Mike Weir





Professional golfer

Born Michael Richard Weir, May 12, 1970, in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada; son of Richard and Rowie Weir; married Bricia; children: Elle Marisa, Lily. Education: Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, B.S. (recreation management), 1993.

Addresses:

Home— Draper, Utah. Office— c/o Professional Golfers' Association of America, 100 Avenue of the Champions, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418. Website— http://www.mikeweir.com/ .

Career

Turned professional, 1992; joined the Canadian Tour, 1993; joined PGA's U.S. Tour, earning close to $220,000 his rookie season, 1998; won first PGA Tour title at Air Canada Championship, 1999; became first Canadian to play in the Presidents Cup team competition, 2000; won second victory on PGA Tour at WGC–American Express Championship, 2000; became first Canadian golfer to be rated among the world's top 10 after ending season with a win at the Tour Championship, 2001; dropped to 42nd in world rankings after lackluster play, 2002; vaulted to top ranks of world golfers with wins at Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Nissan Open, and the Masters, 2003.

Awards:

Canadian Juvenile Champion, 1986; Ontario Junior Champion, 1988; Ontario Amateur Champion, 1990, 1992; Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, 1992; Infinity Players Championship winner, 1993; Canadian Tour Rookie of the Year, 1993; BC Tel Pacific Open winner, 1997; Canadian

Mike Weir
Masters winner, 1997; Air Canada Championship, 1999; World Golf Championship, 2000; Canadian Press Male Athlete of the Year, 2000, 2001; PGA Tour Championship, 2001; Canadian Press Male Athlete of the Year, 2001; Bob Hope Chrysler Classic winner, 2003; Nissan Open winner, 2003; Masters Tournament winner, 2003.

Sidelights

In just over a decade, Mike Weir has managed to become one of the greatest professional golfers ever to come out of Canada. The crowning glory of his pro golfing career thus far came in April of 2003 when he won the prestigious Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, a feat no golfer from Canada had ever accomplished. But that was just the high point for Weir in 2003, who got his winning season off to an early start with victories at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and Nissan Open for prize monies of just over $1.6 million for those two tournaments alone. In fact, by the end of June, Weir's winnings on the 2003 PGA tour had topped $4 million, making him the number–one golfer on the tour in terms of earnings. Not too shabby for a golfer who in the mid–1990s was fighting tooth and nail just to stay in the pro game, struggling so hard that at times he was forced to call upon his wife to caddy for him. Only minutes after his win at Augusta, Weir received a congratulatory phone call from an ecstatic Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. According to the Toronto Star, Weir then told reporters, "It's such a thrill, something I've dreamed of since I was a little kid. This win is a win for me and my family, but it is a big win for Canada and Canadian golf and the fans that have been very supportive of me."

Weir's winning ways in 2003 make it somewhat hard to believe that the five–foot, nine–inch golfer struggled for years just to qualify for the PGA's U.S. Tour. "It took me five years going to [PGA] qualifying school to get out here," the golfer told Pierre LeBrun of the Canadian Press, as posted online at Slam! Sports. "And I can remember many times that I was missing cut after cut on the Australian Tour and I was by myself and didn't have any money. You're out on the range by yourself practicing until you can't see a shot five feet in front of you." Weir's persistence paid off, and in 1998 he made his debut on the PGA Tour. It was hardly the most auspicious beginning. He made only 13 of 27 cuts and wound up 131st on the tour's money list for 1998.

He was born Michael Richard Weir on May 12, 1970, in Sarnia in the southern part of the Canadian province of Ontario. His father, Richard, worked for a local chemical company, while his mother, Rowie, stayed at home to look after Mike and his two older brothers, Jim and Craig. Enthusiastic about sports as a boy, Weir's first great love was hockey. According to his father, Weir was also a fine baseball player. He was first introduced to the game of golf at the age of eight when his father took him to a par–three course not far from the family's home in Sarnia. Recognizing Mike's budding interest in—and natural aptitude for—golf, his father bought his youngest son a secondhand set of left–handed clubs. When the family moved a few years later to nearby Bright's Grove, Richard signed up for a family membership at the local Huron Oaks Golf Club so his three sons could have access to all the recreational facilities—an exercise center, swimming pool, and golf course—available there.

