Weir's biggest drive

JOHN HERBERT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:57 AM ET

Mike Weir has hit a lot of big drives in winning seven PGA Tour events, including the Masters.

But the most important drive of his career has yet to come.

The Bright's Grove native is teeing it up in the Mike Weir Charity Golf Drive For Kids at Sunningdale Golf and Country Club on June 25.

Weir is teaming up with the Children's Miracle Network in a coast-to-coast effort to raise money for 14 children's hospitals in Canada, including the Children's Hospital of Western Ontario.

Also involved are the National Golf Course Owners Association through their Take a Kid to the Course Week July 2-8. Parents who bring their kids for a free round of golf at 1,300 courses will be asked to make a donation.

Money raised during Weir's visit to London -- organizers are hoping for $500,000 -- will stay in London. Funds raised at tournaments the same day in 13 other cities will stay with children's hospitals in those areas.

Weir will play in another city next summer.

The Mike Weir Foundation, formed a few years ago to assist children, had been searching for a national charity to replace the the Dino Ciccarelli-Mike Weir Charity Classic which had a 10-year run. The Sarnia tournament assisted Sarnia-area children's charities, but proved to be time-consuming and did not raise the millions Weir is hoping this event will in years to come.

"We wanted to take our time and find the right fundraising program as well as the right charitable partner that allowed the foundation to have the biggest impact,'' Weir said.

"We do want to make this bigger and bigger. I've been to a number of events like Brad Faxon's and Bill Andrade's tournaments and they raise maybe $3 million to $4 million in a single day.''

London lawyer Mike Lerner first pitched the concept to Weir's brother.

"I had lunch with Jim Weir about two years ago and said I was involved with the children's hospital fundraising and wondered if Mike would consider getting involved.''

Lerner told Jim Weir he envisioned Mike and his wife, Bricia, becoming spokespersons for children's hospitals across Canada.

Lerner said a couple of weeks later, Mike Weir found himself on the same flight with fellow Brigham Young University graduate Steve Young and singer Marie Osmond, who ironically were headed to Orlando, Fla., for a U.S. Children's Miracle Network conference.

"They got into a conversation about children's hospitals and it kind of reinforced the conversations I had with Jim,'' Lerner said. "Then we got word they were prepared to talk.''

Lerner said celebrities often become involved in charity events, but you question their genuine commitment. That is not the case with Weir, he said.

"Mike is well-informed. He's educated himself about children's hospitals and there's no question about his interest.''

The tournament chairperson is Vito Finucci, an easy choice since the new tournament replaces his successful Children's Golf Classic for the Children's Health Foundation, which has raised $1.5 million during the last 17 years.

Both Sunningdale courses will be used to accommodate a field of 288 golfers -- there are 140 on a waiting list -- who have paid $375 each to play. While the entry fees will bring in more than $100,000, auctions, including one to play six holes with Weir, corporate donations, sponsorship money and pledges will bring in the bulk of the $500,000.

The chance to play six holes with Weir will be auctioned off to the three highest-bidding foursomes.

Weir's visit to London follows the U.S. Open June 14-17 at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. He arrives in London June 24 for a private charity fundraiser at Redtail Golf Course for 20 Redtail members, 20 guests of Weir and 20 top sponsors of the Sunningdale tournament.

Following the Sunningdale tournament, Weir will probably head to Flint, Mich., for the Buick Open, which begins on June 28.

Mike Weir has a new coach, a new swing, is over his back troubles and expects to be back in the winner's circle.

"I feel a win is just around the corner,'' the seven-time PGA Tour winner said.

"My expectations are to win. I want to win, whether it's once, twice or five times. I want to start winning again.''

Weir has been in a slump since 2004.

He won the Masters in 2003 and has US$19 million in career earnings.

The Bright's Grove native was on his way to winning the Canadian Open the final day in 2004 when a fan at Glen Abbey in Oakville grabbed his right shoulder as he walked from the 10th green to the 11th tee. Almost immediately, Weir felt pain affecting his swing.

Vijay Singh beat Weir in a playoff for the championship.

Weir has said that since that incident, the pain in his shoulder moved into his neck and his lower back. Sometimes the pain made it difficult for him to get comfortable over the ball on his setup and curtailed his practice routine.

New coaches Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer have been working with Weir since November building a new swing around the back problems.

"I've had no injury symptoms from the first time in a few years,'' he said. "In other years, I was so sore I couldn't hit balls. Now I'm able to work hard and practise.''

Weir said there is no time frame on wining.

"Tiger (Woods) went through this and it took him a while before he started seeing the benefits again. Any time you make a change, it is not going to be easy and you are not going to feel comfortable right away.

"In the meantime, I have to find a way to score and get it done.''

"They got into a conversation about children's hospitals and it kind of reinforced the conversations I had with Jim,'' Lerner said. "Then we got word they were prepared to talk.''

Lerner said celebrities often become involved in charity events, but you question their genuine commitment.

That is not the case with Weir, he said.

"Mike is well informed. He's educated himself about children's hospitals and there's no question about his interest.''

The tournament chairperson is Vito Finucci, an easy choice since the new tournament replaces his successful Children's Golf Classic for the Children's Health Foundation, which has raised $1.5 million during the last 17 years.

Both Sunningdale courses will be used to accommodate a field of 288 golfers -- there are 140 on a waiting list -- who have paid $375 each to play. While the entry fees will bring in more than $100,000, auctions -- including one to play six holes with Weir -- corporate donations, sponsorship money and pledges will bring in the bulk of the $500,000.

The chance to play six holes with Weir will be auctioned off to the three highest-bidding foursomes.

Weir's visit to London follows the U.S. Open June 14-17 at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. He arrives in London June 24 for a private charity fundraiser at Redtail Golf Course for 20 Redtail members, 20 guests of Weir and 20 top sponsors of the Sunningdale event.

Following the Sunningdale tournament, Weir will probably head to Flint, Mich., for the Buick Open, which begins June 28.


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