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Mike Weir: Canada's Greatest Ever Golfer?

Mike Weir: All-time best?

That’s the conclusion ScoreGolf’s group of panelists come to tomorrow on a show on TSN, something that’s fair game now that Score Editor Bob Weeks gave up the goods on the Fan590 on Thursday, running through the list with host Bob McCown’s Primetime sports radio show. McCown, for what it is worth, disagreed. He picked George Knudson, certainly another possibility.

The question, of course, is whether Weir warrants the honour, which was selected by golf media types, some industry people and some golf historians.

Weeks added on the show that Weir didn’t receive the nod by a wide margin — that Marlene Stewart Streit and George Knudson also had some support.

My Top 5 went like this (though I’ll admit I had to look it up since I sent it in November):

1) Mike Weir

2) George Knudson

3) Marlene Stewart Streit

4) Sandra Post

5) Al Balding

All of these sorts of things are a bit arbitrary. Weir’s major win at the 2003 Masters, alongside his seven other PGA Tour wins, elevates him above Knudson in my mind, and apparently that of my peers. Marlene Streit has won every tournament an amateur could win and in some regards harkens back to another era when golfers might remain as an amateur for their entire lives. She’s also the only Canadian in the World Golf Hall of Fame, which demonstrates her recognition goes well beyond Canada. Sandra Post was, at the time, the youngest woman ever to win a major championship, and had eight wins on the LPGA Tour before injuries slowed her. Injuries also derailed Al Balding’s career, but he remained a remarkable player for his entire life, shooting 12 shots less than his age at the Canadian Seniors PGA Championship.

Is the list perfect? Hardly. It is missing George Cumming, who won an early Canadian Open, and was runner-up four times. He was also responsible, largely, for pushing the notion of the “golf pro” in Canada, and spent 50 years at Toronto Golf Club. And of course, as a designer, he built numerous courses, including the routing for Scarboro, Summit, and several others. And like many lists, I think it is a bit heavy on modern golfers, though admittedly it is hard to qualify golfers who played 100 years ago against modern players.

For those interested, the special on Score’s Top 25 golfers is on tomorrow at noon EST on TSN.

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Jeff Lancaster

Jeff Lancaster is the Publisher of CanadianGolfer.com.

16 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I have no idea on who’s best. But reading about Sandra Post helped me gain even more respect for her career. I like that. What’s nice about having a list is that it opens us up to careers that we may have forgotten through time. I really admire Marlene and it’s nice to see her get recognition.

  • Don’t know what the evaluation criteria was, but I sincerely hope that Moe Norman is near the top of the list!

  • my 2 cents worth:
    1. George Knudson
    2. Sandra Post
    3. Moe Norman
    4. Marlene Streit
    5. Gary Cowan
    6. Al Balding

  • I like Gary’s list, except I would put Mike at 2 and move Sandra to 3.

    Marlene is a remarkable athlete, along with Gail Borthwick, who gets honourable mention from me.

  • Hypothetical question: If Weir hadn’t won the Masters, or Knudsen had won a major, who would be at the top of the list? In other words, putting professional records aside, who’s “Canada’s greatest golfer”, really?

  • Jeff,

    But you can’t remove the facts from any of the careers. The question is what is the most important factor “to you.”

    For example I consider The British Amatuer and the US Amatuer the equivielent of a major. Others consider the competition inferior to the professional ranks. Where does an NCAA Championship rank now, or multiple wins on other tours?

  • If you mention Marlene and Gail you should also mention another outstanding female amateur, Mary Ann Hayward who with a hall of fame career and inductee continues to win and add to her already outstanding resume.

  • Was George Cumming a Canadian golfer? He had already served as a golf pro in Scotland before emigrating to Canada at 21 years of age. Interestingly enough Cumming was born in a town called Bridge of Weir.

    @Jeff
    Isn’t one’s record as a professional extremely relevant? You have to give Weir a lot of credit for coming though under pressure and winning the Masters. Two of his other victories have been near majors in the Tour Championship and WGC Amex, and he has two LA Opens (which are also fairly prestigious) .

  • Moe Norman was the greatest ball striker ever has more course records and hole in ones than anyone I have ever heard of. IMO, he’s #2 under Weir, and only because of MW’s PGA Tour record.

  • Ian and Wayne,

    Don’t get me wrong. I have a ton of respect and admiration for Weir and his accomplishments. All I meant to ask was from a pure golfing perspective who’s the greatest? Mike’s professional record is better than anyone’s. But who is the “greatest golfer”… Knudsen, Moe? My sense is that these guys were better pure golfers than Weir. Which, by the way, makes Weir’s record even that much more impressive.

  • Quite frankly this is an impossible subject to get any form of consensus and its only useful purpose is to cause health debate. Perhaps the easiest and most relative comparison is the gender comparison and even that would be considered apples and oranges.
    How do you evaluate the quality of competition at the highest level of the PGA Tour in the 50s, 60s & 70s compared to today and more importantly how does one appraise the difference between amateur & professional golf?… which has a massive gap that could be similar to the gap between go-cart & F1 racing.
    Looking at Moe & Knudson is another good example of comparing apples and cucumbers. Both are argued to be 2 of the top-5 greatest “ball-strikers” in the history of the game (I believe this) and are known to have great knowledge on how to swing the club. But this does not equate to being a great champion player. The best players should be determined by victories on the battle field and how difficult those battles were.
    In my mind, Weir’s PGA Tour victories alone, in an era of the greatest depth of competition on the PGA Tour while under the microscope and pressure that comes with the modern day’s game, is superior to Knudson’s 8 PGA Tour victories… and this doesn’t even factor in Weir’s high water mark of winning his Green Jacket.

  • “In my mind, Weir’s PGA Tour victories alone, in an era of the greatest depth of competition on the PGA Tour while under the microscope and pressure that comes with the modern day’s game, is superior to Knudson’s 8 PGA Tour victories… and this doesn’t even factor in Weir’s high water mark of winning his Green Jacket.”

    Done. I’m sold.

  • I’m glad I read through the comments before posting my own.

    My sentiments are aligned exactly with the ones Richard Zokol expressed…but I don’t think I could have said it nearly as elegantly. Well done!

    I would add one thing of my own though. “Greatest Golfer” is far too vague to cull any really definitive answers. Great by what standards?

    Weir has the best resume of accomplishments, hands-down…and belongs at the top of the “Most Successful” list. Knudson and Post are right there too.

    Asking who The “Best Golfer” is/was might sound like a subtle difference…but it brings a whole list of other criteria into play…ones that put Moe Norman right at the top of the heap.

    He was certainly praised as the best striker of the ball by a ton of people, including guys like Palmer, Trevino, Faldo, Nicklaus and Couples (and many more) who know more about the subject than all of us put together.

  • I would have to agree “that in our lifetime” Mike Weir was the name of Canadian golf. However, one has to respect Sandra Post’s contribution to the game in Canadian sports history. If we gave a male and female winner they would both rank number 1 in my books. In looking towards the future it doesn’t appear that any of Canada’s young male stars are up to the task and women….uuuuummm. So chose what works for yesteryear I am just concerned about tomorrow.

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