Nothing Better Than the Present


Is there a better send-off to the United States Open Championship than a win in your country's national championship? Richard Zokol, who hails from Richmond, British Columbia, probably can't imagine one! And to watch the 41-year old do it in front of a large and supportive Canadian gallery was certainly something I'll never forget.
Extremely likeable as a person, and so polished as a professional who knows how to handle the good with the bad, there could not have been a better ending to the 85th edition of the Samsung Canadian PGA Championship. Dating back to 1912, this championship has a history that really only a man who's represented his country for the better part of 20 years as a golfer can appreciate. You didn't have to tell Zokol that Arnold Palmer, Raymond Floyd and Lee Trevino had joined the likes of Canadian legend Moe Norman and fellow PGA Tour veteran Dave Barr as names engraved on the P.D. Ross trophy. He knew all about it.
Richard Zokol talks about winning the Canadian PGA
In fact, what made Zokol's week all the more special was his promotion of the event itself. You see, the Canadian PGA Championship was in need of some new flavor. It was not receiving the support it once had, and the purse was certainly in need of a bump. This year, it got both as the PGA Tour joined forces with the Canadian PGA to bring the
Buy.Com Tour north of the border for the first time in its 12 year history. With the change came a field strong in Buy.Com talent but weak in Canadian numbers. Just 23 Canadians played in the championship, which certainly hurt some feelings. But not Zokol. A man with a great sense of the past and a vision for the future talked openly about how the event was given 'new life' and a chance to really grow and gain more exposure through television coverage on The Golf Channel.
And from the first tee on Thursday, Zokol let his game do some talking as well. Easily the most recognizable Canadian name in the field, the winner of the Greater Milwaukee Open in 1992 fired a first round 67. He then followed it with rounds of 68, 70 and a remarkable 66 to capture the championship he so dearly wanted by three shots.
From my vantage point in the booth with Curt Byrum, this was the best storybook finish in the Buy.Com Tour's history. A win for Zokol himself, who hadn't won since that Milwaukee triumph in 92' but was able to hold off all comers while not letting the frenzy of support frazzle his game, a win for his country which so desperately wanted one of its own to hold the trophy, and a win for the Championship itself, which was under a critical eye from local columnists all week because of its new joint venture with the PGA Tour, that as they saw it, had taken away it's Canadian charm and replaced it with unknown Americans and a tour that wasn't its own. (Completely wrong as I saw it).
Nothis Championship is on an upward path because of the new merger, and also because of the way it played out on Sunday. Richard Zokol, who works so hard to stay in the present on the golf course not letting himself drift into the 'what might be's' or the consequences of 'what just was', gave this Championship a present that it won't soon forget - one of its very own as Champion in every sense of the word. And my sense is that it might be quite some time before a man of such class and stature wins THE tournament he wants more than any other he can think of.
Congratulations Richard Zokol, and go get 'em at Southern Hills!