Mike Wilson always dreamed of winning the Masters, and on Monday he woke up to find that what had happened last Sunday afternoon at Augusta National was no dream.
He was indeed a winner.
"Winning the Masters is something that, as a kid, I had always dreamed of," he said. "And now, to end up going there as the coach of a player who won it is beyond a dream come true. It's an amazing thing that obviously doesn't happen every day."
Wilson, 37, is a golf instructor at the Palms Golf Club in La Quinta, Calif., and nearby Landmark Golf Club. When he's not on the grounds, he's traveling to work with pupils on the PGA Tour. They include J.P. Hayes, Paul Stankowski and Dean Wilson, all enjoying respectable careers.
Also on that list, though, is Mike Weir, whose triumphant performance at Augusta figures to significantly boost Wilson's stature among swing gurus.
"I had about 15 phone messages from various people Monday morning," said Wilson, who spent six years as an employee for the David Leadbetter Golf Academy before recently going it alone. "Everybody's pretty excited about what he did out there."
What Weir did was methodically craft a 68 on Masters Sunday, making a six-foot putt on No. 18 to force a sudden-death playoff with Len Mattiace, ultimately emerging the winner when his opponent crumbled on the first extra hole.
It was Weir's third victory of 2003, the others coming at the Bob Hope Classic at La Quinta and the Nissan Open at Riviera Country Club. His Masters victory propelled him from No. 10 to No. 5 in the world rankings and pushed his tour-leading earnings this year to a career-high $3,286,625.
All this has Wilson -- although he refuses to take any credit -- feeling like a proud father.
"It does make me feel good," he said. "But all the credit should go to the golfer. What sets him apart, more than anything, is that he has the desire to be one of the best in the world -- and that's something that can't be taught."
Weir, who was born in Ontario, but lives in Draper, Utah, went to Wilson in 1996 while on the Canadian Tour.
What Wilson did over the next few years, in essence, was transform a hockey swing into a picture-perfect golf swing.
"I could see a lot of raw talent and athleticism, but it became one of those things where his fundamentals simply weren't good enough," he said. "One of his tendencies, as a hockey player, was to hit everything with his club face closed."
That resulted in low-trajectory shots that made holding greens difficult. Wilson also observed that Weir's grip was too firm and his stance needed improvement. It was more of a stoop, or a crouch.
Weir's rookie season on the PGA Tour was in 1998 and he earned $218,967 to finish 131st on the money list. He was "a work in progress," Wilson said, because "he had to make a living all the way along and it was not as though he could stop playing and learn. He had to play while he learned."
Wilson continues to see Weir every other week -- "although now it's mostly for what I call swing maintenance," Wilson said -- and the golfer's career has blossomed. He won his first PGA Tour event in 1999, and another in 2000 and 2001.
This year, Weir arrived at Augusta National on top of his game and brimming with confidence. Wilson arrived for the practice rounds and returned home with high expectations. He watched all four rounds on TV and sounded very much like a teacher when asked about his pupil's game.
"He did not hit the ball great, like he did at the Bob Hope or the Nissan, or even the AT&T [a third-place finish at Pebble Beach]," Wilson said. "But this was obviously a much tougher course and a much bigger tournament, and he kept the ball where he needed to keep it -- and he made a million putts. His mental game was just fantastic."
A sampling of Monday morning headlines atop Canada's sports pages:
Weir so great! -- Toronto Star.
Masterful, eh? -- Calgary Sun.
Weir the champion -- Ottawa Sun.
Weir number one! -- Moncton Times & Transcript.
Weir putts Canada on golf map -- Halifax Herald.
Weir so proud -- Toronto Sun.
The Day Draws Near
With another Masters having run its course, golf fans now turn their attention to the next big men's event, the Colonial, made into a major of sorts by the presence of a woman.
Annika Sorenstam has a month remaining before the May 22-25 event at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, where she will become the first woman to compete in a PGA Tour event since Babe Zaharias at the L.A. Open in 1945.
Zaharias survived the 36-hole cut, but then shot a 79 and failed to advance to the final round.
Sorenstam hopes to fare better, of course, and has been on a strict workout regimen that has helped push her driving-distance average to an all-time high of 280.6 yards as she prepares to tackle the 7,080-yard layout at Colonial.
As she began play Thursday as defending champion of the Takefuji Classic at Las Vegas Country Club, she led the LPGA Tour in these categories as well: rounds under par (nine of 11); greens in regulation (.803); scoring average (69.27), and top-10 finishes (three for three).
"I know she has all the tools but at the same time it's more pressure than she has ever felt and that's what makes me so curious," renowned coach Pia Nilsson said. "I think she can do really well but it all depends on how she deals with the pressure."