Top 10 Moments in Canadian Golf (21st Century Edition)
05 JUL 2019
This century is Canada’s coming out party. We’ve had some wonderful golf highlights over the last 200 years but they’re coming fast and furious since 2000.
By Peter Mumford
Canadian golf has an illustrious history dating back almost two centuries. Records show golf being played by Scottish settlers in the early 1800’s while Canada boasts the founding of the earliest golf club in North America in 1873 at Royal Montreal.
The 1900’s gave us such achievements as George S. Lyon’s gold medal at the 1904 Olympics, Pat Fletcher’s Canadian Open victory in 1954, George Knudson and Al Balding winning the World Cup, Gary Cowan winning two US Amateur titles and Sandra Post becoming the first Canadian to win a Major on either the PGA or LPGA Tour.
But, as they say, what have you done for us recently Canadian golf?
If the first 19 years are any indication, the 21st century looks to be a coming out party for both our top amateur and professional players. Following, in chronological order, are the Top 10 Moments in Canadian Golf this century:
2000 – A banner year for Lorie Kane
Lorie Kane was a late bloomer on the LPGA Tour. At the age of 36, Kane got her first LPGA title at the Michelob Light Classic. She quickly followed that up with victories at the New Albany Classic and Mizuno Classic to notch three wins on the season and become just the second Canadian to date with a multiple win season. Sandra Post did it twice in 1978 and 1979. Subsequently, Mike Weir had three wins in 2003 while Brooke Henderson had multiple win seasons in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.
2001 – Graham Cooke narrowly misses the amateur Triple Crown
Graham Cooke is a golf course architect, champion golfer and member of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. He has dozens of trophies and awards but in 2001, he almost accomplished a feat that is incomparable in golf. That was the year Cooke turned 55. He won the Canadian Mid Amateur Championship, the Canadian Senior Championship and was runner-up to Gareth Paddison of New Zealand in the Canadian Amateur Championship at Credit Valley. It’s inconceivable that any golfer in any country has ever won all three titles given the wide disparity in age but Graham came close in 2001.
2003 – The Year of Weir
In February, Mike Weir captured two PGA Tour titles, the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and the Nissan Open, and was one of the favourites heading to Augusta for the year’s first major. There was no way Mike Weir should have won the Masters that year. The course was soaking wet from days of heavy rains and as one of the shortest hitters in the field, Weir was at a distinct disadvantage to the long bombers. However, it was Mike’s wedge play and steady putting that garnered him a green jacket.
Entering the final round two shots behind Jeff Maggert, Weir took the lead on the third hole when Maggert was struck by his own ball when trying to extricate himself from a bunker. Weir maintained the lead until a surging Len Mattiace, playing several groups in front, posted a score of -7. Weir needed to make a seven-foot putt on the final hole for par to force a playoff. Both players struggled on the first playoff hole, but Weir’s bogey was good enough to make him the first Canadian male to win a Major Championship and the first left hander to win the Masters.
Weir’s three-win season also set a Canadian record for most wins on the PGA Tour in a single season, a record that still stands today.
2004 – Marlene Streit is inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame
There isn’t space to note all of Marlene Streit’s victories or awards. On a list of Top 10 greatest Canadian golf achievements, she could easily have half of them. However, the one achievement Marlene has that is hers alone amongst Canadians is her induction to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004.
Marlene remained an amateur all her life and has worked tirelessly to promote amateur golf and especially the development of women’s golf programs in Canada. Amongst her notable achievements, she is the only person, male or female to win the US, Canadian, British and Australian Amateur Championships. She is also the winner of 11 Canadian Ladies Open Amateurs, nine Canadian Ladies Close Amateurs, three Canadian Ladies’ Seniors and three USGA Senior Women’s Amateurs during a period from 1953 to 2003.
Her last U.S. Senior Amateur title came in 2003, when at the age of 69, Marlene defeated her much younger American rivals in the semi-finals (24 holes) and finals (23 holes) in the blistering heat of Barton Creek CC in Austin, Texas.
