime the lefty was one of the PGA Tour’s more consistent golfers, winning eight times, including his 2003 Masters title, and earning $22 million in 442 starts. In his first 12 seasons on the PGA Tour (1998-2009), he had 68 top-10 finishes and made the cut in more than 75 percent of his starts.

Yet after his impressive rise came a shocking fall. Since 2011, when Weir injured his wrist after hitting a tree root at the RBC Heritage, he has had just two top-10 finishes on the tour while making the cut in less than 20 percent of his 100-plus starts.

Which brings us to this week’s Web.com Tour event at Thornblade Golf Club, one of the more celebrated events on the circuit. It’s only the second time in his career that Weir is playing in a Web.com Tour event. The first came 25 years ago, when he missed the cut in the 1993 Monterey Open when it was then known as the Nike Tour.

Weir’s entry into the Web.com event comes with an interesting twist. He is playing under a little known eligibility category that accommodates current and former PGA Tour members who are ages 48-49. It’s an obvious nod to guys trying to round their games into form for a run at the PGA Tour Champions, and it will allow Weir to compete for other Web.com Tour events this summer (there are three spots held for players in this category) in hopes of earning his way back on to the PGA Tour.

“I don’t say anything to people who say I can’t do this anymore,” Weir told Golfweek earlier in the year. “I don’t care. I love the game and I love to compete. They aren’t in my body and they don’t know how hard I work.”

Like it was Yesterday

by Michael Grange (Sportsnet)

Fifteen years ago this coming Sunday, the world stopped — if you were Canadian, at least. Way down in the heart of Georgia, the pride of Brights Grove, Ont., was alone on a verdant stage, watched by millions. After three days and 69 holes, Mike Weir was tied for the lead at the Masters, the first major championship of the season, held every year at Augusta National Golf Club.

Playing in the final group, Weir was the only one in the field who still controlled his destiny. The man he was chasing, Len Mattiace, a journeyman pro who had torn up the course with a fourth-round 65, was already in the clubhouse at minus-7.

The final three holes made for unprecedented drama, and Weir’s one-hole playoff victory over Mattiace provided a flood of relief, elevating him to Canadian sports immortality. It was wet, it was wild, but mostly it was a win for the ages.

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When all of Canada cheered

By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM

Mike Weir was in a cart with his family headed toward Butler’s Cabin, where a green jacket awaited him. Suddenly, his brother Jim tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Hey, you forgot something.”

It was his ball.

In the hullabaloo that occurred after Weir won the 2003 Masters to become the first male major champion from Canada, he had forgotten the prized possession resting at the bottom of the cup on the par-4 10th, where he had just beaten Len Mattiace in a sudden-death playoff.

The oversight was understandable. Weir wasn’t expected to be the last man standing at Augusta National. He had to play 36 holes on Friday due to torrential rains, and a long course had been made longer. He’s a short hitter and wasn’t given much of a chance.
Even though he won twice on the PGA TOUR that season prior to the Masters, he wasn’t among the six players — three of them internationals — called into the interview room for a pre-tournament press conference that Tuesday.

But five days later, there was Weir, the green jacket now around his shoulders — and yes, the winning ball in hand after retrieving it from the 10th hole.

Weir, now 47, is celebrating the 15th anniversary of his Masters triumph this week. His victory — he defeated Mattiace on the first playoff hole after making an 8-foot par putt on the 72nd hole — was not just for him.

The whole of Canada, it seemed, was clinging on to his every shot, and what happened that week spurred those on the cusp of starting junior golf, those in college, and those who hadn’t even begun playing golf yet to want to be like Mike.
He inspired a generation.

He changed the way Canadians felt about the sport.

And he won one for the underdog.

The set-up

Weir had won twice already in 2003 and by the end of the year he would move to No. 3 in the Official World Golf Rankings. But Augusta National was playing long and wet, and all eyes were on Tiger Woods, the two-time defending champ who had already won three times in five starts that season. Weir wasn’t a betting favorite — although in his mind, he was.

MIKE WEIR: “The start of the season, how I played, I was playing better than anybody. I had won a couple times, I almost won another time (T9 at the Phoenix Open) and then I almost won another time after that (T3 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am) so I nearly had four wins before the Masters. I really felt on form with my game.”

LORNE RUBENSTEIN (Canadian journalist and author of “Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters”): “It was so soft, and people just assumed it was going to be the week for the longest hitters. But Mike’s wedge game was so wonderful at that time in his career, in a way (the weather) neutralized the longer hitters and the high-ball hitters because, while they still might carry the ball a long way, it wasn’t really going to roll as far as it would normally, and Mike with a low ball flight could still get it out there far enough and while he had to rely on his short game, it was actually quite helpful for him. It turned out to be an asset right from the beginning, and he scoffed at the notion that the golf course was going to be too long for him.”

WEIR: “My wedge game in general has always been excellent. It was good at Augusta but it wasn’t any better that week… that was just the way I was wedging it all year. That’s the way I had to play the course.”

RUBENSTEIN: “When I went down to Doral to talk to him a few weeks before, you could tell that Mike is not the kind of guy to draw attention to himself. so at first he was a little hesitant to talk about his belief and his self-belief that he could win a major in the time not too far away. But once he started talking about it, you could see that quiet self-confidence come across without it being an arrogant self-confidence.”

