Puckheads take over Abbey

Mike Weir scrums with the media before the start of the Mike Weir Charity Classic at Glen Abbey...

Mike Weir scrums with the media before the start of the Mike Weir Charity Classic at Glen Abbey Golf Course in Oakville. (Sun Media/Ernest Doroszuk)

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

OAKVILLE -- The hockey player in Mike Weir made sure that some prominent NHLers were high on the list of invitees for his inaugural charity tournament.

He called New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur during the Stanley Cup playoffs this past spring to get him on board.

Maple Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn was up there, too, a savvy move to keep the locals enthused yesterday at Glen Abbey Golf Club.

And if you were to use autograph hounds as a gauge, Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks was as big a celebrity as there was on the course yesterday, Michael Jordan and Kevin Costner included.

So when it's time to cast his vote for which other pro sport produces the best golfers, Weir doesn't hesitate.

"I think hockey, because the motion is similar to the slapshot," Weir said before teeing off in the inaugural edition of the Mike Weir Charity Classic to kick off Canadian Open week.

Admittedly it is a generalization, but if you've seen (and winced at) former NBA star Charles Barkley's swing, there maybe some truth to Weir's hockey theory.

And let's hope Jordan stocked up as much on Nike golf balls as he did the Cuban cigars he chomped on while chopping it around the Abbey yesterday. On the par-3 seventh (formerly the third), Jordan's tee shot went for a swim. Two holes later, he butchered his way to a double-bogey six on the par-4 ninth.

And then there are the hockey guys. Yesterday, Schenn told a great story about his boss, Ron Wilson, who may just be among the best hockey players ever to pick up a metal wood.

The Leafs coach plays to a plus-2 handicap, meaning most days he finds himself shooting in the 60s when he's playing at home in Hilton Head, S.C.

There's not much about golf that Schenn can hold over his coach, then, but when he walked up to the tee on the long-drive hole at the team's charity tournament last summer, strong-armed Schenn got one on Wilson.

"I showed up in flip flops and outdrove him," said Schenn, who is roughly a 15 handicap. "He still bugs me about that one."

Brodeur takes the game a little more seriously, playing 50-60 times during the off-season at Club de golf Balmorel in his native Quebec. He has settled into a nice routine that includes a workout in the morning and a tee time in the afternoon.

"For me, hockey helps my short game," said Brodeur, who plays to a nifty seven handicap. "I go out and chip the puck in the corners and pass it around. That puck handling kind of helps me."

Besides the obvious physical attributes, hockey players bring -- strong forearms and legs -- it doesn't hurt that the off-season is prime for tee times.

Over his years as Canada's most renowned golf pro, Weir has had the opportunity to get to know many NHLers and their quest to excel at golf and understands the appeal.

"Amateur golfers can relate to pros," Weir said. "They play the same golf courses and see the same shots. It's that allure of athletes playing different sports."

That attraction certainly worked yesterday in Weir's first run at the event that will benefit his charity foundation. For starters, the Abbey is typically dead quiet on Mondays of Open week, other than the odd practice range. But yesterday, crowds were more like what would be expected for Thursday's opening round.

SWOON FACTOR

Besides the athletes, Costner was there to provide the swoon factor as was musician Tom Cochrane and actor Tomas Gibson (of Criminal Minds). But five of the 10 non pro golfers among the celebrity component were hockey players. And it wasn't by accident.

"These guys play sports where the ball or puck is coming and they don't have time to think," Weir said. "And (for them) golf looks like a sport you can get good at."


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