Last Updated on Thursday, 27 December 2007 02:16 Thursday, 27 December 2007 02:02
Forget the year in Canadian golf. How about the last three months? The Presidents Cup was a huge success at Royal Montreal, the Canadian Open finally found a title sponsor and the country's top two players won PGA Tour events - all after the leaves had started to change colour in autumn.
In the end, there was no bigger story in 2007 than Mike Weir's return to form. His victory at the Fry's Electronics Open in mid-October gave him eight career PGA victories, tying him with the late George Knudson for the most by a Canadian. That came just weeks after he stole the show at the biggest golf event ever held on Canadian soil.
Many saw his selection to the International Team at the Presidents Cup as a sentimental gesture, but Weir more than justified it with a 3-1-1 record that was highlighted by his singles victory over Tiger Woods. "I'm obviously proud of the way I played this week," Weir said after the 1-up win over Woods. "I don't know if I can play any better."
He wasn't the only one to have a good year. Calgary's Stephen Ames picked up his third career win at the season-ending Children's Miracle Network Classic in Novemeber and defended his title at the LG Skins Game in California a few weeks later. Despite those successes, his biggest achievement might have been contending on the final day at both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.
Now that Ames has a year of swing changes under his belt, he feels as though he's good enough to compete with the best. "The evidence is there," he said last month. "You've got to believe that you can. The things that we've changed, the things that we've worked on, have made me more consistent." It was the first time in 50 years that two Canadians won PGA Tour events in the same season. Al Balding and Stan Leonard last accomplished the feat in 1957.
There was plenty to celebrate in 2007. Jon Mills of Oshawa, Ont., played well enough in golf's minor leagues to earn a PGA Tour card, Hamilton's Alena Sharp made strides on the LPGA Tour and Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., won the Canadian Amateur just one year after being the national boys champion. In the Canadian Women's Amateur, Stephanie Sherlock of Barrie, Ont., held off teenager Sue Kim of Langley, B.C., to capture her first national title.
The women's game continued to grow at the pro level. The CN Canadian Women's Open is fast becoming one of the LPGA's best events and that showed at Royal Mayfair in Edmonton. A first-class field showed up for the August event and world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa ended up hoisting the trophy. Even without most of the PGA Tour's stars, the Canadian Open at Angus Glen was nowhere near as bad as many predicted it would be. Jim Furyk repeated as champion by making a hole-in-one during the final round and coming from three shots down to beat Vijay Singh.
There was no shortage of news off the course. Scott Simmons became the new executive director of the Royal Canadian Golf Association in July and soon delivered on his promise of finding a sponsor for the Canadian Open. The five-year deal with RBC was announced on Nov. 1 - a "landmark day for Canadian golf," according to Simmons. That ended an 18-month search and makes it look like better things lie ahead for the third oldest golf championship in the world. "We want the RBC Canadian Open to be one of the truly great sports events in this country," said Jim Little, RBC's marketing chief. "We want to make it one of the premiere events on the PGA Tour. We're committed to that."
The year was not without some sadness. Nick Weslock, who won four Canadian Amateur titles and hundreds of other events, died Oct. 31 at the age of 89. He played golf right up until the time of his death. The day before Weslock died he had told a couple friends that he was going to contact Weir to congratulate him on the recent victory. Indeed, there aren't very many golf fans in this country who don't track Weir's progress. That was reflected in the June announcement by the Canadian government that Weir will be joining the Order of Canada. A date for his investiture ceremony is still to be set.
Charlottetown's Lorie Kane received the honour in December 2006 at Parliament Hill and called it one of the most memorable experiences of her life. "It definitely ranks right up there with my first tournament win," she said. "To be recognized by your country and to be able to go through that ceremony with other wonderful Canadians, I was just awestruck."
Many had a similar feeling while watching Weir go head-to-head with Woods on the final day of the Presidents Cup. The crowds were tremendous at Royal Montreal all week and several players commented that the gallery surrounding the marquee match was as loud as they had heard anywhere. The scene at the 18th hole on Sunday was something truly special.
After Woods found the water with his drive, the door was opened for Weir to win the hole and defeat the best player of this generation. The Canadian delivered with a tidy par and the ensuing roar from his countrymen signalled that Weir had emerged from the wilderness and was again ready to compete with the best. "Can you imagine the pressure for him on the last hole? And he didn't back off, he banged it right at the flag," said Gary Player, the International Team captain. "And in front of his own people, this will turn his life around. "We were just discussing, when people are having adversity in life, we all think it's tough but adversity is here for a reason and it's God's plan that everybody's got to suffer a bit and he'll come back next year smelling like a rose."