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Canadians link up socially through Weeki Wachee golf club, Can-Am Hackers

WEEKI WACHEE

That's why they're called snowbirds.

They migrate down from the north, set up shop for months and make Florida home for most of the winter.

Canadians.

They're amongst us. Everyone one has said at least one joke aboot our northern neighbors. We've all seen them crowding up a Tampa Bay Lightning game when the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Montreal Canadiens are in town.

Well, its no different at the Heather Golf and Country Club. However, those Canadians, most of them are ready to hit the links.

For years now, these Canadians have been running the Can-Am Hackers, a golf league, per se, that meets weekly Wednesdays to play a round.

"It's like a big social circle," organizer Terry White, 68, said. "We have a good time and play golf together because it's what we want to do."

While golf is a major part, it's not the only thing the Canadians do. They'll have Can-Am (because there are a handful of Americans with them) potlucks, clubhouse theater shows and other social events.

Golf is just the most active thing they do.

There are about 51 members of the group, nine of them Americans. The Canadians are from all over the country and are now all friends because of the league.

White, who has been playing with Can-Am for 10 years and is in his first year organizing it, said the group grew so quickly, not because of the other Canadians staying at the Heather, but also because of the American residents, too.

"They just thought we were having too much fun and they wanted to play," White said. "Well, we're not going to discriminate against golfers here."

Each of the golfers has his or her own tee time from 1 p.m. on and plays their own ball on the nine-hole course. Golfers will go out in either threes or fours, with most walking the course, but some also riding a cart.

"It's not just a regular game of golf," American and Hernando County resident Joan Sutton said. "Between anyone who can't play good, the women and the less-experienced players, everyone has a chance to get better and play with each other."

Popularity has grown so much the Canadians turned the golf outing into an international battle. Can-Am recently held its first tourney — the Can-Am Tournament — in which the Canadians won, though the tourney went down to the wire, with the teams tied at the end of the round. The Canadians pulled off the victory in overtime.

"Its a fun deal for people," Sutton said. "Sometimes we Americans even have a hard time keeping up with the Canadians, not only on the course, but with drinks after the rounds (laughs)."

Certainly, one of the main reasons Can-Am is available is to make friends. As Ontario residents Rita and Mario Mortillaro said, most of the Canadians are now friends and keep in touch once back across the border. The couple has been playing with Can-Am for nearly 19 years and will head home toward the end of April.

But not before they get in a few rounds with their American counterparts.

"We rib each other, we kid each other, but it's all for fun," Mario said. "It's a good friendly rivalry between the Americans and us, but we all want to golf. We all want to get in a round and see our friends. It's just a good time for whoever plays, no matter where they are from."

Community sports editor Mike Camunas can be reached at mcamunas@sptimes.com or (352) 544-1771.

Fast facts

Can-Am Hackers

What: A group of more than 50 Canadians (and some Americans) that meets at 1 p.m. every Wednesday at the Heather Golf and Country Club in Weeki Wachee and play golf. Any player is welcome.

For more info, call (352) 596-2019.

Canadians link up socially through Weeki Wachee golf club, Can-Am Hackers 03/17/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 8:22pm]
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