Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Thiesen shades nine-time Grey Owl champ

Playoff misses sink Collings' chance of 10th tourney title

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We can only assume No. 10 is the hardest to get.

Nine-time champ Garth Collings came within a whisker of adding another Grey Owl title to his long list of Manitoba Hall of Fame accomplishments, but lost on the second hole of a championship playoff last weekend at Clear Lake Golf Club.

Brad Thiesen, a 25-year-old phys-ed teacher from Russell, turned out to be the upstart champion, coming from off the radar to post a Sunday 4-under 68 and join Collings at 3-under 141 for the annual competition.

Some titles are clearly just meant to be. Collings could have taken his 10th but missed a five-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole. Then, to Thiesen's benefit, the three-time Manitoba Amateur champ mucked up the second playoff hole, Clear Lake's seventh, for a double-bogey six, leaving Thiesen the winner with a par.

St. Charles' Ken Mould was the Greyer Owl title winner, carding a fine 1-under 71 Sunday to pull in with 152.

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A playoff was also in order at the Manitoba PGA's second event of the year earlier this week.

Carman's Dean North prevailed in a one-hole extra session over Winter Club's Rob Guthrie, Carman's Scott Borsa and host pro Brian Guenther at Steinbach Fly-In after all four shot even-par 72s in the Fletcher June Classic.

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After the Fletcher Classic, Manitoba pros Dave Lavallee of Quarry Oaks, Geoff Kehler of St. Boniface, Glenn Mills of Assiniboine, Andrew Steep of Glendale and North will contest the PGA Championship of Canada next Monday to Friday at Country Hills Golf Club in Calgary.

It's a 64-man match-play event, using the organization's own rankings to determine its entrants.

FYI, former Winnipegger Bryn Parry, a former Nationwide and Canadian Tour player, is the No. 3 seed for the event.

We know this is just inviting disagreement, but it used to be that the event, formerly known at the CPGA Championship, carried a whole lot more prestige and importance on the Canadian golf scene. During the many years with an international flavour, the tournament aspired to great reach in the golf world.

Then it disappeared completely for several years -- a national golf tragedy to many -- and has returned as an event important to a limited few beyond its own members.

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Manitoba's future golf stars are making marks already this season. At least three have qualified for international competitions.

Eight-year-old Ryan Blair of Oakbank won the eight-and-under division at a qualifier at the Collicutt Siding Golf Club in Alberta, shooting 1-under 35 over nine holes of the reduced- yardage course. Hey, they're just eight.

Blair bested the field of nine players in the CJGA Junior Linkster event and has earned a spot in the Veritas World Junior, July 17-20 in Industry Hills, Calif., and in the U.S. Kids World Championship in Pinehurst, N.C., Aug. 2-4.

Earlier this spring, Winnipeg's Bailey Bjornson, also eight, captured the boys' eight-and-under division at a CJGA qualifying event in Cambridge, Ont., shooting a quality 5-under 31 at the Cambridge Golf Club.

Posting the best score by three shots in the field of 13 on the reduced-yardage course, Bjornson has earned a spot in the Callaway Junior World Golf Championship, July 10-13 in the San Diego area, and an entry in the U.S. Kids in Pinehurst.

Bjornson will be joined by his younger brother Justin, just six, who has also qualified for the events.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 16, 2012 C7

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