2007 – Canada hosts the Presidents Cup
With Mike Weir a stalwart on the International Team for the Presidents Cup, Canada had been lobbying for some time to be a host site. In 2007, Royal Montreal Golf Club was awarded the honour of hosting the bi-annual event. The excitement level was off the charts and crowds were among the largest ever for a golf tournament in Canada. While the US Team prevailed to win the Cup (again), the final singles match pitted Weir against World #1 Tiger Woods. It was an epic battle that came down to the last hole. Weir prevailed 1-up against the American. When asked about it later, Weir said, “When I look back on my career, this may be even more special than winning the Masters.”
2009 - Jennifer Kirby wins amateur Grand Slam
In 2009, Jennifer Kirby of Paris, Ontario became the first and only Canadian golfer to win the Ontario Junior, Ontario Ladies Amateur, Canadian Junior Girls and Canadian Women’s Amateur championships all in the same year.
2016 - Brooke gets her first Major
If there’s a sweeter irony in women’s professional golf than Brooke Henderson winning the 2016 KPMG PGA Championship, we’re not sure what it could be.
Henderson started the 2015 season with no status on the LPGA. She had a stellar resume dating back several years that included amateur victories and top 10 finishes in pro events, which inevitably led to comparisons with the #1 ranked player in the world, Lydia Ko, who had also excelled as an underage player. Henderson had petitioned commissioner Mike Whan to allow her to join the LPGA as a 17-year old, but she was declined. Consequently, she had to Monday qualify her way into events.
In August, Brooke Monday qualified for the Cambia Portland Classic, then went out and won it by a whopping eight shots to become the third youngest LPGA winner ever. More top finishes followed but she always seemed to be in the long shadow cast by Ko.
In the Spring of 2016, Henderson reeled off a string of top 10’s and was among the favourites when the Tour arrived at Sahalee Country Club in Seattle. Her final round 65 put her into a tie with Ko. Brooke hit a brilliant 7 iron to ten feet on the first playoff hole that led to birdie and the first Major championship by a Canadian woman in almost 50 years. And sweet victory over rival Lydia Ko.
2016 – Mackenzie Hughes breaks through
The pride of Dundas, Ontario was an amateur standout, winning back-to-back Canadian Amateur titles in 2011 and 2012 and being ranked the #1 Amateur Golfer in Canada. After turning professional, Hughes moved between the Canadian Tour and Web.com Tour for a few years. In August of 2016, his win at the Price Cutter Championship on the Web.com Tour earned him a PGA Tour card for the 2016/17 season. He didn’t waste a lot of time before nabbing his first win in the big leagues. At the RSM Classic in November 2016, in just his fifth start as a member, Hughes became the first Canadian since Mike Weir in 2007 to win a non-alternate event. While he led wire-to-wire in regulation play, Hughes was caught by four players at the end to force a 5-way playoff. On the third extra hole, he rolled in a putt from off the green to make par and take the title.
2018 – Brooke Henderson dashes the Canadian Open jinx
In 1954, Canadian Pat Fletcher won the Canadian Open and ever since there has been a quest for another Canadian to duplicate the feat. Mike Weir came closest in 2004 when he and Vijay Singh went three extra holes to decide a winner but unfortunately it wasn’t Weir. Last summer on a cool drizzly day in Regina, Brooke Henderson finally broke the jinx that had hung over Canadian golf for 64 years. Henderson started the final round at Wascana Country Club with a 1-shot lead and despite a furious push by American Angel Yin, Brooke hung on to the end. With adoring fans singing O Canada, Henderson authored the proudest moment in Canadian golf this century.
2019 – Corey Conners Monday qualifies to glory
In April, one week prior to the Masters, there was just one spot remaining in the elite field. That would go to the winner of the Valero Texas Open. Playing in the Masters likely wasn’t even on the radar for Corey Conners of Listowel, Ontario as he prepared to Monday qualify to get into the Texas event. Once play began on Thursday, Conners got right to work and put himself on the leaderboard where he would remain until Sunday. The final round was a rollercoaster with Conners adding to his lead early, then making four consecutive bogeys to give it all back. Somehow, he righted the ship and began making birdies again on the back nine to win by two over Charlie Hoffman. It was the first time in nine years that a player had Monday qualified and gone on to win on the PGA Tour. Among the rewards for Conners’ first victory, in addition to a cheque for $1.35 million and a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, was that treasured spot in the Masters. Quite a week for the Canadian rookie!
Peter Mumford is the Editor of Fairways Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @FairwaysMag.