DEREK EAST achieved a dream that's been etched into the back of his mind for over a decade. On Thursday, the 23-year-old picked up his first Nott Autocorp Manitoba Men's Amateur Golf Championship at the Neepawa Golf and Country Club.
"It feels good. I've been wanting to win this probably since I was 12. This is what I play every day for in the summer. It means a lot. All of the hard work has just paid off today and it feels great," East said.
The St. Charles golfer blew by the rest of the competition, finishing at 13-under after four rounds. Aaron Cockerill of Teulon finished in second place at 7-under.
'That would have been the icing on the cake, to hit a hole in one and walk off 18 without having to putt. Even having a foot it was still pretty nerve-wracking just to finish it off because it means so much to me to win. It didn't matter if it's a one-shot lead or a 10-shot lead'
-- provincial amateur champion Derek East
Besides being tied with Charlie Boyechko after the first round, East never gave up control of the lead throughout the tournament. He shot a 4-under 68 in each of the first three rounds to take a six-stroke lead heading into the final round.
But no lead is ever considered safe in golf.
"There isn't really ever a safe lead. If I had shot a couple over par and a guy like Aaron (Cockerill) shoots 5-under, a lead can disappear pretty quickly," East said. "I was a little bit more conservative but at the same point I was still trying to birdie every hole, just like I was in the other rounds."
East made par on the first 17 holes of the final round. With the gallery watching him on the par-three 18th green, East landed the ball within a foot and a half of the hole and tapped it in for his only birdie of the round.
"That would have been the icing on the cake, to hit a hole in one and walk off 18 without having to putt. Even having a foot, it was still pretty nerve-wracking just to finish it off because it means so much to me to win.
"It didn't matter if it's a one-shot lead or a 10-shot lead, I knew I was going to be nervous coming down the stretch," East said.
Neepawa's hills made for a challenging Amateur.
But East felt he had a pretty good handle on the course and enjoyed what it had to offer.
"Mostly, the elevation changes. You've got about half a dozen, or half of the holes really, where you've got to hit uphill or downhill, and with the wind it's a lot to handle," East said. "The slope of the greens, you've really got to make sure your irons or wedges are really on so you're putting from the right areas on those greens."
East, Cockerill and Boyechko will represent the provincial team at the 2013 Canadian Men's Amateur Championship at Royal Colwood Golf Club in Victoria, Aug. 6-9.
This will be East's third trip to the tournament.
"I expect fast greens, lots of rough. It's a tough test, but it's fun to play on those championship courses every once in a while to test your game and test your mental skills for the four days. It's a great challenge and I love going there."