Eleven players who have been there
August 06, 2020
By Ian Leggatt, Special to PGATOUR.COM
Editor’s Note: Ian Leggatt played full-time on the PGA TOUR between 2002 and 2006, winning the 2002 Touchstone Energy Tucson Open by two shots over David Peoples and Loren Roberts. The native of Cambridge, Ontario, and current director of golf and general manager at Summit Golf Club in Richmond Hill, turned pro in 1990 after graduating from Texas Wesleyan University. Leggatt played an international schedule before earning his Korn Ferry Tour membership in 2000, eventually moving on to the PGA TOUR. Leggatt recently spearheaded an initiative working with current and former PGA TOUR players to put together a bonus pool that will award $2,750 weekly to the player who shoots the low round of each of the four Canada Life Series tournaments
I first became aware of the Canada Life Series when I saw the announcement on Mackenzie Tour social media. I immediately called Scott Pritchard, the Mackenzie Tour executive director, to discuss some thoughts. Scott and I have been friends for many years, and I reached out to him with an idea. Initially, I talked about finding a corporate sponsor to help fund a bonus pool for the player with the low round of the week at each Canada Life Series event, something to help out the Canadian players. As we talked about it more, I decided rather than going to a corporate sponsor and potentially infringing upon what Canada Life was doing, I wondered if we could put together a little different plan.
What if we organized an alumni association of players who played on the Mackenzie Tour and the Canadian Tour that funded the bonus themselves?
That’s where we landed, and I wanted to pursue the idea. My first calls were to Mike Weir, Nick Taylor and Graham DeLaet. Immediately, they all said, “We’re in.” As we thought about it, Scott decided to contact other PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR Champions players, making sure they had an opportunity to participate, as well. It was a good suggestion. We wanted everybody to feel like they had a chance to be involved, and their enthusiasm was no different. It’s been amazing the support we’ve received from the guys—us four plus Stephen Ames, Corey Conners, Michael Gligic, Adam Hadwin, David Hearn, Mackenzie Hughes and Roger Sloan. That enthusiasm is due to one reason: We all want to give back.
I think I have a pretty solid understanding of where these young guys playing the Canada Life Series are in their careers. We all do because we all started that way, needing money and help to get going.
Back in 1990, I didn’t have any money when I turned pro. I was very, very fortunate to meet someone in Texas from my college days at Texas Wesleyan, a businessman in Fort Worth who helped out and sponsored me. He was already helping Joel Edwards, who made it to the TOUR, and Joel helped connect me with this businessman. This sponsor assisted me financially for three or four years as I got going. I was very fortunate to meet someone like that because my circumstances from a financial standpoint were not there for me to play professional golf.
I had some very bleak times starting out, and in 1994 I went to South Africa to play the South African Tour with $5,000 in my pocket. I knew I could probably get through three or four weeks if I was careful and counted every single penny.
Fortunately, it was the Zimbabwe Open where things turned around. Although I finished nine strokes behind winner Tony Johnstone, I tied for fourth that week, with Mark McNulty, earning 27,120 in Rhodesian dollars, the equivalent of about $7,000. I tell people all the time that winning on the PGA TOUR was never the biggest check I ever made. That one from Zimbabwe was the payday that kept me going and gave me a lot of confidence. That season on the South African Tour, I won about $80,000, and that money allowed me to finance myself for many years until I was able to get onto the PGA TOUR.
There were also plenty of little things that made a huge difference for me. When I played the Canadian Tour, there was always a reward for the low Canadian finisher that week, and that person got $500. There were a few times that I was the low Canadian, and I can tell you that money went a long way. You think of $500 in the 1990s, and that was something that could pay my entire hotel bill and my meals for an entire week considering the way I lived, sharing a room, staying in cheap motels and eating horrible food. That’s why all of us definitely understand what it’s like to be young and looking for money.
Ours is a fairly tight-knit community of PGA TOUR players from Canada, and there’s a big support mechanism with everybody. Weirsy and I always supported one another, and in my early days on TOUR there were other Canadians like Glen Hnatiuk, Jon Mills and David Hearn, early in his career. The support among us has always been there, and I know we’re all there to support each other, which is the Canadian mentality.
Canada is built on a platform of team sports, and although golf is on the other end of that spectrum, everybody supports each other as a team, and it’s that support mechanism that will continue.
I’ve been very fortunate in my career on many levels, being in the right place at the right time. I’m like the other players who stepped up and being able to give back is something that we care about. I didn’t need to have long conversations with any of these players about writing a check for this.
It was literally a phone call or a text to each guy. After they immediately said they were in, the next question was, “How do I pay these kids?” That was a good question. I didn’t even know, but it’s something Scott helped us figure out.
With the Canada Life Series just about to start, I can look back and see what a positive experience it’s been for me to be involved. I take more pride in all of us coming together to help the next generation of young players who are trying to get to where we once were or where guys currently are. That’s where the satisfaction comes.