Mike was soon spending all his spare time at Huron Oaks. As the club's pro, Steve Bennett, recalled for Bob Verdi of Golf Digest, "He was there a lot, hitting balls, chipping, putting. Not many kids his age would spend hours practicing. Mike did." Since Weir showed up at the golf course almost every day, Bennett hired the boy to do odd jobs around the club. When Weir balked at picking up range balls in the rain, Bennett suspended him from his job for a week. "Mike never had to be talked to about responsibility after that," Bennett told Verdi.

Before long, Weir had set his sights on a career as a professional golfer. He was so serious about perfecting his game that at age 13 he wrote a letter to Jack Nicklaus to ask whether he should continue playing left–handed or make an effort to switch to his right; Nicklaus advised Weir to stick with his natural swing. Three years later, when he was 16, Weir won the 1986 Canadian juvenile championship. In 1988 he captured the Ontario junior championship and won the province's amateur championship two years after that. When it came time to pick a college, Weir decided to enroll at Brigham Young University (BYU) on a golf scholarship. The Mormon–supported school in Provo, Utah, had already helped to groom other Canadian golfers, including Brent Franklin, Jim Nelford, Richard Zokol, and Rick Gibson.

As a sophomore at BYU, Weir met his future wife, Bricia, a native of Mexico who grew up mostly in Los Angeles, California, and is herself an accomplished athlete, having played on the amateur tennis circuit before she was married. Her background in sports helps her to understand her husband's obsession with golf and his quest to perfect his game. As she told Michael Clarkson of the Toronto Star, "Sports is an obsession. Athletes tend to be obsessive, to try to get better and better." The Weirs, who decided to make their home in Utah after finishing college, live in Draper. They have two daughters, Elle Marisa and Lily.

During his collegiate golfing career, Weir won three events and finished among the top ten a total of 19 times. Even before graduating, the young golfer in 1992 announced his decision to turn professional, After receiving his bachelor's degree in recreation management in 1993, he pooled some of his own money with $10,000 from a sponsor in London, Ontario, and a car lent to him by a dealer in Timmins to join the Canadian Tour. The investment proved to be a wise one: Weir capped off his debut season on the tour with a one–stroke win at the Infinity Players Championship and was named Rookie of the Year. But Weir longed to join the PGA's U.S. Tour, and so at the end of the Canadian Tour in 1993, he headed off to the PGA Tour qualifying school in Palm Springs, California. It turned out to be a crushing disappointment. Weir's father, Richard, recounted to London Free Press reporter John Herbert this low point in his son's career: "He was first alternate at the final stage and didn't get to play. One hundred and ninety–seven players and nobody drops out. They kept telling him somebody would drop out; it always happens. But it didn't."

Although Weir continued to play on the Canadian Tour and elsewhere around the world, the going was particularly rough for him and his wife during the mid–1990s as he struggled to take his game to the next level. In his interview with LeBrun in Canadian Press, Weir recalled those dark years. "I can remember clearly one moment that seemed to crystallize things for me. It was on the practice range at the 1994 Canadian Open and I was hitting balls next to Nick Price. I was watching how the ball just exploded off his clubface, and it occurred to me that there was no way I could ever think of beating this guy if I didn't change some things. So I did."

Determined to improve his swing, Weir was persuaded by a mutual friend to pay a visit in early 1996 to golf coach Mike Wilson, who was then an instructor at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Palm Desert, California. Together, Weir and Wilson, with input from sports psychologist Rich Gordin, mapped out a plan to help the Canadian golfer improve all aspects of his game. Wilson and Gordin both remain key members of "Team Weir" today. Wilson, a native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, now teaches golf under his own name in Palm Desert and is the personal coach not only for Weir but for other pro golfers, including J.P. Hayes and Paul Stankowski.

The master plan to improve Weir's game began to pay off in 1997. That year, the golfer won the Order of Merit on the Canadian Tour. However, it was not until 1998 that he finally managed to break into the PGA's U.S. Tour. That breakthrough, Weir told the London Free Press, as quoted online at Slam! Sports, was his most memorable moment in golf until winning the Masters in 2003. It was his sixth attempt at qualifying and making it onto the tour was more memorable for him than any of the tournaments he had previously won. "It had been a childhood dream for so long, and I have worked so hard at getting there. To play the way I did under the extreme pressure of Q–school [qualifying school] is something I'm very proud of. I was right on the bubble in the final round, close to the cut line, so it was the most pressure–packed round I have ever played. I hit some unbelievable shots that day."