JIM WEIR: “Everyone was talking about how it was a bomber’s course (because) it was playing so long. Even though he had won twice going into that tournament, he was really under the radar.”

RICHARD ZOKOL (Canadian golfer, winner of the 1992 Greater Milwaukee Open): “Mike was making an ascent that year, and even the years prior he was going up to the next level. He had won a (World Golf Championship), he had won twice at Riviera. He was passing the tests for a Canadian who was in uncharted waters. Mike was showing a pattern of performances that showed he belonged. It showed he was at the next level.”

IAN LEGGATT (Canadian golfer, winner of the 2002 Touchstone Energy Tucson Open): “Mike had one of the best wedge games not just on the PGA TOUR but probably in the world. That’s how he was able to do it. At Augusta National, I think it’s always a surprise when someone like Mike or Zach (Johnson) could win, because it’s become such a power game and a power golf course, but I think everything lent itself that week to Mike being able to win.”

Where they were

The Canadians who are now on the PGA TOUR were all in different stages of their lives in 2003. Brad Fritsch was on the then-Canadian Tour (now PGA TOUR Canada). David Hearn and Graham DeLaet were finishing college or about to embark on their professional careers. Nick Taylor and Ben Silverman were teenagers; Mackenzie Hughes and Corey Conners were still in grade school. Canadian Golf Hall of Famer Richard Zokol, 17 years older than Weir, was 44 at the time and just two years removed from his last major start.

GRAHAM DeLAET: “I was in Pocatello, Idaho, because we were playing an Idaho State tournament (DeLaet was at Boise State at the time), and we finished up the second day. We came inside and it was just in time to see him make the putt on 18, and watched the playoff. It wasn’t really ideal timing from a Mike Weir fan standpoint (laughs).”

BRAD FRITSCH: “I was 25 and I was no good… yet (laughs). I was watching all day and I remember wondering, ‘Man, can he keep this up?’ because he was making all these 6-10 footers and I remember Len Mattiace was having a great day. Obviously being Canadian, I cheered for (Weir). As a professional, you don’t really cheer for too many guys – you cheer for your friends and that’s about it. Back then, not really knowing anyone out there, it was just really cool to have a Canadian doing that.”

MACKENZIE HUGHES (winner of the 2016 The RSM Classic): “I was just at home with my parents — they would have been watching too. I was on the couch, watching him do his thing. I don’t remember the details but I remember that putt (on 18). It was a huge deal.”

DAVID HEARN: “I remember that we were in Arkansas trying to Monday qualify for a (Web.com Tour) event… as soon as we finished the practice round, we tried to time it so that we could watch as much of the final round as we could in the hotel.”

NICK TAYLOR (winner of the 2014 Sanderson Farms Championship): “I was in Grade 9, I was still playing a bunch of sports but golf was becoming a favorite and one I wanted to play more. Obviously I was a Tiger (Woods) fan as well, but Mike, being from Canada… there weren’t many players out there that were recognizable. Mike Weir was the guy everybody knew about.”

ZOKOL: “I remember getting out of my chair and standing up and thinking, Mike is going to win this. This is going to happen. It’s not like, ‘I hope he wins this’ … it became a certainty. I just stood up, I was with my two kids, and all I could do was say that it was such a big moment in Canadian golf history and it was tremendous. It was just remarkable.”

COREY CONNERS (finished runner-up at the 2014 U.S. Amateur. Made his Masters debut in 2015 and played the first two rounds with Weir): “The thing that sticks in my mind is how he had that 6-footer on 18 for par (on Sunday). I ran out of the living room and was standing on our steps to go up to the second floor with my head down. I couldn’t watch! I heard my dad cheer or clap and I knew I could head back down and watch the rest.”

BEN SILVERMAN: “I hadn’t watched any golf at all. I wasn’t into watching it at that point at all (Silverman was a hockey player growing up just north of Toronto). For me, Mike Weir’s Masters win happened in like 2005 (laughs). At that point I would have been 17, I was much more into golf and I either was in Golf Town or somewhere and I purchased a VHS copy of his 2003 Masters and went home and watched. When he won the Masters in 2003, I didn’t know anything about it. I experienced his win a couple years later.”

RUBENSTEIN: “I was sitting in the top row on the 72nd hole and he’s got that 7-foot putt left and I’m furiously making notes, and he makes the putt and I’m still furiously making notes and nobody can move from that row. Rick Reilly (from Sports Illustrated) says, “Come on Rubenstein, move — we can’t get out of here until you do. Are you going to write the whole book now?”

Celebration

Weir flew to Toronto, Ontario, with some executives from Sears. He had been working on launching a clothing line that had been in the works for a couple of years, which was to take place on the Monday after the Masters. The Toronto Maple Leafs were also in the NHL playoffs, and the city was electric. Weir would be mobbed by fans at the Sears in downtown Toronto, and eventually went on to drop the puck at the Maple Leafs playoff game that night versus the Philadelphia Flyers.

To this day, people who were there say it was the loudest ovation they had ever heard.

JIM WEIR: “When it was time for Mike to go out on the ice at the Air Canada Centre, I was on the Maple Leafs bench and I remember Mike being announced and it really was extremely loud. Players on the bench told me they had never heard it that loud before. It was a very long ovation, and when I looked at my brother he loved it but it was starting to get a little uncomfortable.”

