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July 29, 2003 - Mike Weir Welcomed Home at Charity Event
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Mike Weir Welcomed Home at Charity Event
Tue Jul 29, 9:48 PM ET

SARNIA, Ontario - Mike Weir (news) returned to the course where it all started on Tuesday.

The ninth annual Mike Weir/Dino Ciccarelli Charity Golf Classic at Huron Oaks Golf and Recreation Centre was the 33-year-old's first chance to return home since he won the Masters in April.

Huron Oaks is a public course far removed from the manicured gems of the PGA Tour.

"When I drive into the club here, a lot of memories flood through my mind," Weir, who now lives in Utah, told a packed news conference at the clubhouse. "Memories like spending a lot of time in that driving range out there, in the bag room cleaning clubs, picking up balls at the range. Those are great memories.

"A lot of my friends that I still have now, we worked together here at the club. That's what I remember most."

Weir's Masters victory, the first by a Canadian, has elevated him to Wayne Gretzky-like status in Canada. Tuesday's crowd of more than 4,000 tripled last year's count. Fans from his hometown cheered lustily when he was introduced on the first tee.

Sarnia mayor Mike Bradley announced that Huronview Park, one of the largest parks in Ontario and which borders Lake Huron, was being renamed Mike Weir Park.

As a youngster, Weir would hit balls in that park, defying a sign that clearly stated golf wasn't allowed.

"I guess we're going to have to take that sign down now," the mayor told Weir while the crowd cheered.

Among those competing in the event were Adam Oates, Weir's good friend who played for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks (news) last season, Kris Draper of the Detroit Red Wings (news) and former NHL players like Yvan Cournoyer, Paul Coffey, Richard Martin and Tony McKegney. Among the other celebrities were the Hanson Brothers from the movie "Slapshot."

"The first couple of years, it was kind of a struggle trying to get celebrities in here and even some media," said Ciccarelli, the former NHL star who also hails from Sarnia.

When the charity tournament started here nine years ago it was Ciccarelli, then playing with the Red Wings, who was the bigger name. The tables have turned.

"Obviously because of Mike this thing has gotten bigger and better every year," Ciccarelli said. "It's great for our community."