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Bison golf flying like an eagle

Program set to host national university championship

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U of M golfer Charlie Boyechko is one of five Bisons who will try to bring home the banner at the university championship in June.

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U of M golfer Charlie Boyechko is one of five Bisons who will try to bring home the banner at the university championship in June. Photo Store

It's a milestone spring for the University of Manitoba Bisons golf team.

For the first time, the Bisons will be the hosts for the Canadian University/College Championship, to be played at Southwood Golf and Country Club June 3-6.

But more relevant is it marks the program coming full circle.

In 2002, a new team under coaches Derek Ingram and Garth Goodbrandson was barely scraping things together but hatched a great idea and conducted a "test" or a "concept" event at Bridges Golf Course that May. It was an unofficial national university/college championship that also served as a qualifier for the World University Games.

Golf Canada was both present and watching and turned the week into its official University/College Championship in 2003.

Circles and milestones are cause for reflection.

'They're a team that understands preparation. This year, similar to last year, it's not ideal. But they do the best they can. They're very aware of it. They're not making excuses, blaming the weather'

— Garth Goodbrandson

"It's our 14th year," said Goodbrandson, who now handles the team with Ed Boge. "As time goes on, you do reflect. We've had so many fantastic players and people come through the program. From the time that Derek and I started, we wanted to help them out as people. It was our goal to do both, develop champions on and off the golf course.

"We've been very proud of our players, great role models, great results. There were some early days when we could barely make it to tournaments. We had no team clothing or team bags and it was a stretch. Guys feel good that they were a part of those early days, doing anything we could to keep the program alive.

"For me, we have had some great results, but I'm always going to remember the great people."

This has turned into the Bisons golf program's foundation, one that looks pretty solid based on where things are in Year 14.

The U of M team is coming out of two wildly successful falls. In 2012, its men's team won five of seven team titles. Last fall, it was four of six, almost all of them in the U.S. against a variety of NCAA competition.

In all, it's 23 team titles since Goodbrandson and Ingram got this ship launched.

The coming national championship, the Bisons' first real home game, is another opportunity. The best the team has ever finished at this national event is third.

"The guys have gone to the Golf Dome a lot," Goodbrandson said, asked about a tough spring in which to prepare. "They're a team that understands preparation. This year, similar to last year, it's not ideal. But they do the best they can.

"They're very aware of it. They're not making excuses, blaming the weather."

U of M will send out Josh Wytinck, Charlie Boyechko, Bryce Barr, Scott Mazur and Brodie Gobin as its team in early June.

"It's certainly a very big deal, certainly our biggest tournament of the year," Boyechko said this week. "It's what we practise for but it's hard to prepare for. We get maybe four or five weeks of practice. That added pressure of not being able to practise long outdoors and that it's our biggest tournament, it's very hard to peak. But we'll make the best of it and there won't be any excuses. We have a positive mindset."

Boyechko said he's played nearly 300 holes in this miserable spring, just trying to accelerate his annual return to form.

Wytinck, the 2012 Manitoba Amateur champ who also shared 2013 Manitoba golfer of the year honours with Aaron Cockerill, said he sees opportunity.

"This is the best opportunity we've had to win, for sure," Wytinck said. "I think we've got one of our strongest teams ever. And it's first time with some home-course advantage.

"That's where the pressure can come from. But that will be OK. I think we can handle it. We're ready to go."

Goodbrandson is liking the mindset he's detecting in his players.

"We're excited about it," he said. "The one thing is that this team's pretty experienced. We've been together for a while. And we've never worried about results. We just let them happen. We know if we prepare well and focus on what we can control, we'll be fine.

"The one thing about preparing well, it takes pressure off you. When the pressure's on is when you do a terrible job of preparing and you have regrets."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 17, 2014 C5

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