LEGGATT: “I’ve been to a few things before where […] they’re retiring numbers and what happened at that game was 10-fold as compared to being to one of those games where they retired the number. The crowd didn’t want to sit down … it just went on and on. It was pretty cool.”

MIKE WEIR: “It ended up being a really special thing… I was really feeling the Canadian fans and the people were excited about that win and it felt great to see all the players slapping their sticks on the ice.”

BRAD FRITSCH: “I may have dreamed about (winning a major) but the really cool thing was getting on the ice, wearing the green jacket and having everyone root for him. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s something that I would want to do for sure.'”
Inspiration and impact

Weir’s Masters win remains his lone major victory, but it was clear as the 2003 season continued he was not a golfer to be forgotten. He finished T3 at the U.S. Open, and T7 at the PGA Championship, then was an integral part of the International Team at the Presidents Cup in South Africa, winning three points in an event that was declared a tie. He had seven top-3 finishes that year and was awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year (only the third golfer, and first male golfer) to win the award.
Since then, Weir has been named to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, and in 2007 he was named to the Order of Canada — the second-highest honor a Canadian citizen can receive.

RUBENSTEIN: “I remember three weeks after the Masters, I had arranged to go down to the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte and I talked for 4-5 hours about the Masters and I remember going into his room and it was so big. He had all of his clubs lined up against the wall and I said to him, ‘I guess you can afford some bigger rooms now that you’ve won the Masters, eh?'”

BILL PAUL (former Tournament Director for the RBC Canadian Open, and current Chief Championship Officer for Golf Canada): “The sense was that he was as big as Tiger Woods would have been. I remember the crowds around Mike Weir at Hamilton (host course of the RBC Canadian Open in 2003), but regardless of where that Open would have been played, he just drew ‘Tiger’ crowds and that was just pretty cool. When he came here, it was neat to see all these Canadians take to a native son. We all saw that (Masters) victory as being ours.”

DeLAET: “If it weren’t for Tiger, I wouldn’t be playing, but Mike too. Those two were basically my heroes growing up and to watch him put the green jacket on was pretty cool.”

TAYLOR: “It was definitely something where we see someone from our country who does something incredible, it makes you say, ‘Why not me?'”

SILVERMAN: “I didn’t even understand the significance of winning the Masters at that time. I didn’t gain an appreciation of it until later on, and I got into golf more. After watching that (video), I knew this is the best golfer in Canada and I started keeping an eye on him from that point on. As I worked on developing my game, he was the person I looked for to see how he was doing.”

HEARN: “Like a lot of Canadian fans, we know our athletes can do it, and they can do great things. But at the same time you’re just really hopeful that they do. That tournament (the Masters) means so much to Canadians, because it takes place around the beginning of our golf season. Mike had achieved so much already, and to cap it off with that win at Augusta, that win at the Masters, it was pretty special. … We saw a lot of ourselves in the way Mike came up through the ranks. It was very inspiring.”

ZOKOL: “I wish I had someone that made me believe I could win a major. I never aspired to win a major. It impacts what is possible and blows the ceiling off what is possible. … It affected all of Canada. Every Canadian in golf, certainly, it changed them. It had a profound impact on every person who plays the sport in the country. They thought, ‘We can do this.'”

ADAM HADWIN (winner of the 2017 Valspar Championship): “It showed the country and world we could compete on golf’s biggest stages … The country to the north with the long winters and short golf season can produce major champions. It also instilled a sense of belief in all of us that if Mike can do it, we can too.”

LEGGATT: “I was pretty ecstatic for Mike and ultimately the game of golf in Canada as well. Golf in Canada had a huge positive pivot in the right direction. It’s tough to measure things like that but it would have to be one of the most significant things that has ever happened in Canadian golf.”

MIKE WEIR: “When I talk to Canadians and fans, it’s a really special thing. Not many players on TOUR have that experience. Angel Cabrera, when he goes to Argentina, he’s a major champion. The United States has plenty of them, but Canada doesn’t, and a lot of other countries around the world have none. So to have the support of the fans and really feel that over the year has been incredible. It’s a unique experience and still, 15 years later, it’s still fresh in a lot of people’s minds and I’m proud of it. Big time.”

Mike Weir ‘feels good’ after world tour

by CP

After spending the last year playing golf in such places as Italy, Morocco, Fiji, Australia and South Africa, Canadian Mike Weir returns to the PGA Tour this week for the first time since last year’s RBC Canadian Open.

Weir, a Brights Grove native, is a past champion at the CareerBuilder Challenge in La Quinta, Calif. He’s in the field on a sponsor exemption alongside six other Canadians including Adam Hadwin, who finished second in 2017.

Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, has been relying on special invitations to earn starts on the European Tour and PGA Tour of Australasia since he has limited status on the PGA Tour. His tie for 15th at the Australian PGA Championship in November was his best result since a tie for 21st at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur in 2014.

Since then, Weir has missed 25 cuts and withdrawn five times on the PGA Tour. Despite setbacks and injuries, the 47-year-old shows no signs of giving up.

“My game feels good,” Weir said. “Since Australia, I had a month off.

“Last week was OK — I shook off a little rust. I was a little bit inconsistent, but a lot of good things. Overall I feel good. There’s a lot of power back in my swing again.”

