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How a Canadian golfer finally broke a 69-year Canadian Open drought

Still sinking in for Abbotsford's Nick Taylor

For a country that has waited almost 70 years for one of its own to win the RBC Canadian Open, extra holes only made it that much more special.

That epic moment finally came as Sunday afternoon was giving way to evening. Nick Taylor sunk a 72-foot eagle putt on the fourth playoff hole to defeat Englishman Tommy Fleetwood and win the Canadian Open at Oakdale Golf and Country Club in Toronto.

The distance travelled on Taylor’s winning putt was a fitting metaphor for the long journey to finally have another homegrown champion as the 35-year-old from Abbotsford, B.C., broke a 69-year-old drought since a Canadian last won the national championship.

Perhaps just as much as breaking seven decades of strife, Taylor’s win could also have a similar effect as Mike Weir’s victory at the 2003 Masters. Taylor paid tribute to Weir after his win, saying that without that extra bit of inspiration, it would have been much more difficult for him and other Canadian kids to have success in the hardscrabble world of professional golf.

“I was 15, almost 15 when he won the Masters,” said Taylor, “…to have Mike win that tournament I think made everyone believe we could do it coming from a country where we do.”

Taylor cited natural obstacles, weather, for example and having most of the country covered in snow for almost half the year as something that has held Canadians back. Or at least could have until Weir started to show the way.

It was pointed out to Taylor that his exploits on Sunday could soon be added to a short list of where-were-you-when moments that transcend golf, such as Sidney Crosby scoring the winning goal in overtime to win gold at the Vancouver Olympics, or when Joe Carter’s home run won the World Series for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Taylor tried his best to wrap his head around the question but conceded it was still too much to yet understand the depth and breadth of Sunday and what it portends for his place in Canadian sports history.

“That’s all kind of breathtaking,” he said.

While answering a similar question earlier, Taylor made another short but revealing comment about how things hadn’t quite sunk in yet.

“It’s hard to imagine because I feel like I’m still that kid,” he said.

He and others are all grown up now.

Taylor is part of the so-called “Weir Generation” that have now won nine times – and counting – on the PGA Tour: three by Taylor, two each from Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes and one apiece for Adam Hadwin and Adam Svensson. All nine of those wins came after Weir’s eight PGA Tour victories, the last of which came in 2007.

Taylor and Weir both expressed hope that the good times keep coming, especially in light of Canada hosting the Presidents Cup in Montreal next year, where the 53-year-old from Brights Grove, Ont., will serve as captain of the International team.

“Hopefully it sort of breaks down the door,” said Weir, pointing out that sometimes old notions such as the winless droughts are kept alive because it was just assumed it was too daunting of task to complete.

Not anymore.

For Taylor, who will now head to the U.S. Open in Los Angeles that begins on Thursday, more major titles like what Weir won two decades ago should be the next goal for him and his Canadian brethren.

“Major championships are what we are all striving for…that’s the next step,” said Taylor.

“Next week, I think there are seven of us (at the U.S. Open), so hopefully we can do the same thing. The more time we are up at the top of the leaderboard, lucky bounces will go in the hole.”

And speaking of good bounces, Taylor’s winning putt was the longest he has made in his career. Asked to describe what he and his caddie, David Markle, were thinking as he got set to take his shot at making Canadian sports history, Taylor said that he knew it would be slow near the end but that the line was also known because of an earlier putt he had in the playoff.

Good fortune also played a part, not that he was apologizing.

“There’s a lot of luck for that to go in the hole,” said Taylor, “…it was a huge surprise but an amazing one.”

Markle put it more succinctly.

“He had it on line but sometimes the ball just hits the hole and goes in,” said the caddie.

Here’s to hoping Canadians don’t have to wait until 2092 for the next lucky bounce.

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Peter Robinson

About the Author: Peter Robinson

Barrie's Peter Robinson is a sports columnist for BarrieToday. He is the author of Hope and Heartbreak in Toronto, his take on living with the disease of being a Leafs fan.
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