As Good As It Gets: Canadians Make Moments For The Ages
Maybe Canadians are a little touchy lately, what with all the talk about re-negotiating NAFTA and sealing borders. You can see why some might have been upset with their U.S. neighbours when they turned on NBC Golfchannel Saturday to see Abbotsford B.C.’s Adam Hadwin make a run at the magical 59 score in his third round at the men's PGA Tour stop in Palm Springs, California.
They’d heard that Hadwin had rattled off 11 birdies on his round at the La Quinta course and were anxious to see how he was doing it. But viewers quickly discovered that the tall foreheads at NBC golf (for whom IDLM has great respect) had neglected to put any cameras on the course. They’d concentrated their efforts instead on the Nicklaus and Stadium courses at the Challenge.
No doubt producer Tommy Roy and his crew had good reasons to do so, but you could hear Canadians collectively utter a “What the heck?” when they had to follow Hadwin’s progress on the crawl at the bottom of the screen. With Hadwin edging closer to the first 59 ever by a Canadian on the PGA Tour (and the best round ever by a Canuck) it looked as if this national moment might go unseen.
NBC finally got a camera over to Hadwin on the 16th tee. They were rewarded for their hustle by a Hadwin tee shot and the loudest recorded F-bomb ever in televised pro golf from someone overheard around the tee. (They’d have heard a lot more if they’d planted mikes beside Canadian sofas as fans waited to finally see Hadwin.)
In the end the 29-year-old was as good as the moment, dropping a short par putt on the 18th to seal the 59 and a piece of golf history for Canada. IDLM has been watching golf (a lot of golf) for over 50 years, and it was amazing to see at least three holes of the single greatest round ever played by someone from (in Dan Hick’s words) “Moose Jaw, Sas-katch-u-wan” or any other Canadian burgh.
Yes it was the third round of an early season pro-am style tournament. He had to back it up with a good round Sunday (he shot a fine 70 to finish second). But if it was so damned easy every one would be doing it.
So where does it rank in Canadian golf history? Mike Weir’s 2003 Masters win in extra holes will be No. 1 till another Canadian pulls on the green jacket or wins a major title. George Knudson’s third round at the 1968 Masters (after which he led the tournament) is up there. You have to put Trin-adian Stephen Ames' dominating final round in winning the 2006 TPC at Ponte Vedre in the mix, too.
Marlene Stewart Streit’s final round in winning the 1956 U.S. Women’s Amateur and Brooke Henderson’s stunning closing round last year in winning the KPMG Women's PGA Championship as an 18-year-old also make our list of unforgettables.
But Hadwin now sits comfortably in their midst, too. In a time where great has come to mean something less than great, it’s not often you can say you’ve seen greatness— if only for a day.
Hadwin’s heroics are not the only sublime moments for Canadians seeing history made this week. Patrick Chan made his case as the greatest male figure skater ever from Canada when he delivered a stunning final skate to win his ninth Canadian men’s title in Ottawa. Again, great is the catch-all for people whose vocabulary is circumscribed by single syllables. But this was, indeed, in a realm of its own.
Chan combines the artistry of Kurt Browning and the bold, assertive style of Elvis Stojko. His confidence when all about him are falling and failing is the truest sign of a champion. Without an 18-month hiatus he’d have strung together the greatest record ever for a skater (man or women) in this country’s history. Maybe from any nation. Like Hadwin’s 59, what you saw Saturday was for the ages.
The third leg on this weekend’s greatness triplets still needs a week before we can talk about immortality. But Canada’s top male tennis player, Milos Raonic, has a clear path to something no one from this country has ever achieved: a tennis singles Grand Slam title.
The rocket-serving ace from Richmond Hill, Ont. (he uses Monaco as his residence now for tax purposes) is into the quarterfinals of the Australian Open after a win Monday morning. His assurance and poise so far has been remarkable. But he’s also shown touch and change-of-pace that he’d rarely demonstrated in his massive serve-and-volley style.
Making Raonic’s chances even more promising are stunning losses by No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic, No. 2 seed Andy Murray and the fading of superstars Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. There is a path for Raonic that doesn’t include Joker or Murray and that’s how you can often find your first Grand Slam.
There’s a ways to go (Raonic notoriously has injury issues) and even a little stumble in form in the final eight will get you sent home. But it’s fair to say there could be a little more Canadian sports history made next weekend in Australia if he stays on the course he’s on now.
Finally, let us not forget Alex Harvey, Len Valjas, Devon Kershaw and Knute Johnsgaard who won Canada’s first medal ever in a men’s World Cup cross-country relay in Oslo, Norway, this weekend as well.
These were all thought to be a bridge too far for Canadians. No longer. And you can say you were there.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy. Bruce is the host of the podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on anticanetwork.com. His career includes successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. His website is Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com)