The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Canada's Weir teams up with RBC to launch Charity Classic event

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TORONTO - Mike Weir is taking his duties as unofficial spokesman for the RBC Canadian Open one step further.

The left-hander from Bright's Grove, Ont., who's been the face of Canadian golf for the better part of a decade, has partnered with RBC to launch the Mike Weir Charity Classic. The pro-am event will kick off the Canadian Open, July 20-26 at Glen Abbey Golf Course in Oakville, Ont., with proceeds going to children's charities through Weir's foundation.

Weir promises a star-studded lineup of celebrities from the music, sports and entertainment industries, including two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash of Victoria.

"I think we've found a really great fun concept that will bring some of the best guys on the tour together with some of the great celebrities for such a great cause," Weir said at a news conference Monday.

Among the players committed to participating - fellow Canadian Stephen Ames, 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman, 2008 Tour Championship winner Camilo Villegas, 13-time PGA Tour winner Mark Calcavecchia, and 15-time Tour winner Fred Couples.

"The guys that have committed early to play in this new charity pro-am are all great players and I think this makes us one of the best fields in Canada in recent memory and a great stage for the 100th playing of our national championship," Weir said.

The Charity Classic is just the latest initiative for Weir, who continues to put his stamp on the Canadian golf landscape. The 38-year-old will be inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame this summer. He's also launched a course design business, partnering with Brantford, Ont., architect Ian Andrew to provide affordable courses for young Canadians.

Weir has long been the unofficial promoter for the Canadian Open, but he says the job of drawing players north of the border is getting easier.

"I think there's a lot more interest amongst the players about the event for sure," Weir said. "I'm not out there telling guys to come up and play all the time, it's more the guys coming up to me now, so that's a nice change. The tournament has definitely gained momentum."

Weir pointed out the success of the 2006 Canadian Open in Hamilton and last year's tournament at Glen Abbey, which won the PGA's award for "most improved on-site presentation," as moves in the right direction.

"We got a lot of notoriety playing in Hamilton, and sparked a lot of interest in the players that have a respect for the history of the game and like playing in old traditional golf courses," Weir said. "Then with RBC's involvement last year, and being the most improved event on the tour last year, that gained a lot of notoriety, so I think it is getting easier to sell that message to the players.

"I love to talk to players but players are coming up to me and asking me about the event, 'Where are we playing this year, where are we playing next year?' All that chatter amongst us is helpful and is going to make the field even better."

The RBC Canadian Open lost approximately $450,000 last year, but was hit hard by heavy rain that led to unforeseen costs such as changes in transportation.

"You take that away and we're already there," said Scott Simmons, the RCGA's executive director and CEO. "I really don't think we're going to be in the shape this year as we were last year, if mother nature co-operates, and hopefully we'll be in the black this year and every year going forward."

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