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Matt Hill and Mike Weir

Matt Hill and Mike Weir

Rubenstein: SportBox making inroads in Canadian golf Add to ...

Danny Fritz, the Chief Executive Officer of SportBox Entertainment Group in Toronto, will announce today that his company will begin working immediately with Mike Weir and Matt Hill. Fritz left IMG three months ago to start his new company. SportBox will work in a joint relationship with IMG through the end of this year, when Weir’s and Hill’s contracts with that company expire. Weir and Hill will then become SportBox clients exclusively.

Fritz was on his way to the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont., site of this week’s RBC Canadian Open, when we chatted. SportBox has also acquired the golf assets of the Mississauga, Ont. based Landmark Sport Group. Elliott Kerr, the president of Landmark, had e-mailed me in the morning to say he wanted to chat about the company’s golf division. Now I know why he called.

Landmark’s clients include Graham DeLaet and David Hearn, Canada’s two most prominent PGA Tour players aside from Weir, and Adam Hadwin, the 25-year-old who lives in Abbotsford, B.C. He tied for fourth in the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Canadians Roger Sloan, Cory Renfrew, and Michael Gligic, also join SportBox.  So does Joe Panzeri, a close friend of DeLaet’s. He lives in Boise, Idaho, where DeLaet, a native of Weyburn, Sask. who attended Boise State University, also lives. Sloan plays the Web.com Tour. Renfrew, Gligic and Panzeri are playing on PGA Tour Canada.

Fritz, 37, has been very busy since he left IMG. He felt it was time to go out on his own, and has continued to maintain a good relationship with IMG. That’s evident from IMG allowing SportBox to work with Weir and Hill, the 24-year-old professional from Brights Grove, Ont. Weir is also from Brights Grove, of course. Hill was the 2012 Order of Merit leader on PGA Tour Canada.

Fritz has been doing more than forging relationships with many of the top Canadian tour golfers. He has been working closely with businessman David Dube, the president and CEO of Concorde Group Corp., a major real estate company in Saskatoon. He is also in the produce business and is a venture capitalist. He was instrumental in helping raise nearly $1.2 million at the Mike Weir Miracle Golf Drive for Kids in Saskatoon in June, 2008. The money was targeted for the building of a children’s hospital there. Fritz said this is the most money any of Weir’s impressive Miracle Golf Drive tournaments have raised for children’s hospitals across Canada.

As it happens, Dube, an alumnus of the University of Saskatchewan, also caddied for Weir a few years ago in the Wednesday par-3 contest that precedes the Masters. Fritz said that he and Dube have become close friends, and that they are working together in the “entertainment space.” By that Fritz means that SportBox plans to develop some events, some golf teaching academies, and also to help Canadian golfers as they make their way through college and on to the pro golf world.

“We are getting back to a personalized approach,” Fritz said of his intentions with SportBox. “That’s the way the business used to be.”

As for now, what can be said is that Fritz’s clients are the same golfers, among others, Canadians hope will do well at the Abbey this week. DeLaet and Hearn have been knocking on the door of their first PGA Tour win. DeLaet qualified for last week’s Open Championship and while he didn’t have the finish he wanted—he finished 83rd—the powerful golfer pronounced his first major a tremendous experience. Hearn, meanwhile, lost in a playoff for the John Deere Classic two weeks ago. A win would have gotten him into the Open, and next year’s Masters.

Then there’s Weir, the 2003 Masters champion who has been making steady improvement as he gives his all while trying to recover the form that electrified Canadian golf-watchers that Sunday in April 10 years ago. Hill, Sloan, Renfrew, and Gligic are also talented young Canadian golfers. Sloan, for one, has tied for sixth and seventh the last two weeks in Web.com events. Here’s hoping spectators will seek out Sloan and his fellow Canadians at Glen Abbey.

“We want to work with the current stars on the PGA Tour, and the future stars,” Fritz said.

He and his SportBox Entertainment Group have made a strong start in that direction.

RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein

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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at lornerubenstein@me.com. You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein

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