Weir said he’s not doing anything differently to get stronger but is working on his flexibility. As he gets older Weir said keeping his back strong is key. Beyond that, he’s working mostly on core strength and stability.

Weir admitted he’s battling a knee injury after “landing funny” while walking a course in South Africa last week. He’ll get an MRI on his right knee at the end of this week but his doctor said he wouldn’t do any further damage if he plays.

“It’s definitely uncomfortable,” he said. “Bit of a bummer but hopefully it’s nothing serious.”

Weir captured the ’03 CareerBuilder Challenge as part of a three-win season — including the Masters — en route to being named the Lou Marsh Award winner as Canada’s athlete of the year. He’s the last golfer to win the honour.

Although Weir doesn’t tee it up as often these days, he remains a beacon for golf in the country according to Golf Canada CEO Laurence Applebaum.

“(Weir) continues to be such an example for Canadians from coast to coast with his work ethic and his commitment and his warrior mentality out on the golf course,” Applebaum said. “He’s in phenomenal shape and has a great balance in life going.

“I know that next chapter, which includes a really strong push on the PGA Tour, is what he’s trying to write and Golf Canada is behind him through and through.”

Weir is hopeful to play the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February but hasn’t heard from tournament organizers yet.
Weir said he’d be interested in playing on the Web.com Tour — a PGA Tour feeder — and is hopeful for some exemptions this spring leading into the Masters.

Weir hasn’t earned official money on the PGA Tour since 2014. But he remains focused on earning a PGA Tour card via the Web.com Tour by finishing in the top-25 on the money list — something Ben Silverman of Thornhill, Ont., did last year.

The Web.com Tour has a special category for longtime PGA Tour members who are 48-to-49. Weir will take advantage of some of those spots after he turns 48 on May 12.

“When I turn 48 in May I’ll have pretty much unlimited access to the Web.com Tour but I’d like to play some events before May comes along,” he said. “Not only for prep for Augusta (National), but if I end up focusing on the Web.com Tour come May, I don’t want to be too far behind when that date comes along to try to secure a spot in the top-25.”

Weir said he’s committed to regaining some status on the PGA Tour one more time before he begins playing on the PGA Tour Champions, the circuit for golfers aged 50 and over.

“I love the game, I love to compete, I love to see what I can do,” he said. “I love to experiment and try to get better and overcome obstacles.

“That’s what golf is about.”

Weir’s Aussie tour reveals life left in the old dog

by Paul Prendergast

In the stifling midday heat on Queensland’s Gold Coast, the smile said it all. There have been reasons too varied to mention that could excuse Mike Weir from regularly flashing his pearly whites on the golf course these past few years.

On this occasion though, he couldn’t help himself.

Tapping in for a par after an exquisite flop shot on the 18th green saw the 2003 Masters champion sign for a five-under 67 to complete his week at the Australian PGA Championship at eight-under, tied for 15th in an event co-sanctioned with the PGA Tour of Australasia and European Tour.

With 99 percent of the galleries on the final day following current Masters Champion Sergio Garcia, local favourite Marc Leishman and the leading groups, Weir completed the event in relative anonymity alongside talented young New South Welshman Travis Smyth, who was playing just his third professional event, and Queensland veteran Ryan Haller.

Smyth missed a short putt on the last that meant Weir finished ahead of the trio on the scoreboard, not that this was the catalyst for the split watermelon grin on the Canadian’s face. It was clear he was just revelling in the position he was back in, with the competitive juices flowing, and on a Sunday no less. Golf on Sundays have been a rare event for Weir in recent times.

“I didn’t want to make a bogey today. That was my goal,” Weir said after the round. “I had a lot of chances early and didn’t capitalise but I made a nice little run on the back side.

“I made birdie at the 14th, 15th and 16th so that was a nice little stretch there because the rest of the day was kind of ‘burning the edge, burning the edge, burning the edge’. It was nice to get that last one up and down to salvage the round.”

Looking back in time beyond all the injuries, poor form and off course issues to 2011 does not make for pleasant reading. He’s missed 71 cuts in 119 official events and made only six cuts in the past three years, leaving him plenty of gardening time back home in Utah. Fellow major champion Ian Baker-Finch, who Weir shared a social round with last week at the famed NSW Golf Club in Sydney, could sympathise after his own well documented travails.

“Before I came over here, I played an event at Pebble Beach for Taylor Made so this is three weeks in a row for me. This is what I’ve needed, to get some events in a row, to keep playing and get my game in form in competition.” – Mike Weir

Slowly however, the tide appears to be turning and the PGA Tour of Australasia has played its part in his mini-revival.

Weir came down to the Fiji International in August to provide his ‘name’ to the event alongside fellow Masters Champions Vijay Singh and Angel Cabrera. A tie for 35th might have been viewed indifferently in his heyday but it was a result that held far more significance given his dim recent past.

And what a heyday Weir has enjoyed in a lengthy and prolific career, highlighted of course by his Masters title, where he became just the second left-hander to win a major championship and the first Canadian.

Celebrating 25 years as a professional this year, the 47-year old has more to his resume than most of those watching him walk up the final hole on the Gold Coast would imagine. His eight PGA Tour titles include The Masters, a World Golf Championship and the Tour Championship; then there are the six World Cup appearances for Canada and five for the Internationals in the Presidents Cup.

