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1976 photo of Canadian golfer Sandra Post (James Lewcun/The Globe and Mail)
1976 photo of Canadian golfer Sandra Post (James Lewcun/The Globe and Mail)

Rubenstein: Weir not the first Canadian to win a major Add to ...

One of the most common mistakes golf media and golfers themselves make is to declare that Mike Weir is the only Canadian to win a major. It’s not surprising when this occurs in even a major magazine, as is the case in this month’s Golf Magazine’s Q&A with Weir as the 10th anniversary of his 2003 Masters win approaches. Here’s the tale of the tape, or, at least, the headline for the piece.

It reads: “When Mike Weir became the first Canadian to win a major, he made history.” Weir did make history. He became the first Canadian to win a men’s professional major. But Sandra Post became the first Canadian to win any professional major when she took the 1968 LPGA Championship at the Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton, Mass.

As an aside, it should be noted that Sandy Somerville, the London, Ont. golfing wizard, had won the 1932 U.S. Amateur, which was then considered a major. Kitchener, Ont.’s Gary Cowan won the 1966 U.S. Amateur and five years later won it again. The majority of those people who follow golf today don’t appreciate that the U.S. Amateur was once considered a major in the same light as a professional major.

Post had turned 20 only three weeks before she defeated defending champion Kathy Whitworth in an 18-hole playoff at Pleasant Valley. She shot 68 against Whitworth’s 75, in her 11th tournament as a professional. The Oakville, Ont. golfer had moved to Boynton Beach, Fla. as a teenager to hone her game. Hone it she did. Post went on to win eight more LPGA Tour events. She’s 64 now, and she long ago turned her enthusiasm for the game and knowledge of what makes champions tick into a career as an instructor. Here’s information on her work .

Meanwhile, this is a good time to look back at her LPGA Championship win. That’s because, while the Masters is on next week, another major is on this week. That’s the LPGA Tour’s Kraft Nabisco Championship, in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Bob Weeks writes about this in his blog today . He writes, “ With not nearly as much attention or fanfare [as the Masters], the Kraft Nabisco starts this week as the top women on the planet gather for their first of five – count ‘em – five majors.”

Post showed me a scrapbook when I interviewed her about her major win. This was more years ago than I care to think about. She pointed to a photo taken of her after she holed out with a wedge on the 15th hole in the playoff. Her father Clifford had flown in to watch her, and he was there to see the shot. He’d worked the family farm in Oakville all day when Post was growing up, and then went to the Trafalgar Golf Club to watch her work on her game. Post sometimes played 54 holes a day there, sometimes with Wayne McDonald, who went on to win the 1969 Canadian Amateur.

Post and Whitworth got off to a strong start in their playoff, to say the least. Post made three birdies in the first four holes, while Whitworth made an eagle and a birdie. Post remembered looking around for fellow player Susie Berning, eventually a four-time major champion, after those opening holes to ask, “I’ve just thrown everything I have at Kathy, what do I do now?”

Post had spent the evening before the playoff with Berning and Mickey Wright. Wright, then 63, had won 13 majors and 82 LPGA Tour events. Many observers think she had the finest swing in the game, men or women. They offered Post some advice on the eve of her going up against Whitworth, a golfer everybody respected. She would go on to win six majors and 88 LPGA Tour titles, more than any golfer has won, man or woman.

“You go out there tomorrow morning, tee it up, and throw everything you have at her.” Excellent advice, and Post went out and threw those three birdies at Whitworth. But Whitworth made that eagle, and also a birdie.

No problem, even if Post didn’t have a driver in her bag during the playoff. She felt she hit her driver too low because at the time she shut the face on her backswing. That being the case, she effectively turned a 3-wood into a driver with the same move. She stuck with her 3-wood. But then she got to the 15th hole, and knew she couldn’t carry a creek down the fairway with that club.

“I hit it anyway,” Post said, “and it went into the far bank. I chipped out.”

Her next shot was straight uphill, so she couldn’t see the green from the valley. She hit her shot, and heard the noise from around the green getting louder and louder. She thought it was close, but was it in?

“I’m walking up, thinking, please, be at the bottom of the hole,” she said. And it was. Pleasant Valley indeed.

A few minutes later, Sandra Post had won the LPGA Championship. She had become the first Canadian to win a professional major, 35 years before Weir would win the Masters.

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 rube@sympatico.ca . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein

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