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Golf season finally upon us as U of M team crams for first exam

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It's behind us now, so it's a lot easier to talk about this rationally.

The scars are still fresh, though, because earlier this month, snow piles and golf courses were still getting along fabulously.

The Winnipeg area was like much of Western Canada ,with cold temperatures and record-late course openings.

Tales are common in the region that in the last century, the timing of course openings has never been like it was in 2012 (March) or 2013 (May).

This spring, it had added stress to several segments of the competitive set of Manitoba players, among them the University of Manitoba Bisons golf team.

They're the eager beavers of the group. The Bisons players are like you and me, pacing and muttering and cursing weather forecasts for the entire month of April.

But they had an extra urgency -- their biggest event of the season was only a few weeks away. The Canadian University/College Championships are May 28-31 at Ste-Sophie, Que.

Can you say "cramming?"

"Obviously this isn't ideal, but we've been doing what we can do," said Bisons player Bobby Wiebe, one of three team members who agreed to meet Friday morning at the team's practice home, Southwood Golf and Country Club, for a therapy session disguised as a group interview. "It's workable now. We were hitting balls inside most of the winter. You're still swinging. It's the short-game stuff that really needs the work.

"And things are OK now. We might be a little bit behind, but from what I know, the weather across the country hasn't been great."

Bisons player Scott Mazur said he's been putting in extra time on the range at Elmhurst, where he's a member. Elmhurst, if you want to feel some of Mazur's pain, has been open for just 10 days.

"I've been hitting balls more on the range at Elmhurst and I've played more rounds this year in a short time to try to prepare," Mazur said. "But like Bobby said, I don't think it's the long game that's the issue. It's the touch around the greens that needs a little work."

Bryce Barr was asked Friday how he dealt with an unprecedented April.

"Aside from losing my mind?" he deadpanned. "It was trying to keep your ear to the ground about who was opening the soonest. As soon as Hackers and Smackers was open, I went out there."

Barr also confessed that in his impatient state and with courses a long way from open, he might have done something "illegal" when he hit balls in a field in his neighbourhood.

"Just anything you can do," he said. "You just want to get out there. And a lot of that doesn't have anything to do with the fact you're preparing for a tournament. You just love golf. You want to play.

"And turning that calendar to April, well, it's when the Masters is on and that's when golf season is here. That's when I started to really get anxious."

The Bisons, including 2012 Manitoba player of the year Josh Wytinck and Charlie Boyechko, are pretty sure their twitching has subsided. Their focus is now their outdoor practice and their course time.

"I think you have to make sure your practice is as efficient as possible now because we don't have a lot of time," Barr said. "It's only a couple of weeks to get ready for a tournament like nationals, so you want to use your time as well as you can. And having played in a tournament already this year in San Diego (in March), that was good to just get back into the feel of playing."

The Bisons players have two tune-ups straight ahead of them that ought to help with the feel of competition. This weekend they'll be facing a group of juniors that make up Manitoba's Canada Games team in a "friendly," (though don't expect smiles from the losers) and next weekend, the team will compete in the first local event of the year, the Manitoba Match Play qualifier. From there, it'll be off to Quebec the next day and the Canadian championship, which by the way, will be staged at Southwood in 2014.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 18, 2013 C4

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