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Former PNGA Player of the Year Nick Taylor’s win ends Canadian Open drought

Nick Taylor had plenty of gallery support at Oakdale G&CC outside Toronto. (Bernard Brault/Golf Canada)

by Brad Ziemer 

To that list of great Canadian sporting moments, we can add three words: Nick Taylor’s putt. 

Yes, that 72-footer for eagle that won the 35-year-old Abbotsford product the RBC Canadian Open on the fourth extra hole Sunday will be discussed in the same breath as Sidney Crosby’s Golden Goal, Joe Carter’s World Series-winning home run and Mike Weir’s Masters win of 20 years ago. It was that big. 

And no longer will we have to listen to that phrase that has been repeated ad nauseam for decades. You know the one, about no Canadian having won the Canadian Open since Pat Fletcher in 1954. 

Taylor is a two-time PNGA Men’s Player of the Year (2008, 2009) and former No. 1-ranked player in the world while playing for the University of Washington. And now he is a national hero.  

Taylor chuckled in his winner’s news conference when it was suggested to him that for years to come Canadians will be remembering where they were when his putt dropped on the 18th green at Oakdale Golf & Country Club. 

“I don’t even know how to answer that because those other moments were for me,” he said. “Like where was I when Sidney Crosby scored. I was watching with college buddies down in Seattle. To think that I’m the person that people are thinking about is kind of breathtaking. So, yeah, I think it will take time to kind of realize what’s just happened.” 

And about that putt that ended the dramatic playoff with Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, Taylor acknowledged he was just trying to get it close. Two-putt for birdie, he told himself, and at worst you’re moving on to the fifth playoff hole. He couldn’t believe it when the ball rolled into the hole. Nor could the huge gallery that all day had attempted to will Taylor to the finish line. Bedlam ensued. 

Taylor tossed his putter into the air and hugged his caddie, Dave Markle. Fellow Canadians Mike Weir, Adam Hadwin and Corey Conners, who had hung around to watch, were among those to rush the green. Hadwin, Taylor’s longtime Ledgeview Golf Club pal, was tackled by an over-zealous security guard. 

“Corner of my eye, I saw that he got a nice tackle,” Taylor chuckled. “I hope he’s all right. He was upright when I saw him later. I hope he doesn’t wake up tomorrow morning with broken ribs or anything.” 

Nick Taylor (here with caddie Dave Markle) of Abbotsford, B.C. is the first Canadian to win the country’s national championship since Pat Fletcher won it in 1954. (Bernard Brault/Golf Canada)

Taylor won the biggest tournament of his life after thinking on Thursday afternoon that he was perhaps going to have the weekend off. He was four-over at one point late in his first round and shot a three-over 75. All he did the next 54 holes was shoot 20-under, which included a course record 63 on Saturday. 

“So to be standing there (on Thursday) and then sitting here today is pretty remarkable, to be honest,” Taylor said. 

The win is Taylor’s third on the PGA TOUR and comes in what has been his most consistent season. He finished solo second at the WM Phoenix Open back in February and now has six top 10s this season. He’s also earned a cool $5.68 million and now stands sixth on the FedEx Cup points list. 

Taylor’s best season follows a decision late last summer to wipe the slate clean. He had just snuck into the FedEx Cup playoffs last year and made an early exit. He felt his game needed a tweak, so he went to work on trying to gradually improve all parts of his game. 

Taylor said Merkle, who started working with him at last season’s final regular-season event, has helped him realize, “That I am pretty good.” 

“And he tells me that every day. There are certainly times when I have probably lost sight of that and he has been incredible for me on the golf course and it has shown this year. Shots that I typically don’t make, I am making, and I think he has that magic for whatever reason.” 

Lots will stick with Taylor about Sunday’s final round. He made clutch birdie putts on both the 17th and 18th holes that helped get him into the playoff. There were plenty of other big putts and shots along the way. But what he will remember most of all is the support he got from the fans at Oakdale. 

“The crowd support was probably the most unbelievable thing I have experienced in my life,” he said. “To break that curse, if that’s what you want to call it, is pretty sweet. I’m speechless, I don’t think it is going to sink in for quite some time what happened today.” 

What happened on Sunday is that Taylor helped inspire a whole generation of young Canadian kids, much the way Mike Weir inspired him with his Masters win 20 years ago. Taylor was just about to turn 15 at the time and remembers what an impact Weir’s win had on him. He finds it hard to believe that Canadian kids are now looking up to him as a role model. 

“I think it is hard to imagine because I feel like I am still a kid,” he said. “I go to a handful of golf courses when I am back in Abbotsford during the summer and it’s great to see junior players who know who I am and say they are big fans. I know this will only help that generation. I look up to Mike Weir and if kids say the same thing about me it’s probably the biggest compliment I could ever get.” 

And one he most certainly deserves after making Canadian sports history by sinking a putt many of us will never forget. 

(This article first appeared on the British Columbia Golf website. Used by permission.) 


Brad Ziemer had a 30-year career with the Vancouver Sun newspaper which began in 1985 and included the role of sports editor for five years before returning to his true passion of sports reporting. In 2013, Golf Canada presented him with its Distinguished Service Award. Brad now writes full time for British Columbia Golf.