Twenty years ago, Mike Weir won The Masters to become the first Canadian male to win a major championship. The Green Jacket came north of the border – to borrow a line from Jim Nantz.
The impact of Weir’s Masters triumph has been long felt. And in 2023, two decades on, there were more Canadians who won on the PGA TOUR than in any other 12-month timeframe. Emphasized, of course, by Nick Taylor’s dramatic playoff victory at the RBC Canadian Open in June.
“I think it’s a tournament that we’ve circled on our calendar since probably junior golf. But ever since I’ve been on the PGA TOUR, this is one that we want to do as well as we can in, and the crowd support was the most unbelievable thing I will probably ever experience in my life,” Taylor said. “To, kind of, break that curse – I’m pretty speechless.”
“I don’t think it’s going to sink in for quite some time what happened today.”
Along with Taylor’s win at Oakdale Golf and Country Club, Mackenzie Hughes captured the Sanderson Farms Championship, Adam Svensson broke through for his first PGA TOUR title at The RSM Classic, and Corey Conners won the Valero Texas Open for the second time. Adam Hadwin also added three runner-up finishes this past season.
Conners and Taylor would advance to the TOUR Championship in August, marking the first time that there has been more than one Canadian in the final-event field on Tour during the FedExCup-era. There were excellent major-championship efforts, in-the-mix weeks at almost every tournament, and plenty of momentum behind the mid-30s group on the top of their games on the biggest stage in men’s golf.
And that’s just what happened on the PGA TOUR over the last 12 months.
Add in Brooke Henderson’s season-opening triumph on the LPGA Tour along with a handful more impressive results on the professional and amateur circuit, it’s been a magical time in Canadian golf – one that could be the pillar for even more big-time inspiration to come.
“Our specific goal is to help heroes grow the game,” says Tristan Mullally, Golf Canada’s Head of National Talent Identification. “There’s a Canadian from a small town and if they can do it, I can too.”
Taylor and Henderson are the only golfers in this country’s history to win the Canadian Junior Championship, Canadian Amateur Championship, and Canadian Open on their respective Tours. Henderson won the Canadian Junior Girls in 2012, the Canadian Women’s Amateur in 2013 and the CPKC Women’s Open in 2018. Taylor won the Canadian Junior Boys in 2006 and the Canadian Men’s Amateur in 2007.
“When (junior golfers) see these guys winning and when they see Brooke doing well… they have to see it to know they can do it,” says Kevin Blue, Golf Canada’s Chief Sport Officer. “The success the players are having, they have earned over their own hard work and their achievements. It shows up-and-coming players that Canadians can and are doing it on the world stage.”
While the impressive victories – and seasons overall – by those on the PGA and LPGA Tour are the world-beating newsmakers, it doesn’t take long to see how incredible the results have been by so many other Canadians on planet golf.
Alena Sharp earned Canada’s second ever medal in golf at the PanAm Games, winning bronze in Santiago, Chile in early November. Sharp, who once again earned LPGA Tour for 2024 status through final qualifying, also enjoyed success this past season on the Epson Tour, winning one tournament in June and adding five top-10 results while not missing a cut in 14 tournaments played.
Two Canadians, won on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2023 – Ben Silverman and Roger Sloan. Both Silverman and Sloan have locked up their PGA TOUR cards for next season.
Another two won on PGA TOUR Canada this season. Long-time Golf Canada National Team members Etienne Papineau (Royal Beach Victoria Open presented by Times Colonist) and Stuart Macdonald (Commissionaires Ottawa Open) each found the winners’ circle in Canada in 2023, with Papineau finishing fourth on the season-long points list to earn conditional status on the Korn Ferry Tour. He also, as the top Canadian on PGA TOUR Canada, earned an exemption into the 2024 RBC Canadian Open. Papineau also had an impressive run at the PanAm Games coming up just short of the podium, finishing tied for fourth.
Kudos, too, to Myles Creighton, a winner on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica. And of course, Stephen Ames, who won a remarkable four times on PGA TOUR Champions this season.
Canadian amateurs also gave us impressive moments throughout 2023.
Lauren Kim of Surrey, B.C. captured the 109th Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship and Ashton McCulloch of Kingston, Ont. won the 118th Canadian Men’s Amateur, marking only the third time both tournaments were won by Canadians in the same year since 2011. Even more impressive for Kim, she played in the U.S. Junior Girls, U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Open in addition to the Canadian Women’s Amateur and CPKC Women’s Open, a checklist that very few players have crossed off in a single season.
A pair of 14-year-olds won their respective Canadian Junior Championships with Eileen Park of Red Deer, Alta. winning the Canadian Junior Girls Championship, and Alex Zhang of Richmond, B.C. taking home the Canadian Junior Boys Championship.
Judith Kyrinis of Thornhill, Ont. had another great season, highlighted by winning the Canadian Women’s Mid-Am for a third time. Kyrinis also earned the best finish by an amateur at the U.S. Women’s Senior Open, finishing tied for sixth in August. Another Canadian golf icon, Mary-Ann Hayward, won the Canadian Women’s Senior Amateur in a thrilling final round by one over Kyrinis.
