The Pride of Canada
This is an article from the Feb. 1, 1999 issue
Mike Weir is huge beyond immense. He's fame incarnate. Wherever
he goes, between the relentless reporters and obsequious
fans--and vice versa--he scarcely gets a moment to himself.
Everybody wants to be like Mike. In Canada.
In the U.S., where Weir pocketed $50,000 for winning November's
PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament at La Quinta, Calif., the skinny
lefthander--he's 5'9" and 155 pounds--evokes the kind of
inattention usually reserved for the metric system.
"In Canada the media watch me like I'm Seve Ballesteros playing
in Spain," says the 28-year-old Weir, who finished 32nd at last
week's Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. "Here, Scott Verplank received
more attention at Q school, I guess because he's been around
awhile. But I don't feel cheated."
Not so Weir's fellow Canadians, who haven't had a winner on Tour
since Richard Zokol won the '92 Greater Milwaukee Open. When
Weir, who like Zokol attended BYU, shot a final-round 64 at La
Quinta to win by three, northerners thought their hero deserved
some exposure, eh? Instead, Weir's win made only the agate type
in the U.S., prompting such squawking from Canada that you'd
have thought somebody had flown the maple leaf upside down.
"In Canada we're kind of starved [for a winner]," says Weir, a
native of Sarnia, Ont., and the only Canadian on the Tour. "The
ladies are doing well--Dawn Coe-Jones, Lorie Kane, Lisa
Walters--but there hasn't been a new guy in a while."
Actually, Weir only seems new. After five tries he got his Tour
card for the first time in '98 but wound up 131st on the money
list. His best finish was a tie for fifth at the Greater
Vancouver Open, after which he made eight straight starts in a
mad dash to keep his card. He fell $9,337 short.
"I had three weeks to get ready for Q school after the Disney,"
Weir says. "My coach, Mike Wilson, was in Palm Springs [Calif.],
so I went there to work with him."
Weir visualized Nick Price's backswing as he drilled to keep his
club square at takeaway, a move that clicked at La Quinta. As a
result Weir will get into more tournaments in '99, but the
numbers still aren't in his favor. Since 1990 only Verplank has
won Q school and then cracked the top 20 on the money list.
Seven of the last 12 medalists have missed the top 125.
Take a trip to Ferry Point in the Bronx, and what you'll see
isn't pretty: 175 acres of rubble, scrub growth and debris left
over from the construction of the Whitestone and Throgs Neck
bridges 50 years ago. "But if you have vision," says Henry
Stern, commissioner of parks and recreation for New York City,
"you'll see a golf course. I go out there and see Shangri-la."
By 2002, Stern says, the Ferry Point landfill will have morphed
into the first municipal course--there are currently 13 in New
York--built in the city in more than 30 years. Ferry Point is the
latest example of a trashy trend in course development. It's
simple. Sculpt the rubbish into a routing plan, cap it with a
water-impermeable clay or plastic liner and smooth on topsoil
like frosting on a cake. Voila: a golf course. At least 30 such
courses have been served up nationally.
"Most golfers don't know they're playing on a landfill," says
Kent Davidson, director of golf at 19-year-old Industry Hills
Sheraton Resort in City of Industry, Calif., one of the first
landfill courses in the country.
Housing developers dislike landfill because it makes an
unacceptable foundation, but prime land has never been a
prerequisite for golf courses. "The first Scottish links were
built on land that was undevelopable at the time and had little
or no nutrient value for farming," says Massachusetts course
designer Tim Gerrish, whose master's thesis, Contours of Trash,
compares links and landfill courses.
Industry Hills burns methane gas to heat water for the hotel and
swimming pools at the resort, but it hasn't been all birdies and
no bogeys. Breakdowns in the gas-collection system have
suffocated grass, turning it black. Settling once created a
fissure 15 feet deep and 40 feet long on the 11th green.
"In terms of being environmentally responsible, we're very proud
of what we're doing here," says Davidson, "but I wouldn't want
to be standing on top of one of those cracks when it opens up."
--John F. Lauerman
What do these players have in common?
They made the three biggest improvements in scores from one round
to the next since 1985 in events sanctioned by the PGA Tour: Kaye
(21 strokes) at last week's Bob Hope, Julian (19) at the '97 Nike
Carolina Classic, and Murphy (19) at the '85 Bing Crosby Pro-Am.
Whom would you prefer to follow at the AT&T Pebble Beach National
Bill Murray 31%
Tiger Woods 28%
David Duval 23%
Michael Jordan 19%
--Based on 1,540 responses to our informal survey.
Next question: What's tougher: shooting a 59, pitching a perfect
game or bowling a 300?
To vote, go to www.cnnsi.com/golf.
David Duval made up a seven-stroke deficit on Sunday to win the
Hope, a feat matched by 10 others in PGA history. These four
golfers came from a record eight back on Sunday to win.
Scott Simpson '98 Buick Inv.
Chip Beck '90 Buick Open
Hal Sutton '85 Memphis Classic
Mark Lye '83 Bank of Boston
Duval's nine wins in 28 starts is the fifth best such streak
since 1960. These players won more often in 28 events.
1. Johnny Miller 11 1974-75
2. Arnold Palmer 10 1962-63
Jack Nicklaus 10 1971-73
Tom Watson 10 1979-80
Jackie Booth, Albuquerque
Booth, 42, the women's golf coach at New Mexico, was named the
LPGA's 1998 coach of the year. Booth, who led the Lobos to an
eighth-place finish at the NCAAs last year, also runs a program
in which women in Albuquerque receive free lessons.
Parker McLachlin, Honolulu
McLachlin, a redshirt freshman on the UCLA team, shot a 59
(28-31) on the 6,566-yard par-70 Beach Course at the Waikoloa
Resort. During the round, which broke Isao Aoki's course record
by three shots, McLachlin made seven pars and 11 birdies,
including six in a row from the 4th through 9th holes.
Kellee Booth, Coto de Caza, Calif.
Booth, 22, won the Women's South Atlantic Amateur at Oceanside
Country Club in Ormond Beach, Fla., on the second hole of a
playoff against Beth Bauer, whom she had tied in regulation at
two-over-par 290. For her victory Booth received an exemption
into the LPGA's May 6-9 Titleholders tournament.