Canadian sports reached one of its pinnacles of the year, with the playing of the Grey Cup and the Vanier Cup college football game on the weekend.
In golf, Canadian pros from across the country gathered at the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla., for the Titleist and FootJoy Canadian PGA Club Professionals Championship, won by Kyle German of Point Roberts Golf and Country Club, which is actually in Washington State, but a short drive from Vancouver.
It seems like a lifetime ago, but I once covered the Canadian football quite extensively and the Grey Cup and Vanier Cup were annual stops that usually provided extremely exciting competition, which always made me wonder why some among us put down the brand of football played in this country.
If somebody doesn’t like the Canadian Football League or Canadian college game, then just flip the channel to the NFL game and be done with it, but a true fan of the game can enjoy both brands. Actually, I know Americans who keep an ongoing interest in the CFL, even if they don’t watch it regularly.
In Canada, particularly the big cities, there seems to be an overwhelming need for fans to prove they are big league. It’s often been mentioned that Toronto is not a hockey town, it’s a Maple Leafs town with its obsession with its National Hockey League franchise, which hasn’t won the Stanley Cup in over 40 years.
As they continually search for a saviour to return the team to the pinnacle of hockey, many are missing out on entertaining products in hockey and in other sports, as well.
At a time when I would have been traveling to the Grey Cup way back when, I instead found myself in Florida for the Club Pro Championship last week, which underscored the point above.
This was far from the PGA Tour, which usually grabs the attention of major league golf fans. German, the good-natured champion, will forever hear about the 10 he took on the 18th hole, which was actually his ninth hole of the first round.
Even though he was branded as John Daly was with his 18 at Bay Hill a few years ago, German could afford to laugh his 10 off because he amazingly finished with a one-over 73 that day to stay in contention, before jumping into a four-way tie for the lead after the second round.
After coming back to tie Marc Girouard of Club de Golf Balmoral in Morin Heights, Que., on the 16th hole of the third round, the 18th almost slayed German once again, starting when he pulled his tee shot left into some pine straw and wood chips and relief wasn’t giving him any help.
Going with the original lie, German rocketed a hybrid shot at the green, but it dribbled down into a gully to the left to an awkward downhill lie, which he chunked up the hill before two-putting from off the green for the win.
This is a guy who was working on his club’s payroll while he was away, but that’s the life of a club pro.
“For me, I need three or four days of play, I think, to get in some sort of tournament shape,” said four-time tournament champ Gar Hamilton, 59, of the Mississaugua Golf and Country Club near Toronto, who also spent some time on the PGA Tour earlier in his career.
“I can only speak to my situation at Mississaugua, We have a huge, demanding tournament schedule, If playing was my No. 1 priority, I’d be playing. I enjoy it, but it’s tough to make the time,” he said.
“I haven’t played a competitive round – except for little, fun things – for two or three months. It’s not easy just to turn it on, not at 59 anyway,” he added.
Girouard agreed, even as tournament runner-up. “It’s 100 and some club pros. There’s no PGA Tour player here. I’m not putting the calibre down. The guys out here don’t only play golf,” he said.
“In the last two months, we haven’t played much golf. (Playing in a tournament) is different than hitting balls on the range or playing with members,” said Girouard.
It still provided an entertaining finish this year, proving the best things in life are often free, at least for the people who witnessed the conclusion of the CPC.
Also in the shadows is the Canadian Tour, which at times has appeared ready to collapse, but it seems to have turned a corner with the recent release of its 2009 schedule, which actually gets underway this week with new stops in Chile, Argentina and Costa Rica (see the News Now section of GNN).
The Canadian Tour is looking at increased purses and more events this year, including potential stops in the Okanagan Valley, Thunder Bay, Ottawa and Atlantic Canada.
“In difficult economic times, the Canadian Tour is fortunate to have a business model that will allow us to show some modest growth in 2009,” said tour commissioner Rick Janes after a draft of the schedule was released on Monday.
The fans who actually did watch 2003 Masters champ Mike Weir play on this development circuit may not have realized that there was a major in these minors at the time, but it worked out that way, giving them a fine memory of Weir before the world took notice.
It isn’t perfect golf, but it is an entertaining brand a few steps down from the PGA Tour, but a visit down does not mean that fans and sponsors are lowering themselves.