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Golfer raises $625K for Children's Hospital

Thu, 10 Jun 2010 01:00:00

by Tim Campbell

Mike Weir drew a big gallery - and big bucks for the Children's Hospital Foundation - when he teed it up at Monday's Mike Weir Miracle Golf Drive for Kids.

The amount of money, $625,000, is staggering.

These are not the best of economic times. The appearance, golf and a gala dinner, took barely more than 24 hours. Though it looks good on Winnipeg, to many, this does not sound like Winnipeg, known to be tight with a dollar and eager for a deal.

But this was the amount of money raised for the Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba at Monday's Mike Weir Miracle Golf Drive for Kids.

This is the power of the brand that is Mike Weir.

The 2003 Masters champion, Canada's biggest golf star, attracted the well-heeled, a solid cross-section of the business community and both the avid and casual fans to St. Charles Country Club on Monday.

Weir's galleries numbered in the hundreds by midday -- for a Texas scramble where he played a few holes with a quartet of groups who, at a Sunday night pre-golf party, successfully bid thousands of dollars for his company.

Golf event officials said they had no trouble selling out all the top sponsorships and the foursomes at $10,000 each.

By the time the 40-year-old native of Sarnia, Ont., was done shaking hands, being photographed and convincing all to open their wallets on Monday, the Miracle Golf Drive for Kids had its second most successful day in four years.

Saskatoon's pre-recession Weir event still tops the list at more than $1.18 million but the main goal the golfer's charitable foundation has set is to raise $10 million for children's health-care causes across the country.

"The children's charities, that's near and dear to everybody's heart," said Weir's brother Jim, the CEO of Mike Weir Wine and a key member of the inner circle. "It resonates. Everyone in our family's been lucky enough to have healthy children but we feel it's important to give back.

"Winnipeg really (got) around this, like Saskatoon and London and Halifax before, but the bottom line is about helping children, so when you go to somebody and say you want to do an event to help children... yeah, Mike has power but no matter what you do, people are going step up for that. It's the way we are as Canadians."

The Weir franchise, which took off after the Masters victory, includes the winery, a clothing line, the foundation dedicated to children's causes and now Weir Golf Design.

"There is a lot of thought that goes into the Weir brand, that's for sure," said Jim Weir. "It all starts with him though, with the man himself and the things that are important to him.

"The winery, for example. We started it up but he wanted to figure out a way to generate some money for the foundation through the winery. He said he didn't need to make any money off the winery, he wanted to raise money.

"He's very, very grounded like that. Everyone who works within the winery, the foundation, the clothing line, whatever it is, we follow his lead. He is the brand. It's always about helping other people."

That's one of the key reasons a major golf organization has become one of Weir's foundation partners.

"Mike Weir's playing achievements, the Masters victory in particular, have positioned him as a national hero throughout the Canadian golf industry," said Jeff Calderwood, CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association Canada, who attended the Winnipeg event. "In addition, his strong family values and dedication to children's health make him an ideal role model athlete for all Canadians.

"And for these reasons, the NGCOA Canada was proud to align our own charitable fundraising initiatives with the Mike Weir Miracle Golf Drive for Kids."

Weir, the eight-time PGA Tour winner and Presidents Cup team player, humbly accepts much of the credit but is reluctant to hype his star power.

"I don't, really. I don't think about it," he said Monday. "I'm happy we have such a great turnout and we're able to raise some significant dollars for the hospital."

His brother Jim, though, said there's no getting around it.

"It's very much there," Jim said. "I'm lucky to see it all the time but it doesn't get lost on me. The volunteers around here today, people who took time off from work, they were just so friendly, they're thanking us for coming in to raise money for the hospital.

"Last week in Toronto, we went for a hospital visit and it was amazing to watch the children when he comes walking into a room. You might wonder if the 2003 Masters isn't a long time ago and these kids are 8, 9, 10, but they still know who he is and the power of him walking into a room is really, really cool.

"Really, it's almost the power of what that green jacket brought. Just amazing."

The tally here this week confirms it.