Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Battle of titans at Manitoba men's amateur

Collings, Fanning atop leaderboard at 10 and eight under

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It's hard to call Garth Collings an amateur.

After shooting an impressive five-under 67 in round one of of the 2014 Manitoba Men's Amateur Golf Championship, the three-time champion entered round two on Tuesday just hoping to stay in contention, with the wind much heavier than the day before. Instead, the 56-year-old aggressively attacked the course at the Links at Quarry Oaks, firing another 67 to sit in first place at 10-under heading into the final two rounds at Niakwa Country Club. He is up two strokes on Todd Fanning, who shot a three-under 69 to sit at eight-under.

"You know what, I made a couple more putts today, I hit the ball really well," Collings said. "I hit the ball really, really well yesterday and again today, something seems to be clicking right now, which is great."

Collings was outstanding throughout the first nine holes of the round, going four-under with three birdies and a beautiful chip-in for eagle on the par-5 seventh, which was his highlight of the day. Even though it was lucky, he'll take it, he said. In the back nine, Collings picked up another two birdies and one of only two bogeys on the day.

With the last two rounds at Niakwa, a course Collings rarely plays at, the next two rounds will be an adjustment, he said. "It's going to be a challenge, it's a tougher course," Collings said. "I shouldn't say it's a tougher course, it's a different layout. I like playing Quarry Oaks. I play here probably five or six time a year, where Niakwa I might play once a year."

Over the next two days, Collings will be paired with the other top guys in the field, which includes Fanning, a former Canadian Tour pro, and 23-year-old Aaron Cockerill (five-under). But the pressure is nothing new to him.

"My expectations weren't much this week, I haven't been hitting the ball very good," Collings said. "I'm starting to hit the ball a little better and you know what, there are 36 holes left and anything can happen."

Fanning was tied with Collings heading into the round and came out of the front-nine on Tuesday with three birdies to find himself at three-under, but wasn't able to capitalize on any opportunities on the last nine. He picked up a bogey on the par-4 17th but managed to close out the round with a birdie on 18.

"It's a more open, exposed nine," Fanning said of his last nine holes. "It's a little windier so I wasn't able to hit it quite as close as I had hoped and had a lot of 20 to 30 foot putts and you're pretty happy with par in those conditions."

While the next two days at Niakwa will be challenging for some, the final rounds come with high expectations for the four-time champion Fanning, because he is a member.

"There's a lot more drivers at Niakwa, you won't have to be laying up on par-fives out there so I think you'll have a lot more variation in the scoring out there," he said. "Well, I should have the advantage, you know I misread lots of putts out here that I know I won't misread at Niakwa so hopefully my putting will be better.

But yeah, the game is right where it needs to be."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 23, 2014 D4

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