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Happy 30th anniversary, Todd

Fanning wins men's amateur three decades after his first

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If you follow Todd Fanning on Twitter you would know how excited he was earlier this year with the idea of winning the 2014 Manitoba Amateur Golf Championship 30 years after his first one in 1984.

Well, on Thursday he did it again. This time with the help of a lucky bounce.

Fanning, holding onto a one-stroke lead, sent his drive on the 17th tee at Niakwa Country Club wide and into the trees, or at least it looked that way. His ball took a bounce, then another bounce off the leg of a spectator trying to avoid the ball and landed back on the fairway. His subsequent chip-shot landed about 10 feet from the pin.

He missed the birdie putt and settled for par.

"That was a real nice break," Fanning, 46, said. "I don't think I would've had much of a shot where it would've turned out, would have had to chip it in front of the green, you needs breaks like that sometimes."

On the par-4 18 Fanning's experience came through, now two-strokes ahead of Charlie Boyechko, when he landed perfectly on the fairway and finished off with par to win his fifth Manitoba amateur championship since 1992 at 10-under.

Fanning came into the final round of the tournament at 12-under, six strokes better than the second place Garth Collings, who ended up in fourth place at two-under. But it wasn't that easy, as the former Canadian Tour pro had to hold off a charging Boyechko, who started the round at two-under.

After going one-over on the front-nine to start the round, things only seemed to get worse for the champion. He had three-straight bogeys on holes 13, 14 and 15 that put him and Boyechko, who was in the group one hole ahead, into a tie at nine-under.

But a great shot from the bunker followed by a birdie putt on 16 put him ahead at 10-under. Fanning, who regained his amateur status in 2008 after a professional career, said not even all those years of experience could have prepared him for this.

"I haven't competed for so long." he said. "I'll tell you, I'm not going to lie: When I found out what Charlie was doing I was nervous. I was nervous, you know. I think I started playing a little quick.

"I bogeyed 13, 14, 15, which made it closer than it should've been, but knowing he was going well sure made it tough."

Fanning shot in the 60s every round except the last one, shooting two-over 74. The last two rounds of the tournament were held at Niakwa, his home course.

He hasn't played this tournament in six years but when he found out two rounds of the tournament were at Niakwa to go along with the Canadian Amateur Championship being held in Winnipeg next month, he decided to give it a shot.

"For 63 holes I was as good as I was when I was playing on the tour," he said. "It was fun and yeah I'm glad my family could enjoy it because my kids they didn't see me winning all those other amateurs so I'm glad they're able to be here and share it with me."

It was a great round for Boyechko, a University of Manitoba Bisons golfer. He nailed four of his seven birdies on the back-nine to finish at 8-under and an outstanding six-under 66 on the round, but it wasn't enough to catch the struggling Fanning.

On the 18th, Boyechko was just one stroke behind Fanning but his drive landed near the bushes, preventing him from getting his second shot on the green and instead put his second shot on the fairway. He missed his long putt for par and had to settle for bogey, and runner-up.

He said despite the finish, it was important for him to know he can hang with the best, especially being 10 shots back to start. "We play a lot together," Boyechko said of him and Fanning. "We were talking a lot heading into it and today he was kinda disappointed that I was so far back so we've been texting back and forth.

"He said 'Make a lot of birdies, so I see you making a lot of birdies.' I got off to a really good start, obviously he took notice and kinda struggled a bit. I mean it's tough to lose by two but it's nice to get within contention and feel those feelings, it was good day."

kyle.edwards@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 25, 2014 C2

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