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Mike Weir is Leading The U.S. Open. What's the deal with this Canuck?

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 Mike Weir is Leading The U.S. Open. What's the deal with this Canuck?
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
This story of mine first ran in the May/June '09 issue of Good Life in the City

 

Tin Cup Anniversary

In 1999, on a drizzly Sunday at Northview in Surrey B.C., after birdying the 10th and 12th holes, Mike Weir remained in a three-way race with Fred Funk and Carlos Franco for the Air Canada Championship. Stuck in the first cut of rough on 14 after his tee shot, Weir unleashed a parabolic stunner that would vault his career to the next level. He sailed a 147-yarder pin-seeker to the green that proceeded to make a few hops before bee lining it for the flagstick and plunking down in the cup.

When Weir’s approach shot landed safely on the green at 18, crooners in the crowd started into a patriotic rendition of O Canada, sensing that Weir was moments away from making history.

The last Canadian golfer to win a tour event was Richard Zokol in 1992.

From 60 feet away, Weir sealed the deal with a smooth putt that stopped rolling mere inches away from the lip of the hole. Weir clinched a two-shot victory with a tap-in and the gallery went wild.  He closed out with a seven-under-par 64 for the second successive day.

“That was pretty special. It came off perfect. I couldn’t have imagined it or visualized it any better. For it to go in, it was unbelievable,” said Weir afterwards of the breathtaking eagle that proved to be the tournament turning point.


No Bogeys in These Barrels  

Golf and wine have long been complementary pillars holding up the edifice of the good life. After all, nothing says living it up in the Muskokas like swinging irons and sipping Shiraz at the 19th hole.

When the first bottles of Mike Weir Wine were uncorked in 2005, Weir joined a list of illustrious golf greats including Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman, and Nick Faldo in branching out from fruitful fairways to lush vineyards.

Today 30,000 cases ship annually in a wide variety of delectable reds and whites including Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc as well as the Niagara specialty, ice wine.

In an effort to step up his wine game, in November of 2008, Weir announced a partnership with Chateau des Charmes, run by the Bosc family, who has been making wines for more than 170 year's and holds the distinction as the first Canadian winery to be awarded a gold medal at VinExpo in France.

The most popular Mike Weir wine is the cabernet-merlot and it is also the best-selling VQA wine of any kind in the vintages section at the LCBO. The winery’s profits support Weir’s charitable foundation.

Unlike many celebrities, Mike doesn’t just lend his name to his wine. He keeps as keen an eye on the winemaking process as he reserves for reading long putts.

“I can remember an occasion when we were working on a Cabernet Shiraz a couple of years ago and Mike actually did the blending trials and selected himself the ratio of Cabernet to Shiraz,” relates Mike Weir Wine president Barry Katz.

“In this case, he chose a blend that was about 45-per-cent Shiraz which we had harvested very little of. I encouraged him to lower the Shiraz component so we could bottle more wine and he wouldn’t hear of it. He flat out said to me, ‘Remember we got into this business to support my foundation and we always said that quality was more important than case sales or volumes.’”

“Of course, he was right, we did say that, but naturally I wanted to try and sell more. When he calls to talk about the winery, in addition to a general update, I can guarantee you there are always two things he asks about—every time. How’s the wine quality and how’s my family—every time.”

Pushing 40, Mike Weir remains in the prime of his powers and can still keep step with the spryer faces teeing it up on the PGA tour.  Three months into the 2009 race for the FedEx Cup, Weir is a familiar name in the top ten on the leader board and appears poised for a resurgent run.  

2009 also marks the debut of Weir’s namesake tournament, the Mike Weir Charity Classic, which will serve as a sparkling hors d’oeuvre at Glen Abbey before the Canadian Open in July.

Already signed up to play in the premiere Weir Classic are Stephen Ames, Trevor Immelman, Camilo Villegas, Mark Calcavecchia, and Freddie Couples.

“The guys that have committed early to play in this new charity pro-am are all great players, and I think this makes us one of the best fields in Canada in recent memory and a great stage for the 100th playing of our national championship,” said Weir.

If Weir can rise to the occasion and win the Canadian Open, he’d break a drought drier than the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The last time a passport holder won the Canadian Open the T.V. dinner was still a novel concept and Arnold Palmer had just turned pro.

English émigré Pat Fletcher emerged on the Saskatchewan golfing scene in the 1940s and harvested a trio of provincial open titles before reaping countrywide acclaim when he won the Canadian Open in 1954. Fletcher’s victory was itself a drought quencher. He was the first local to win since Tottenham, Ontarian Karl Keffer took home the then $100 winner’s cheque in 1914. 

So if you want to get nitpicky, it’s been more than 90 years since a Canadian born player won the tourney.

 

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