Top 5 takeaways from Nick Taylor’s historic win at the RBC Canadian Open
Sixty-nine years to 72 feet.
When Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C. rolled in the 72-foot eagle bomb on the fourth playoff hole at the RBC Canadian Open to win the championship, he became the first Canadian to win Canada’s men’s national open since Pat Fletcher since 1954. In fact, he was the first Canadian-born golfer to do it since 1914.
Taylor was already a two-time PGA Tour winner but now he will go down in history as the one who broke the curse, and the way he did it will never be forgotten.
Here’s everything you need to know about Taylor’s history-making effort at the 2023 RBC Canadian Open.
Taylor is part of a big-time generation of Canadian golfers who are all hitting their prime at the same time. Three Canadians had won previously on the PGA Tour this season. The Canadian showing of four separate winners from the same country is second solely to the United States, which has 11 PGA Tour winners this season.
The drought of Canadian winners extended nearly 70 years before Taylor’s triumph, but there were a few close calls along the way.
In 2004 Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, lost on the third playoff hole to Vijay Singh. Weir had gotten to the number three spot in the world ranking – the highest of a Canadian ever – and fell just short of becoming even more of a national hero than he was after his Green Jacket triumph.
In 2015, Olympian David Hearn was in the final group on Sunday at Glen Abbey Golf Club before falling into a tie for third at the end of the day. The next year amateur Jared du Toit made it into the final group for the final round as well before falling into a tie for ninth.
Last year Corey Conners finished sixth, but that was thanks in large part to a final-round 8-under 62 that saw him rocket up the leaderboard; he wasn’t in the mix at the start of the day.
Canada had been waiting and wondering about when the big one would come for this generation of Canadian golfers, since almost all of the guys on the PGA Tour have already won on the biggest stage. Taylor has now answered the call.
The only question now is who will do it next.
Golf Canada’s support
Taylor – along with Conners, Taylor Pendrith, Mackenzie Hughes, Adam Hadwin, and many others — were all part of Golf Canada’s National Team program as they moved from junior and amateur golf into the professional ranks. It’s an impressive program that has become the envy of many others across the globe. Even the United States (via its golf-governing body, the USGA) announced they would be developing a similar national team effort to Canada moving forward.
The program is currently broken down into layers. It starts by identifying golfers who are not yet teenagers and setting them on a solid path to stardom in the game. There’s also a national team for collegiate-aged golfers and a Young Pro Squad to help with the transition from amateur to professional.
The seeds are planted, but now it’s time to see what will grow. Kevin Blue, Golf Canada’s Chief Sport Officer, has said the organization is hoping to see 30 golfers on the PGA and LPGA Tours by 2030. A valiant goal, but with Taylor and Brooke Henderson winning Canada’s national opens in the last five years, there’s never been a better opportunity to strike while the iron is hot.
Speaking of Henderson, the two-time Olympian continues to re-write Canadian golf record books. A former part of Golf Canada’s National Team program (she started when she was just 14!), Henderson now has won 13 times on the LPGA Tour including two majors and the CPKC Women’s Open in Regina in 2018. Henderson took to Twitter on Monday to congratulate Taylor who responded, in part, by saying, “Just following in your footsteps!”
What a moment.
Impact on the game
Weir’s Masters win in 2003 has inspired this golden generation to get to this point in their PGA Tour careers. Taylor talks frequently about Weir’s impact, same with Conners, Hughes, and Pendrith – all Ontario guys, just like Weir.
It has, however, been 20 years since Weir’s Masters win. It’s too early to measure the trickle-down impact of Taylor’s victory, but who knows what the Canadian golf landscape will look like in another two decades, when youngsters have both Henderson and Taylor’s triumphs to lean on to say, “That inspired me to want to do this.”
If there was an immediate moment of inspiration, it was Monday at Ledgeview Golf Club where both Taylor and Hadwin grew up playing.
At least a dozen youngsters were having their usual lessons and were inspired to roll in the same length putts as Taylor from the day prior.
“Nick, you make us so proud,” Brady Stead, the PGA of Canada teaching pro at Ledgeview said on social media, “and you give our juniors belief they can do what you’ve done.”
While both Hughes and Conners – the Olympic duo from Tokyo 2020 – are firmly in the mix to return to the Olympics as some of Canada’s top-ranked male golfers, Taylor has catapulted himself up the Official World Golf Rankings and is now in one of the qualifying positions (with Conners) to represent Canada at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Taylor and Hadwin played together at the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans (a team event) and finished second, while Taylor represented Canada at the Eisenhower Trophy and Four Nations Cup as an amateur. The Canadian squad Taylor was part of (along with his now caddie, Dave Markle) at the Four Nations Cup in 2009 were the winners at the end of the week.
As pros Taylor and Hadwin represented Canada at the 2018 World Cup of Golf where they finished tied for fourth.
A special week
Along with Taylor’s incredible victory, the 2023 RBC Canadian Open was a special week for a variety of reasons. A couple of chip shots from the week:
- Oakdale Golf and Country Club was the 37th host venue in the tournament’s 117-year history. A special spot near Toronto’s airport, the course was well received by the PGA Tour’s best in its debut. It is hoping to host the RBC Canadian Open again in 2026 when the club turns 100.
- ‘The Rink’ returned again. The par-3 14th hole was lined with hockey boards and the Toronto crowd was boisterous and excited through the week – especially over the weekend when they serenaded each Canadian who came through with a singing of the national anthem.
- In the midst of all the excitement Sunday on the 18th green, Hadwin – who was not wearing his PGA Tour credential and was just in street clothes – was tackled by a security guard. They laughed it off and Hadwin said he was OK, but the moment quickly went viral. Hadwin joined in the fun, sharing a screenshot of the moment with the caption “Put it in the Louvre!”.