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In belated celebration of its 151st birthday, Royal Montreal to host 2024 Presidents Cup

International Team captain Gary Player (left) United States captain Jack Nicklaus look on during the 2007 Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal Golf Club
International Team captain Gary Player (left) United States captain Jack Nicklaus look on during the 2007 Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal Golf Club

Three years ago, when the idea was first put in motion for Royal Montreal Golf Club to host the Presidents Cup in 2023 on its 150th anniversary, the bid committee heard it was “too late to the party.”

“We were fortunate, based on the way the it has grown and evolved, to have a lot of interest from International markets to host the Presidents Cup,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said on a Zoom call Monday. “The amount of effort, the commitment, the passion, not only for the Presidents Cup in showcasing their club to the world and showcasing their club to the best players in the world, was evident throughout the entire process. That was something we were reminded of early and ultimately led us to this decision.”

Because of COVID wiping out this year’s Ryder Cup and pushing the schedule back, the party will be held a year later when Royal Montreal, located in Ile Bizard, will host the 2024 Presidents Cup. That will be the 151st anniversary of North America’s oldest golf club, but no one is hung up on that detail.

“The Royal Montreal Golf Club has hosted many tournaments, including 10 Canadian Opens, but nothing can compare to the magic of the Presidents Cup,” said Michael Richards, chairman of the bid committee. “For me it is a dream come true. Our objective is to make the 2024 Presidents Cup the best one ever.”

The biennial showdown which first began in 1994 between a team from the U.S and one made up of International golfers was quite memorable in 2007, the last time it was held at Royal Montreal. The Americans defeated the International side 19.5-14.5, but the highlight was the Sunday singles match that saw Mike Weir winning the final two holes to defeat Tiger Woods 1-up.

“That’s what kind of got the juices flowing for me, to hopefully be on that team one day,” said Graham DeLaet, the 38-year old product of Weyburn, Sask. who plays on the PGA Tour and, after Weir, is the second Canadian to play in the Presidents Cup. “I was lucky enough to do that once.”

And a memorable performance it was that DeLaet put forth at Muirfield Village in 2013, when he was teamed with Australian Jason Day for the first four sessions and posted a 3-1-1 record.

It was also the first attended by Ryan Hart, a Winnipeg native who was named executive director of the 2024 Presidents Cup on Monday.

“That was Graham DeLaet’s showcase,” said Hart. “To be able to be standing there as a proud Canadian and watching him hole two bunker shots, very key bunker shots in a row, and watching erupt the amount of Canadian fans around there, it really gave me a sense of how big this was. It wasn’t a matter of one country cheering for one guy, it was the entire amphitheatre around Muirfield on the 18th erupting. It set the stage for my love for this event.”

DeLaet, who has been battling back problems throughout his career, would love a shot at playing in the Presidents Cup in Canada. He pointed out that the International side could have “four or five” guys among the 12 on the team, mentioning the likes of Adam Hadwin, Nick Taylor, Mackenzie Hughes, Corey Conners and Taylor Pendrith, who is making noise on the Korn Ferry Tour.

“I could probably speak for all the Canadians when I say that the one tournament we look forward to every year is the Canadian Open,” said DeLaet. “To play (in the Presidents Cup) in Canada I think would be extra, extra special. Obviously there would be maybe a little more pressure on you, but I think that as a professional golfer, that’s what you want. You want to be in that spotlight and putting your country’s flag on your back, and doing what you can for those other 11 guys on the team.”

“I think that’s what is so amazing about this tournament. Just the fact you get to really play for someone else. It’s about team, it’s not about you for the first time in your career. It’s just so much fun. The golf course is perfectly suited for it, with some risk reward holes, there’s a lot of precision out there. I think it sets up well for the International team. I look forward to watching it or being apart of it.”

Hadwin, a Moose Jaw native, has played in two Presidents Cups. In 2017 at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, he eked out a half-point in partnership with Hideki Matsuyama in alternate shot foursomes and lost his other two matches, and in 2019 at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia, when he went 1-1-1 and halved the Sunday singles match against Bryson DeChambeau.

The experience is “indescribable,” he said Monday, before being asked what he expects it would be like to play in a Presidents Cup in Canada.

“I feel like it would be the most nervous, anxious, excited … basically every emotion you could think of that week,” said Hadwin. “Obviously we have some of the best fans in the world. Graham and I, Mike, we’ve all travelled across the world and played professional golf, and the Canadian fans show up everywhere, and in some of the least expected places.

“To have this big of an event in Canada, and then to not only be representing the International team but to have the Canadian flag as well on your back, it’s such a tremendous honour.

“With this announcement, I know I’m not going to be the only one working his butt off for the next 3 1/2 years to get on that team.”

Meanwhile, Monahan also announced the PGA Tour is integrating its popular First Tee Program – a youth development organization introducing the game to juniors – to Canada beginning with the first of three chapters in B.C. next year.

GREAT MEMORY FOR MIKE WEIR

For Mike Weir, winning the 2003 Masters was the highlight of his career. But right up there with it was his victory over Tiger Woods at the Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal four years later.

And not just because he had defeated one of the world’s best players in a head-to-head showdown.

“Getting there, it kind of exceeded my expectations,” said Weir, referring to the “fantastic job” the province and course did in preparations for the event. “The turnout … the crowds were huge, and very into it. That’s what I remember. They were really trying to get the International side going. We got off to a slow start, and they really tried to get behind us.

“A number of players on the U.S. side came up to me and said ‘I can’t believe how great the fans are to us.’ They were respectful, obviously they were cheering for the International side, but they’re respectful, knowledgable golf fans, and that’s something that really stands out to me.

“That’s what I really remember about 2007, and I expect 2024 will be the same.”

Weir, who has played on the International team at the Presidents Cup five times and has been an assistant captain twice, will be 54 when the event returns to Royal Montreal in 2024. His best days on in then game are well behind him, but his knowledge and experience of the format and the course would make him a logical choice to be captain of the International side four years down the road.

“If that does come my way, it would be an unbelievable honour,” said Weir. “I’ve been pretty vocal in saying the Presidents Cup has been a huge part of my career. Not only getting to know some of the best players on the International side around the world, but it really enhanced my game, playing with those guys, and playing in that competition.

“We all played team sports in Canada, and this is the only chance we get to play (golf) on a team. Really early on in my career and I was eager to get on a Presidents Cup team. To play a few of them and be a part of it for a number of years, to be the captain, that would be a huge honour. I’d really relish that if it comes my way.”

dbrennan@postmedia.com

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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