Along with Geoff Ogilvy, Ernie Els and Tony Johnstone, Weir was one of Nick Price’s Captains Assistants at the recent staging of the Presidents Cup in New Jersey.

Returning to playing action at the Emirates Australian Open in November, Weir struggled in the high winds on the opening day (77) to play himself out of the reckoning early in the piece. A two-under 69 in the second round was another glimmer of light and despite missing the cut, he headed north to the PGA Championship on the Gold Coast in high spirits.

“The wind was very tough on Thursday afternoon. I didn’t play the best either but it was a tough day, then the next day was better,” he said.
The high finish at the PGA will most likely earn Weir his first Official World Ranking Points since the 2014 CIMB Classic in Malaysia where he finished T21. He left the Gold Coast earlier today with his new ranking sitting at No.1925.

Still, while most of the younger fans wouldn’t automatically recognise the man let alone acknowledge his incredible playing record, his presence was not lost on the players these past two weeks. Weir answered hundreds of questions, signed plenty of autographs and posed for many a selfie with his playing partners during his time in Australia.

Following their round at Royal Pines, Haller brought his wife and three boys into the scoring area for a family snap with Weir, proudly pointing out that his youngest son is also a leftie.

With Tiger Woods making a successful return to action in The Bahamas this week, Weir’s PGA performance is unlikely to raise more than a flicker of attention in the eyes of golf fans and media, not that Weir would likely trade places with the man who presented him with the Green Jacket in the Butler Cabin. Tied 15th place in an official event, on a golf course you haven’t seen before, having first navigated a 36-hole cut, brings with it a considerable degree of professional satisfaction in the circumstances.

“My game’s sharp and starting to get sharper. I just haven’t been playing much so it’s good to play,” said Weir of his two-week Aussie tour.
“Before I came over here, I played an event at Pebble Beach for Taylor Made so this is three weeks in a row for me. This is what I’ve needed, to get some events in a row, to keep playing and get my game in form in competition. And I proved it, I kept getting better every day.

“I kinda wish I could keep going right now, for sure. I’m playing in South Africa the second week of January so I’ll go home and enjoy the holidays for a month and get back at it.”

Motivated Weir knows the joy of winning

The numbers are imposing. Over the course of a 25-year professional career, Mike Weir has won eight times and earned $29,943,409 on the PGA Tour. His victories include the 2003 Masters, a World Golf Championship and the Tour Championship. Elsewhere, the 47-year old Canadian has represented the Internationals in five Presidents Cups. In the fourth of those, Weir beat a fellow by the name of Tiger Woods in singles. Clearly, the three-time Canadian athlete of the year is a proper player, a man able to perform under the severest pressure.

All of which is impressive enough. But the life and times of this long-time Utah resident – he graduated in recreation management from Brigham Young University – have been far from straightforward. Either side of his most successful years on tour, Weir has endured much. In the mid-1990s, by way of example, part of his early professional life was spent struggling without much success on the Australasian Tour.

“I was a regular visitor here in Australia between 1992 and 1996,” he says. “During that time I played in most of the tour events. Back then, the top-ten on the Canadian Tour were exempt into Monday qualifying down here. On my first visit I got through the qualifying seven times in a row – then missed all seven cuts the tournament proper.

“So things were tough. Not to over-dramatise, but even food was scarce. I had to budget well. I was missing nearly every cut and sleeping in my friend’s basement. It was all about saving the dollars.”

Weir was learning though. And even today he credits those far-off times in Australia with the development of a game good enough to win at the very highest level.

“Looking back, it was a great experience,” he continues. “The courses are so good and I met some great people. I still have some friends here. But any encouragement I had was minimal. I did have a top-ten in the Open at Royal Sydney in 1994 – but playing here was more of a stepping stone for me.

“The variety of shots is what impresses me most about the golf here. You can play the ball on the ground. You are not forced to fly every shot at the pin. I can recall putting from maybe 100-yards off the green when I played on the Melbourne Sandbelt. That brings out the creative side of the game, which suits me.”

Sadly, Weir’s steady progress came to a painful halt during a round at Hilton Head in South Carolina back in 2010. Having missed a fairway, his drive finished on pine needles. But what he didn’t know was that underneath the ball was an unyielding tree root.

“Things changed for me on that one shot,” he says. “I tore the extensor tendon in my right elbow and still have the scar and two metal screws in there today. My mobility is not the same. I used to have an exaggerated waggle before I started my backing, in which I would ‘cup’ my wrist. I can’t do that any more. So I’ve had to adjust. And that has been difficult. I lost my feel.

“My swing is still a work in progress really. I struggle with a ‘shut’ club face on my backswing. I’ve tried weakening my grip and all kinds of things. But nothing feels the same as it did before I was hurt.”

This year has been more of the same for Weir. Until last week, he hadn’t played competitively since the Fiji International in August. But he is hopeful of putting on a good show for the fans at the Australian Club during the 102nd Australian Open.

“I’m very motivated right now,” he claims. “Some personal issues are behind me. And my kids are going to be gone from the house next year. So I can focus on my game more. I’m feeling a sense of freedom. Plus, I played last week at Pebble Beach and saw some good things. I want to build on that here, even if my expectations are low. I just want to see what happens. But if things start going good I know I’m not afraid to play well when I’m in contention. I’ve done it before. I know how to win.”