In 1999, his second year on the PGA Tour, Weir posted his first win, a two–stroke victory at the Air Canada Championship. It was the first win by a Canadian on the PGA Tour since 1992 and helped push Weir's earnings for the year to just under $1.5 million. For the 1999 tour as a whole, he finished in the top ten seven times. Things only got better in 2000 when Weir racked up earnings of more than $2.5 million and ended up 21st in the world golf rankings. Making 2000 particularly sweet for Weir was his victory at the final event of the 2000 PGA Tour—the World Golf Championship in Spain, an event at which he bested such world–class golfers as Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, and Lee Westwood.

Weir's earnings on the PGA Tour in 2001 edged up to almost $2.8 million, but more significantly he broke into the ranks of the world's top ten golfers for the first time, largely on the strength of his win at the PGA Tour Championship. Weir's win came in a four–way playoff against Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, and David Toms. It was also his first PGA Tour win on American soil. In recognition of his play for the year, Weir won the 2001 Canadian Press Male Athlete of the Year Award. After three successive years of consistently improving performance, 2002 was something of a come–down for Weir, who slipped from the ranks of the world's top ten pro golfers to 42nd place. His earnings on the tour dropped below $1 million, totaling only $844,000, and putting him in 78th place on the PGA money list.

However, Weir's lackluster performance in 2002 made his burst of brilliance in 2003 seem all the more impressive. He recorded his first win of the 2003 season at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in late January–early February, picking up $810,000 for his victory. Just three weeks later, he earned another $810,000 paycheck for winning the Nissan Open. The high point of Weir's 2003 season came with his surprising win at the Masters in Augusta. In winning the famed green jacket reserved for Masters winners, Weir accomplished what no Canadian had ever done. To get the job done at Augusta, Weir had to best Len Mattiace in a high–pressure play–off round at the end of the tournament. Shortly after he'd won the day, Weir told S.L. Price of Sports Illustrated, "It was just a gut–wrenching day, [with] a lot of comeback putts that I needed to make and was able to make. To do that coming down the stretch, knowing what a great score Len's had today, that's what I'm really proud of." On February 22, 2004, Weir won the Nissan Open by one shot. The victory made him the first repeat winner in nine years.

Sources

Periodicals

Atlanta Journal and Constitution, April 14, 2003, p. D1.

Golf Digest, July 2001.

London Free Press (Ontario, Canada), June 7, 2003.

Press (Canterbury, New Zealand), April 15, 2003, p. 8.

PR Newswire, April 28, 2003.

Sports Illustrated, April 21, 2003, p. 36.

Tampa Tribune, April 14, 2003.

Toronto Star, April 1, 2000; April 14, 2003; May 9, 2003.

Online

Biography Resource Center Online, Gale Group, 2003.

"Career Highlights," MikeWeir.com , http://www.mikeweir.com/aboutme/bio.sps?section=aboutme&sid=450&# 0026;lid=1&aid=0 (July 1, 2003).

"Mike Weir," ESPN.com , http://sports.espn.go.com/golf/players/profile?playerId=453 (July 1, 2003).

"Mike Weir has come a long way since having his wife caddy for him," Slam! Sports, http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam030413/glf_weir–cp.html (July 2, 2003).

"Mike Weir's Golf Swing Highlights," Beau Productions, http://beauproductions.com/golfswingsws/mikeweir/videos/weir.wmv (July 1, 2003).

"Mike Weir," SI.com , http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/golf/pga/bios/2003/bio1209.html (July 2, 2003).

"Oh Canada!" SI.com , http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/augusta/news/2003/04/13/masters_sunda _ap/ (July 14, 2003).

"Special things for Mike Weir," Slam! Sports, http://cnews.canoe.ca/Slam030607/glf_weir4–sun.html (July 2, 2003).

"Weir holds off late charge to win Nissan Open," SI.com , http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2004/golf/02/22/nissan.sunday.ap/inde .html (July 9, 2004).

"Welcome to Team Weir" MikeWeir.com , http://www.mikeweir.com/static/default.sps?section=teamweir&sid=4 0&lid=1&page=teamweir (July 3, 2003).

Don Amerman



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