Monet Chun, a senior at the University of Michigan, became the first Canadian to make the cut at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. She finished tied for 14th after her final round at Augusta National and made the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach.
Natasha Stasiuk of Oakville, Ont. won her third straight Canadian All Abilities Championship, while Chris Willis of Aurora, Ont. won the men’s championship for his first national title.
The UBC Thunderbirds Women’s team continued their dominance by winning a sixth straight national title at the Canadian University/College Championship. Sonja Tang of Victoria, B.C. not only helped lead her team to victory but also won back-to-back Women’s individual titles and made her first appearance at the CPKC Women’s Open.
Canada added its fourth Tailhade Cup in November as Felix Bouchard of Otterburn Park, Que. and Brady McKinlay of Lacombe, Alta. led Canada to victory by four strokes over Denmark and Switzerland.
The most successful season in Canadian golf history added another exciting chapter in early October as Team Canada won its first-ever team title at the World Junior Girls Golf Championship.
The Canada 1 Team comprised of 14-year-old Anna Huang of Vancouver, Vanessa Borovilos of Toronto and Vanessa Zhang of Vancouver shot a team-total 138 at Brampton Golf Club in Brampton, Ont. to finish a single shot clear of the Republic of Korea. Huang’s runner-up finish was the best Canadian individual result since Brooke Henderson’s finished fourth in 2014.
“The excitement level for results we’re seeing is fantastic and it rubs off on the young players,” says Blue. “The younger players will see this and think, ‘why not me?’ and that’s great.”
While there were several milestones that deserved recognition on the golf course, there were many off it as well this year.
Golf Canada celebrated two successful launches this year with the creation of the BDO National Golf League and the She Plays Golf Festival.
The BDO National Golf League is a nationwide, season-long competition that was created to enhance the league experience for men, women, and junior players. In its inaugural season, 11,000 golfers and 107 leagues competed coast-to-coast for a spot in the Regional Playoffs. Through the Regional Playoffs, 51 teams qualified for the BDO National Golf League Championship, which will be taking place during tournament week at the 2024 RBC Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf and Country Club. The 51 teams will be treated to a once-in-a-lifetime, all expense paid trip to compete for the championship.
The She Plays Golf Festival was a week-long women’s golf celebration that took place this June in Calgary in partnership with The Glencoe Golf and Country Club. The festival was designed to celebrate women’s golf at all levels and address gaps in the participation pathway for women and girls; the festival ran concurrently with the Digital Commerce Bank Glencoe Invitational. Events during the week included try-golf clinics for women and girls, a team nine-hole scramble along with a networking event for women in sport and professional development events for women leaders in golf. Following the successful pilot this summer, the She Plays Golf Festival is set to expand to more cities across the country in 2024.
First Tee – Canada welcomed over 57,000 participants at 240 locations with programming delivered at golf courses, schools, and community centres across the country in 2023. This past year saw a 151% increase in participants and a 114% increase in locations offering programming. First Tee – Canada expanded to six chapters with the addition of Alberta, joining British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada. All chapters provide children life-enhancing experiences through the game of golf.
The growth of First Tee – Canada, and success of our athletes in our high-performance programs reflects the sustained impact of champion donors driving the philanthropic excellence of the Golf Canada Foundation which experienced another banner year, raising over $8 million dollars in support of the game.
Creating a safe and welcoming sport environment continued to be a focus for the National Sport Federation, as Golf Canada became a Program Signatory of Abuse-Free Sport, the new national independent mechanism to prevent and address maltreatment in sport. All high-performance athletes, coaches, employees and athletes support personnel are under the jurisdiction of the new mechanism. As a program signatory, all participants have access to the Abuse-Free Sport Helpline where operators with expertise in counselling, psychology and sport will listen, offer support and refer individuals to appropriate reporting mechanisms.. Golf Canada was proud to launch a new Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Safe Sport Resource to support its member clubs in this critical mandate.
The success of 2023 for Golf Canada’s two National Open Championships was rightfully recognized by the LPGA and PGA Tours in their season-ending tournament recognition. The RBC Canadian Open took home “Best Marketing Initiative” and “Best Tournament Sales” while the CPKC Women’s Open was once again awarded the LPGA Tour Tournament of the Year Award (the second consecutive year taking home the Tour’s top honour), in addition to recognition for “Best Sponsor Activation” and “Best Volunteer Appreciation.”
The year ends with another celebrated milestone—the first time ever that Golf Canada members surpassed the 10 million mark for scores posted to the Golf Canada Score Centre for handicap tracking. Let that sink in—10M scores—an increase from the previous record 9.7M scores posted a year prior as the resurgence of golf continues. Be part of the celebration and share your own #MyGolfYear achievements to wrap the year!
From Weir’s win to Henderson’s heroics, Taylor’s triumph and the many milestones celebrated through the season, there’s never been a more exciting time in Canadian golf, and this year has been a shining example.
Be sure to follow our social channels over the coming weeks as we continue to celebrate 2023, a momentous year in Canadian golf.