‘Humble beginnings’ lead to Hall

by CP Lori Ewing

TORONTO — Simon Whitfield’s love affair with sports began around a pothole on Couper Street in Kingston.The hole in the road near his childhood home became centre ice, and Whitfield and his friends would gather there after school for a game of road hockey.

“All my sporting dreams were born there, all the camaraderie I enjoyed in sport, and this love of sport began at that pothole,” Whitfield said. “I remember it was during the Edmonton Oilers’ heyday, so you were allowed to be anybody but Wayne Gretzky.

“Just your imagination and how it works, and you’re imagining yourself in this position, and then years later you’re one of those athletes. And I think it all begins there. Think of that game you played as kids — ‘How about?’ and ‘Imagine if.’ That brought me right back to that. I don’t think I ever said, ‘Imagine if I was in the Hall of Fame.’”

The Olympic triathlon champion was one of nine individuals inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday, and like his Hall of Fame classmates, the occasion had Whitfield reflecting on his “humble beginnings,” and his journey to become one of the country’s greatest athletes.

“You don’t prepare as an athlete for this,” Whitfield said. “You’re preparing for these [competitions] where you want to express your gift, and then someone calls you and says, ‘You’re in the Hall of Fame. … It’s also a nice end to the chapter. It was a big part of my life, and to be recognized for those sporting accomplishments and then move on to the next thing.”

Whitfield joined Stanley Cup champion Lanny McDonald, Olympians Carol Huynh and Cindy Klassen, golfer Mike Weir, lacrosse standout Gaylord Powless and the Edmonton Grads women’s basketball team. Neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Tator and Canadian Paralympic founder Dr. Robert W. Jackson were named in the builder’s category. Powless and Jackson were both honoured posthumously.

The 42-year-old Whitfield won gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where triathlon made its debut. McDonald remembers that day.

“I’m a huge sports fan and to be able to think back and watch Mike Weir win the Masters, to see Simon running [toward the finish line]. I teased him, he’s got his shirt done up today,” McDonald joked about the iconic image of Whitfield sprinting across the finish line, skinsuit unzipped to his navel.
Whitfield won silver eight years later at the Beijing Olympics.

McDonald, 64, amassed 500 goals and 506 assists in 1,111 career games with Toronto, Colorado and Calgary from 1973 to ’89. He scored the winning goal to lead the Flames to their 1989 Stanley Cup and then retired.

The highlight of Thursday’s news conference came when Kay MacBeth, who at 95 is the only surviving member of the Edmonton Grads, asked McDonald for a kiss.

“How about that?” McDonald grinned through his still-bushy moustache.

His outgoing demeanour and his red moustache made McDonald one of hockey’s most iconic figures, and he hopes he inspired young people and players “to play the game just the way that we did, and bring their best effort each and every day, and bring passion and enthusiam regardless of what you do.”

“You try very hard to be a great example, you try hard to make a difference in other people’s lives, my father [Lorne] was a great teacher and mentor in making sure that if someone needed help, you jump in and help, whether that be through charities or just trying to inspire other people to be good Canadians more than anything.”

The 38-year-old Klassen of Winnipeg is Canada’s most decorated Winter Olympian with six medals (gold, two silver, three bronze). Five came at the 2006 Turin Games (gold, two silver, two bronze).

Weir, 47, became the first Canadian to capture the Masters in 2003. The native of Bright’s Grove, Ont., has registered 15 pro wins and in 2000 became the first Canadian to play in the President’s Cup.

The 36-year-old Huynh, who recently gave birth to her second child and so wasn’t at Thursday’s event, became the first Canadian to win Olympic gold in women’s wrestling in Beijing in 2008. Four years later in London, the native of Hazelton, B.C., claimed bronze.

The Edmonton Grads amassed a stunning 502-20 record from 1915 to 1940. The team also participated in four straight Olympics (1924-36) and was 27-0 but received no medals because women’s basketball wasn’t an official event.

“I’ve got all the memories of the girls I’ve played with, and to think I’m the last one is not fair. It’s not fair,” MacBeth said. “There were some great players I played with, and without them I certainly wouldn’t be here today.”

Powless of Ohsweken, Ont., led the Oshawa Green Gaels to four Minto Cup championships (1964-67) and was twice named the most valuable player. He and his father, Ross, are both members of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Powless died in July 2001 at age 54.

Jackson was a founding member of the Canadian Paralympic movement in 1967, and in ’76 organized the Olympiad for the physically challenged. The Toronto native died in January 2010 at age 78.

Tator, 80, of Toronto is an expert on sports concussions and spinal cord injury. In 1992, he founded ThinkFirstCanada, which helps educate young athletes, in 2002, helped develop the Canadian Brain and Nerve Health Coalition two years later.

Champions Fore CHEO

OTTAWA – September 12, 2017

September 10 and 11 were two very exciting days at the Rideau View Golf Club in Manotick with Canadian golfer Mike Weir in town. The Mike Weir Miracle Golf Drive for Kids was held at the course in an effort to raise funds for CHEO’s most vulnerable patients. Last night at 8 p.m. the CHEO Foundation was presented with a cheque for $400,000 to purchase a neonatal transport incubator.

The event kicked off on Sunday morning with a junior tournament. Over 80 junior golfers had a great day of golf followed by a meet and greet with 2003 Masters Champion Mike Weir.

