Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
Mike Weir won on the Champions Tour on Sunday, his first win on any Tour since 2008. During that thirteen-year span, Weir’s struggles are well documented – injuries, divorce, swing changes, lots of missed cuts – but he always kept at it with a positive attitude. Comment on Weir’s win and what it says about Mike and what it means to all aspiring Canadian golfers.
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Like many Canadian golf fans, I witnessed Mike’s struggles with a good degree of empathy, dismay, and a quiet sense of “Mike, for God’s sake, stop embarrassing yourself. It’s over.” But I also admired his dogged perseverance. Then I got to interview him on CANADA FILES (see it here: canadafiles.ca) about a month ago, and was delighted with his positive attitude, and his pride in working through everything and getting to a point of real positivity and enthusiasm about the Champions Tour. Sunday’s win – although a rain-shortened 36 holes — was just great to watch, and I got emotional for the guy! And the way he won it, hanging tough, playing steady, was very reassuring. I think Mike is back and will be a significant presence on this Tour… and once again, an inspiration to Canadian golfers.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: Mike Weir’s career began when mine was quite near its end. Normally, I would have been in places where we would have met but we never did. I think that’s a loss for me.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): What this said to me is that he’s one of the most dedicated golfers of his generation. When I think of other golfers who fell from the top to deal with similar struggles that Weir has dealt with in his game, many of them gave up the game for good. Mike always had a plan to return to being competitive and his performances in the past couple of Masters showed that his game was returning. He knocked on the door a couple of times already this year and it’s great to see him close one out. Hopefully the first of many Champions Tour wins.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: In my golf pool — season-long pre-season picks with 1,500 of my closest friends — I recently had five guys in the top 10, including the leader, on Friday night. On Sunday night I had one, and he tied for 10th. If the Tour events were 36-hole affairs, I’d be in the lead and in the money. Not a fan of the Senior Circuit, or truncated tourneys. Mike’s persistence — is that another term for ignoring reality? — is remarkable, but this “win” comes with a big asterisk.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Delighted to see Weirsy win again. His tenacity and focus are exemplary. Mike’s not a big talker but he leads by example and is well worth following if anybody has aspirations to perform better.
Rickie Fowler recently received a special invitation from the PGA of America to play in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island later this month, even though he didn’t qualify on merit and sat 111th in the World Rankings. Likewise, Phil Mickelson is not exempt to play in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in June and it’s anticipated that Mickelson may too receive a special invitation from the USGA. Are you OK with these special exemptions?
Deeks: I’m not really adamant about it, but I really think playing spots should go to those who work for them, not for guys who are popular but not playing their best. I mean, what are the criteria for eligibility for? If you the tournament have extra positions, give them to the people who are working their butts off to get them.
Schurman: I understand them, but I don’t like them. Neither is a Past Champion of the respective events. Both are great ambassadors for golf. Unless Phil continues to play on the Champions Tour, we will see less and less of him. Ricky is drawing a card, but he has yet to win a major. Invitations of this magnitude should be reserved for the top performers.
Rule: These tournaments have always required players to qualify through their play as opposed to being invited, so I’m a bit torn because I’d love to see Lefty compete at Torrey. Even though the odds are long, it’s his home track and you never know! Rickie Fowler on the other hand? I like him as a player and what he does for the game, but I’m not sure he deserves an invite to the PGA.
Quinn: Don’t think Fowler will, but Phil will likely do the right thing and turn down the free pass. Maybe dramatic extenuating circumstances that prevented a player from qualifying might apply in rare cases but giving invites because of past good play — or even a great career — is contrary to the spirit of the game and takes a spot away from a player who earned it.
Mumford: No. I understand the entertainment aspect of getting popular players into the field for lesser events but that shouldn’t be necessary for Majors. They’re supposed to be about the best in the world. If Phil or Rickie can’t make it on merit, then play better and see ya next year. Give the spots to people who’ve earned them.
There are battles between golfers, politicians and other interest groups in many Canadian cities over the future of municipally owned golf courses. Many courses have been underperforming for years and city councils are being pressured to use the land for something else or sell it to developers. Is there a workable solution or are we likely to see golf courses continue to disappear?
Deeks: City councils are not immune to the lure of developer dollars, and many councillors who aren’t golfers believe that subsidizing municipal courses is only subsidizing the rich and idle. This is, of course, ridiculous. Just sit on the first tee at Don Valley or Flemingdon Park and look at who’s playing… hardly Westons and Thomsons. Or take a pleasant Tuesday in June and compare how many people are playing golf on these courses, versus the number of people walking through Sir Winston Churchill Park at the same time… the golf numbers would be much bigger, I’m sure, and therefore more people are making better use of the land. Unfortunately, once you sell your public courses to developers, they’re gone forever and can’t be replaced. Is there a workable solution? Not really. Maybe just asking your municipal council candidates where they stand on the future of publicly funded courses before giving them your vote.
Schurman: What a tough call! Municipal budgets are strained to the maximum and choices are extremely difficult. Cities are bound to union wages and restrictions. A solution might be to hire a management company to operate them at zero rent with built-in provisions for rent to be paid on a graduated basis dependant on the number of rounds played. Any rent tied to revenue or even net profit is subject to interpretation.
Rule: I sure hope they don’t continue to disappear. Municipal golf course play a huge roll in growing the game, being an affordable option for people to get into the game. Given the increase in participation during the pandemic, the courses need to find a way to make money and thus take the pressure off local politicians that don’t support the game.
Quinn: The pressure is here too on the Left Coast, but the pandemic has put a different type of pressure on the munis — totally booked tee sheets. The three Vancouver public layouts were granted a multi-million-dollar redo and facelift by Thomas McBroom a few decades back that was worth every penny. They are so popular, the semi-annual push for housing/community playgrounds is shouted down. In solidarity, Ontario golfers should start a GoFundMe for The Bridges at Tillsonburg legal defence fund.
Mumford: Too often, munis have to carry themselves and can’t look to the municipal government for much needed capital to repair or replace ageing assets, both on and off the course. Subsequently, golfers look for better facilities elsewhere and the muni is in a death spiral. Add to that public pressure to turn the land into something more politically acceptable or developers waving wads of cash and it’s a wonder they survive at all. The best solution might be a compromise between golfers and non-golfers where the property and clubhouse are used by both at different times. The Old Course at St. Andrews is closed for golf on Sundays so it’s possible.