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Bob Weeks

TSN Senior Reporter

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For most people, turning 50 brings with it a certain sense of getting old.

But for PGA Tour players like Mike Weir, who celebrates the milestone today, there’s a more positive spin.

“That’s the interesting thing about pro golf,” joked the Canadian icon. “You look forward to your 50th birthday rather than dreading it.”

After decades on the main circuit where he won eight times and collected a few dollars shy of $28 million, Weir is now eligible for the PGA Tour Champions, the 50-and-over circuit that has been referred to as a career mulligan.

It’s something he’s been preparing for the last few years, readying his game to take on players his vintage.

It wasn’t easy. Weir has battled through injuries and ineffective swing methods. His game went through some deep struggles, which left him turning in some horrid scorecards. But he never doubted he’d be able to climb out of the hole and be able to compete again.

After working with a number of different swing coaches over the years, Weir signed on with Mark Blackburn two years ago and gradually his game has returned to form.

His most recent start before the pandemic shutdown was the LECOM Suncoast Classic on the Korn Ferry Tour where he tied for 17th spot.

Of course, his first start on PGA Tour Champions will come later than expected due to the coronavirus pandemic. The circuit is set to resume with The Ally Challenge in Grand Blanc, Mich., on July 27. Between now and then Weir will keep honing his skills and staying ready for a new start.

“Just because you were successful on the PGA Tour doesn’t mean you’ll do it on the Champions Tour,” Weir said. “You still have to put in the work.”

The Bright’s Grove, Ont., product has never been shy about putting in the hours. Growing up across the street from Huron Oaks Golf Course, he would arrive in the early morning and rarely leave until sundown. He would practise relentlessly, especially on his short game. When winter came, he would clear off some snow and hit balls into Lake Huron behind his home. Or he’d head to the family garage where his father, Rich, would hang a tarp into which Weir would drive balls.

Mike’s brother, Jim, remembers those days because with each swing the house would reverberate with the contact of the club and the ball, and the ball and the backstop.

“It would go on for hours and hours,” he said, with a chuckle. “We all got headaches.”

All that work took him from a tremendous amateur career to a scholarship at Brigham Young University to the Canadian Tour, where he spent five years, and finally on to the PGA Tour where, after his fifth try at Qualifying School, he graduated to the big leagues.

“I think the mentality I had back then was that it was my goal to get on the PGA Tour and then once you get there it was like ‘Oh I can climb the ladder here a little bit more,’” said Weir. “And next thing I know I won the Masters. If you’d asked me that when I was on the Canadian Tour, there was just no way I would have believed that. It’s just interesting how confidence can grow, and things can evolve once you get out there on the Tour.”

Weir’s record is stunning. In addition to the Masters and seven other titles, he has 140 top-25 finishes, reached as high as third on the Official World Golf Ranking, made five appearances in the Presidents Cup, won a Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year, was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame, raised hundreds of thousands for charity, was named a member of the Order of Canada, and is an inspiration to the next wave of Canadian professionals.

“The biggest thing is I feel lucky,” said Weir, reflecting on his journey. “I know I’ve put a ton of work into it, but I also feel blessed to have done something that I have loved since I was a young kid. I feel lucky to have found a sport at a young age that I was able to turn into a career. Not too many people get to do that, to actually have it happen.”

Now he’s ready for the next step in his career, that is, when the pandemic subsides, and PGA Tour Champions resumes play. He said he feels a level of safety with competing under the cloud of COVID-19 and trusts the PGA Tour will ensure things run smoothly with the proper protections in place.

Weir has been keeping his game sharp both on the course and in his home setup, where he can hit shots and also stay fit. But after a lengthy layoff no one is quite sure what to expect.

“We’re all going to be a little rusty, but someone will come out of the gate hot,” Weir reflected.

For his birthday, he will spend time with his partner, Michelle, taking their dog for a hike, and have dinner with his daughters. It will be a low-key day despite the meaningful age he’s reached.

If the next chapter in his career is anything like the previous ones, there should be plenty more celebrations to come.