On Monday Mike Weir hosted a golf clinic for participants in the adult tournament. It was a relaxed environment as he provided tips on warm ups, training and how he prepares for a big game.

Ron Jackson, President of Rideau View Golf Club was extremely proud of the efforts by volunteers, participants and staff at the club. “We were honoured to host The Mike Weir Golf Drive for Kids. To see how so many people came together for such an important cause is something I will remember forever. We are so grateful to all of the sponsors and to all who made a donation.”

The Mike Weir Foundation has a mission to be golf’s premiere fundraising initiative to support children’s health and to raise $10M for children’s hospitals across Canada. This tournament has helped Mike in his mission.

“The neonatal transport incubator is a vital piece of equipment needed to transfer CHEO’s tiniest patients,” said Kevin Keohane, CHEO Foundation President and CEO. “Each year over 500 babies are transferred to CHEO in one these units. Our equipment is getting old so the need to replace one is critical. On behalf of all the staff at CHEO I want to thank Mike Weir, our sponsors, participants and the Robinson Family for sharing their CHEO story.”

Matt and Dayna Robinson and their children were happy to lend their story to this worthy cause. Matt and Dayna welcomed their twin girls into the world on April 7, 2006 at only 28 weeks gestation. Kristina was born weighing just 2 lb 15 ounces while Kathryn weighed 1 lb 15 ounces. Of the twins, Kathryn needed urgent care at CHEO which included multiple intestinal and eye surgeries. After being diagnosed severely to profoundly deaf, Kathryn underwent two cochlear implant surgeries which now allow her to hear. Today, both girls are active and vivacious eleven year olds.

On Monday morning Mike Weir had the pleasure of touring CHEO and meeting the Robinson family. “As a father, I am thankful my children are healthy,” he said. “Being able to be a part of this tournament every year that gives back to children across Canada is very dear to me.”

This year marks the 11th annual Mike Weir Miracle Golf Drive for kids. The Mike Weir Miracle Golf Drive for Kids and the Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals works to ensure that all children receive the very best care, benefit from world-class research and the latest in medical technology.

For more information contact:
Katrina Bussey
Manager of Communications
CHEO Foundation
kbussey@cheofoundation.com
(613) 878-5904

Mike Weir is coming to Ottawa to help the kids at CHEO

OTTAWA – April 20, 2017 – Today, members of the Rideau View Golf Club in Manotick hosted a launch event to announce that The Mike Weir Miracle Golf Drive for Kids will be held at the Rideau View Golf Club on September 10 and 11, 2017. Emceed by CTV sportscaster Terry Marcotte, there was a lot of excitement in the room as Mike Weir joined in via Skype. 

Ron Jackson, President of Rideau View Golf Club was extremely proud to announce details of the event that will include a much anticipated golf clinic with Mike Weir. “The Mike Weir Foundation has a mission to be golf’s premiere fundraising initiative to support children’s health and to raise $10M for children’s hospitals across Canada,” said Mr. Jackson. “Each year the Foundation and Mike Weir in particular, give of their time and energy to ensure that children receive the best care and benefit from world-class research and facilities. Their support of CHEO in 2017 will make a huge difference.”

The partnership between the Club, The Mike Weir Foundation and the CHEO Foundation is something Kevin Keohane, President and CEO of the CHEO Foundation is very excited about. He addressed Mike today saying, “You are going to be helping to create, for so many families in our region, that moment of ‘everything is going to be okay’ and for that we are so grateful.”

Specifically, the Mike Weir Miracle Golf Drive for Kids will raise critical funds to purchase a neonatal transport incubator for CHEO. The incubator is an infant and pediatric transport system necessary for CHEO’s expert Neonatal Transport Team and paramedics to ensure complete life support when the most fragile patients are in transit. 

Allison Franceschina, Manager of CHEO’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit explained the importance of this vital piece of equipment. “The unit provides a closed, controlled environment that warms an infant by circulating heated air over the skin. The heat is then absorbed by the infant’s body providing consistent warmth for the duration of their trip to CHEO.” The cost of one unit is $400,000 making the fundraising efforts extremely important leading up to this fall event. 

Mike Weir is very passionate about giving back to Canadian pediatric hospitals. “This is the 11th year of a partnership that began when Children’s Miracle Network and The Mike Weir Foundation joined forces,” said Mike Weir. “The Mike Weir Miracle Golf Drive for Kids and the Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals works to ensure that all children receive the very best care, benefit from world-class research and the latest in medical technology. All this, and so much more, happens every day at CHEO and I’m happy to be able to help.” 

With a junior tournament as part of the event in September, junior golfers attended the launch with a range of questions for Mike in a fun one-on-one. Questions covered everything from who inspired him to play (his father), his favourite course to play on (his home club, Huron Oaks) and has he ever cried on the course (admittedly teary when he won the Masters). Most importantly he was asked why he wanted to help kids to which he replied, “I see what families go through, and what the kids go through. There are struggles on different levels: emotional and financial. I’ve had some success and I want to give back.”

Rideau View Golf Club is thrilled to host this event as the Director of Instruction, Matt Robinson, has a CHEO connection. Matt and his wife Dayna’s twin daughters were born on April 7, 2006 at only 28 weeks gestation. Kristina was born weighing just 2 lb 15 ounces while Kathryn weighed 1 lb 15 ounces. These girls had to fight to thrive and both have done so, with flying colours! When Dayna saw the transport incubator displayed at the event she was emotional. “Honestly it’s really difficult for me,” said Dayna. “Kathryn and Kristina were born really early and really small. Kathryn had to be transported in one of these units. It really does hit home for me. We were quite scared for quite a while but looking at them now it really is a miracle and we’re always happy to give back to CHEO.”

