TORONTO — Mike Weir didn't expect to have much of a gallery on a rainy Thursday morning at St. George's Golf and Country Club.
But there were dozens of fans waiting for him and fellow Canadians Mackenzie Hughes and Adam Hadwin at the 10th tee as play began in the first round of the RBC Canadian Open. Weir said he appreciated the support from a crowd that swelled to hundreds by the time he'd played all 18 holes.
"Especially at 7 in the morning when it's raining, it's nice to see so many people here early," said Weir. "When you get some momentum, you can feed off the crowd."
The 52-year-old Weir, from Brights Grove, Ont., shot a 2-over 72. He has the second most professional golf wins for any Canadian with eight, second only to Brooke Henderson.
Hughes, from Dundas, Ont., was the low Canadian. He finished the day tied with Americans Tony Finau and Lee Hodges as well as defending champion Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland for fifth. Hughes said it was "awesome" to have such a large crowd following his trio around the course and attributed it to Weir's enduring popularity.
"Everyone was out early even though we were off at 7 a.m.," said Hughes. "I thought there wouldn't be too many people out that early with the weather. It was fantastic and I felt it all the way around."
Hadwin, from Abbotsford, B.C., shot a 1-under 69 to tie for 25th. He said that having the crowd spurred the group on to a strong start. He had a pair of birdies in the group's first six holes and Weir had two to start the day.
"There was a lot of fun there those first four or five holes. We were all playing pretty well and making birdies," said Hadwin. "So we got into a nice rhythm as a group.
"Obviously, two great guys that I'm very familiar with, so it was a very comfortable pairing today."
The Canadian Open is the third oldest continually running national golf championship in the world, behind only the British and U.S. Opens. But the event hasn't been held since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
St. George's in Toronto's west end was originally scheduled to host in 2020 but it was cancelled twice as travel and health regulations were insurmountable hurdles to getting out a competitive PGA Tour field.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, at least to Weir. He said Canadian players and fans alike were eager to see the Canadian Open held again.
"It's been a couple years since we've been playing. I think everybody's excited to see all the guys and see the players," said Weir, who will be grouped with Hughes and Hadwin again on Friday.
"It was great to see the crowd support, and we're going to have a great day tomorrow. It should be even better tomorrow."
One member of the crowd was Lorie Kane, who is in Canada's Golf Hall of Fame with Weir following her four wins on the LPGA Tour. The Charlottetown native said she was pleased to see such a large turnout supporting the Canadians.
Nick Taylor, also from Abbotsford, Vancouver's Stuart Macdonald and Aaron Cockerill of Stony Mountain, Man., all had an even par 70 in the first round.
Roger Sloan of Merritt, B.C., made an early charge in the afternoon, at one point joining Hughes near the top of the leaderboard, before fading on his back nine to also finish at even par.
"It's nice knowing that when you hit good shots out here, you can make some birdies," said Sloan. "That's nice to take into tomorrow."
Top ranked Canadian Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., was tied with Jared du Toit of Kimberley, B.C., after 1-over 71 rounds.
Myles Creighton of Digby, N.S., Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C., and David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., were a shot back of them.
Amateur A.J. Ewart of Coquitlam, B.C., was 3 over, Calgary's Wes Heffernan, was 4 over and Max Sekulic of Rycroft, Alta., shot a 5 over.
Amateur Johnny Travale of Hamilton and Callum Davison of Duncan, B.C., both shot 6 over, while amateur Brendan Leonard of Cambridge, Ont., and Toronto's Albin Choi were 8 over.
Michael Gligic of Burlington, Ont., withdrew midway through the morning wave.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2022.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press