Mike Weir's effect drives Canada's next top golfers
Roger Sloan, Graham DeLaet, Nick Taylor all influenced by Weir's Masters win in 2003
Ask a Canadian from a certain generation about what happened on Sept. 28, 1972 and you'll get a fairly predictable answer.
Likely, a reference to Paul Henderson's famous goal, lifting Canada to a win in the Summit Series over the Soviets.
Now ask a Canadian what happened on April 13, 2003. Do you remember where you were?
"Penticton Golf Course," says Roger Sloan of Merrit, B.C., who is now on the PGA Tour. "I was playing in a junior tournament. I was in the club house when it happened. I know exactly where I was.”
Sloan, who is now 27 years old, was just 16 on the day Weir won the Masters. It was the first time a Canadian player had won a PGA Tour Major. Sandra Post won a women's Major when she won the 1968 LPGA Championship.
Sloan knows it inspired him to get where he is today — playing alongside Weir at Indian Wells, Calif., for the Humana Challenge.
“What Mike Weir’s been able to do just proves that a Canadian can play golf professionally," says Sloan, one of six Canadians on the PGA Tour. "The career that he’s had – it just definitely inspires a lot of confidence in the rest of us Canadian guys.”
Along with Abbotsford, B.C.'s Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin, Sloan is one of the three Canadian rookies.
Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask, arguably the best Canadian golfer right now, speaks about the experience for him. “I was in Pocatello, Idaho. We’d just finished a college tournament. It was a special moment."
Mike Weir effect
DeLaet has been around for a bit now, but the rookies are essentially coming onto the scene a generation after Weir. Taylor, who's already won one tournament and making an impressive showing so far this weekend, would have been just five days from his 15th birthday when Weir slipped on the green jacket.
Weir seems to be having the same effect on Canadian golfers that Vince Carter had on budding Canadian basketball players when he starred with the Toronto Raptors.
Now, a generation later, a Canadian has been the No. 1 NBA draft pick in each of the last two years.
When told of the Mike Weir effect, the 2003 Masters champion got a kick out of it. “I’m these guys biggest fan," he said. "I want them to do well – I want them to win. Great for Canadian golf we have so many players out here. It’s a lot of fun for me to keep an eye on them.”
The game has evolved too.
“When I started there was a dozen guys that could really bomb it. Now you’ve got 60, 70, 80 guys out here that can really hit a long, long way. It’s so competitive week to week and so many different winners each week. Players are just better. It’s just evolution,” Weir said.
Weir, 44, is approaching the end of his career on the PGA Tour. Does that mean it’s not possible for him to win again? No. Last year at the Byron Nelson Championship he came close, finishing second and securing another year on the tour.
At the Humana Challenge, a 45 year old won once, and Arnold Palmer won it twice in his 40’s. That being said, last year’s winner was Patrick Reed. He was just 23.
'Like spring training'
Plagued by injuries on and off over the past few years, Weir says he’s healthy now. “I’m taking this week as almost like spring training because I’ve been off – things I had to deal with the last little bit. I’m feeling good but I haven’t done much golf.”
Weir is struggling in his return though, along with all of the Canadians, aside from Taylor, at the Humana Challenge. Weir was dead last after the second round.
Weir insists he's still having fun and remains excited about the season.
DeLaet enjoys having Weir around. "It's pretty cool now to call him a friend because he was always my idol growing up — him and a bunch of hockey players."
DeLaet's advice for rookies on the Tour can also apply to the veteran Weir. "These are early days," DeLaet said, "and it's a long season."