In order to achieve the fundraising goal, organizers are reaching out to local companies. Special thanks go to Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, Scotia Wealth Management, Urbandale, The Brick and District Realty. Anyone interested in sponsorship opportunities is asked to contact Vaia Dimas of the CHEO Foundation at vdimas@cheofoundation.com.  

For more information contact:
Len Hanes
Director of Communications
CHEO Foundation  lhanes@cheofoundation.com
(613) 737-2784  

Lanny McDonald, Klassen, Weir lead Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame newcomers

by CBC

A mix of amateur and professional athletes headline this year’s class of nine inductees to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, announced Wednesday morning in Toronto.

Leading the way are former NHL forward Lanny McDonald, speed skating icon Cindy Klassen and golfer Mike Weir, the first Canadian man to win a major tournament on the PGA Tour.

Also named were the Edmonton Grads women’s basketball team, while Dr. Robert W. Jackson and Dr. Charles Tator will be inducted in the builders’ category.

Induction into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame is considered one of the country’s highest sporting honours. Founded in 1955, the new Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame building opened July 1, 2011. The 40,000-square-foot facility, open to visitors, is on the west side of Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.

The class of 2017

Lanny McDonald

Best known for his giant, walrus-style moustache, McDonald also became an iconic figure in the NHL. He capped a 47-goal season in 1978 with the Game 7 overtime winner to help the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the New York Islanders and advance to the semifinals. Ranking 13th all time in franchise history in points, he was traded to Colorado two seasons later and went on to score 500 goals and 1,006 points in a Hall of Fame career that ended in a Stanley Cup title with Calgary in 1989.

Cindy Klassen

A speed skating legend, she became the only Canadian athlete to win five medals in a single Olympics, winning one gold, two silver and two bronze in 2006 in Turin, Italy. Klassen, who later received the Lou Marsh Award as Canadian athlete of the year, first came to world prominence in 2002 when she won Olympic bronze in the 3,000 metres at the Salt Lake City Games. She retired in 2015 at age 35.

Mike Weir

Weir became a national hero in 2003 with his improbable and magical Masters victory, the first-ever win by a Canadian man at a major golf tournament. Weir topped the field two more times that season and again in 2004 and 2007 to give him eight wins overall. While he hasn’t won since, the 46-year-old from Brights Grove, Ont., has pocketed nearly $28 million US in career earnings and was the first Canadian to play in the Presidents Cup.

Simon Whitfield

One of the most successful athletes in triathlon history, Whitfield won a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and added a silver eight years later in Beijing. In his 16 years racing for Canada, the native of Kingston, Ont., also won gold at the 2009 Commonwealth Games and recorded 14 World Cup victories and eight top-10 finishes at the world championships. A ferocious competitor, Whitfield retired in 2014 at age 38.

Carol Huynh

The Hazelton, B.C., wrestler became the first Canadian woman in her sport to earn an Olympic title in 2008 at Beijing and added a bronze in 2012 in London. Huynh was an 11-time Canadian champion, two-time Pan American champion, Commonwealth champion and four-time medallist at the world championships. Last summer, she served as Canada’s assistant chef de mission for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Gaylord Powless

The “Marvellous Mohawk” from Ohsweken, Ont., was a star in both the junior and professional levels of lacrosse. Powless led the Oshawa Green Gaels to four Minto Cup championships from 1964 to 1967 and twice was selected most valuable player. The legend of Gaylord Powless — lacrosse savant. Named the top Native athlete in Canada at age 17, Powless and his father Ross are members of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the only father-son tandem to be inducted in the players’ category. Gaylord Powless died from cancer on July 28, 2001 at age 54.

Edmonton Grads

Long before the Edmonton Oilers dynasty years in the 1980s, the Grads women’s basketball team dominated the competition. A remarkable 25-year run that began in 1915 saw the team become Canadian, North American and world champions while changing the attitude of those who viewed women competing in sports as unhealthy. The Grads won 16 straight world titles and posted a 502-20 record, once beating a French squad 109-20, before disbanding in 1940 because of travel restrictions resulting from World War II. Dr. Robert W. Jackson. A talented surgeon, Dr. Jackson was credited with bringing the practice of arthroscopy to North America from Japan. The Toronto native was also a founding member of the Canadian Paralympic movement in 1967, helping Canada make its debut at the 1968 Paralympic Games in Tel Aviv. In 1976, Dr. Jackson organized the Olympiad for the physically challenged that ran parallel to the Montreal Olympics. He died on Jan. 6, 2010 at age 78.

Dr. Charles Tator

Dr. Tator, 80, is a world renowned expert on sports concussions and spinal cord injury, prevention and treatment research. The Toronto-based neurosurgeon is an advocate for stronger regulations around head shots in hockey and his laboratory was the first in Canada to study acute spinal cord injury. Dr. Tator founded ThinkFirstCanada in 1992, an organization that educates youngsters about safety, and helped develop the Canadian Brain and Nerve Health Coalition in 2002. Two years earlier, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada.