Canadians to receive developmental boost

IAN HUTCHINSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

The start of the 2010 golf season is a bit different for Canadians and that really has nothing to do with the absence of the world's No. 1 player, Tiger Woods, who draws more attention when he isn't on the PGA Tour than when he is spinning his magic on the golf course.

It's different this season because Canadians aren't keeping their eyes only on Mike Weir and Stephen Ames, but also paying attention to rookies Graham DeLaet and Chris Baryla. And when the LPGA Tour gets underway, newcomers Samantha Richdale and Lisa Meldrum will be sharing the spotlight with Lorie Kane and Alena Sharp.

The ascension of these four rookies to their respective major tours was part of a delightful summer of 2009 in which Canadians demonstrated to their countrymen that there is golf outside the PGA and LPGA, and in order to get to those tours, young players need to cut their teeth on mini tours and development circuits.

MORE TO COME

It might be wise for Canadian fans to keep that in mind because if last season was any indication, there will be more fireworks at the collegiate level from the likes of Matt Hill, Nick Taylor, Jennifer Kirby and Stephanie Sherlock, to name a few.

All of those players likely will be turning pro over the next few years -- certainly in time for golf's debut in the Olympics -- and there will be financial challenges for these young players.

That's why it was heartening to see RBC continue its role as Santa Claus to Canadian golf last week with three announcements, including a strengthening of its existing relationships with Weir and Ames, who each will carry RBC branding on his golf bag.

It also was announced that RBC will help fund the Royal Canadian Golf Association's national amateur golf team program and the national championships. It also will offer a combination of funding, financial planning and bank services to players breaking on to the tours.

The company that breathed new life into the Canadian Open is noticing the development phase in a player's career and understands that they don't just suddenly appear on the top tours.

The development theme is something that is also getting attention from the golf industry with associations such as the RCGA, Canadian PGA and Canadian Tour discussing how to possibly support players and offer places to play in that mini tour/development gap between turning pro and the highest levels of the game.

Hopefully, those talks turn to implementation of programs. Weir agrees, recalling his own experience in that stage of his career.

"We've always been these independent guys that go out and try to either get a corporate sponsor or a businessman to kind of get you started in the right direction, somebody who loves golf that wants to help a young guy get going," Weir said.

'GREAT IDEA'

"If the RCGA and CPGA are thinking about setting aside some kind of fund to help some of these young guys, I think it's a great idea," he added.

"My own experience starting off, Huron Oaks (in Bright's Grove) had this fundraiser for me, a dinner, and it raised $10,000. I had some small corporate sponsors when I first got going, a small firm in London. Midland Walwyn gave me a little money and I did some corporate things for them.

"Bell gave me a cell phone to use on the Canadian Tour without any charges and that was huge.

"All those little things, they pay off and I was able to play well enough to stay afloat and keep things going from there," Weir said.

HUTCHGOLF@NETZERO.COM


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