Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Looking for a diamond in the rough

It isn't shaping up as a great year for Manitoba's touring pros, but someone could surprise us

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If 2011 is to produce a great golf success for one or more of Manitoba's aspiring touring professionals, it is likely to come from out of the blue.

It's a lean year ahead, at least to start, when you look at the players and where they are eligible to play. Only Adam Speirs, now an official veteran on the Canadian Tour but a former tournament winner, and Matt Johnston, who has CanTour conditional status, have membership on the home circuit.

But because "out of the blue" always includes possibilities in golf, nobody's quitting before they start.

Big tour status -- we usually consider that the Canadian Tour or above for men, or the Duramed Futures Tour or better for women -- is where local golf fans turn their focus when they're looking for somebody to call their own.

Since Selkirk's Glen Hnatiuk went into an injury-induced retirement from the PGA Tour in 2005, the question of who to "embrace" hasn't been an easy one.

As Speirs, Johnston, rookie Tyler Mancini, Ryan Horn, adopted Manitoban Jordan Krantz (the two-time former Manitoba Amateur champ is from Vermilion Bay, Ont.) and others have found out, the competition is very tough. None of those mentioned managed to make enough in 2010 to stay inside the top 80 to keep a Canadian Tour card. None who tried got far enough at PGA Tour Q-school in the fall.

Speirs stays on the Canadian Tour, however, by virtue of his 2008 victory and how much money he's won through his CanTour career.

Johnston went back to CanTour qualifying school in the fall and played well enough to earn a conditional card. History has shown us that conditional status on the Canadian Tour usually leads to a pretty good schedule.

In women's golf, Winnipeg's Stacey Bieber played the LPGA development circuit, the Duramed Futures Tour, in both 2009 and 2010 but didn't earn enough to go forward to 2011.

All of them, and others starting out like Winnipegger Scott Loewen, look ahead and continue to search for tournament opportunities. Mini-tours are abundant in the southern U.S. during the winter months.

"With where most of us are at, we need to be playing all the time to gain experience," Johnston said in a recent interview. Now based in Orlando, Fla., Johnston was busy with the Hooters Tour schedule until the Canadian Tour resumed this week.

Johnston said there is simply no substitute for experience.

"Would I change anything I've done so far?" he said. "Yes and no. That's what experience is all about. I've eked everything I possibly could out of the resources I had and the people that I knew and I've given it my all.

"In hindsight, maybe I'd have been more efficient and effective in different things but that's what happens in any occupation. I wouldn't change a thing from the past but looking back, there are many things I've adjusted and changed because of what I've learned."

The bottom line is that golf isn't a bad job. When you're not an established PGA Tour or LPGA Tour player but an aspiring one, there are degrees of glamour.

"It's exciting to do something you love," Krantz said. "Hopefully it'll throw a little love back sooner than later."

In that quest, here's an early-season primer on several of the aspiring players on the stage.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

Stacey Bieber, 25

Winnipeg

Turned pro in 2008. Manitoba junior champ 2003, Manitoba Amateur champ 2005.

Status for 2011: Played LPGA Duramed Futures Tour in 2009 and 2010 but has no status this year. Planning to play mini-tours and state opens and the Canadian Women's Tour.

Biggest lesson of 2010: "A transitional year for me, working on my chipping, figuring things out. It wasn't so much about winning tournaments as it was figuring things out and what was holding me back. I didn't get the results I wanted but I had some major improvements. I felt my life was really out of balance in 2010. My priority was golf; it was No. 1 and I realized that wasn't the most important thing in life. I held golf pretty high in the air, and the more value I placed on it, that made it really hard to play poorly and I took it really personally."

Game priority for 2011: "Short game. Wedges and chipping. I've been spending 100 per cent of my time on short game in the last few weeks as I start back from my injury."

Something I never thought I'd do that I've done in pursuit of my golf dream: "(The) Big Break (2010 on Golf Channel). When it first aired a few years ago, I said, 'I'd never do that.' Thought it was a joke. And then I did it."

 

Ryan Horn, 28

Dauphin

Turned pro in 2006. Manitoba junior champ, 2006.

Status for 2011: Made just $1,937 in 10 events on the Canadian Tour last year and has lost his card. "I have no status right now and have lost some sponsors, sponsors that I just can't ask anything more of," Horn said. "I'll try some tournaments this year after I work on my game in the spring."

Biggest lesson of 2010: "Just learning to keep my head up. There are going to be highs and lows."

Game priority in 2011: "Just to get back to shooting low scores. Simplify the game and have fun."

Something I never thought I'd do that I've done in pursuit of my golf dream: "I think the driving. You feel like you'd go anywhere. I once drove to Vegas to play in a tournament, then straight to Austin (Texas) and luckily I made some money so I didn't have to drive straight to California from there. Just putting the miles on."

 

Jordan Krantz, 30

Vermilion Bay, Ont.

Turned pro 2006. Manitoba Amateur champ 2004, 2005.

Status for 2011: No official CanTour status. Member of Gateway Tour for winter play. Plans to play Canadian Tour Q-school in March.

Biggest lesson 2010: "I think perseverance. And a little bit more believing in myself and my abilities. And maybe not being so tough on myself."

Game priority for 2011: "Short game. I'm continuing to work hard on that. And keeping up the consistency I've had."

Something I've done that I never thought I'd do in pursuit of my golf dream: "If you'd told me 10 years ago I'd live in South Africa and go to Asia, all to play golf, and play in Mexico and all over the U.S. and Canada, that wouldn't have seemed very realistic to me then. But I'm finding that to be successful, you have to do anything and everything to get to that point."

 

Adam Speirs, 32

Winnipeg

Turned pro in 2001. Manitoba Amateur champ, 1999 and 2001. Greater Vancouver Charity Classic winner in 2008.

Status in 2011: Made $4,334 in 10 starts on CanTour in 2010; is a past champion and keeps a card in the veterans' category for 2011.

Biggest lesson in 2010: "It's a recurring lesson, that for my game, putting is almost the only thing that matters. Driving the ball is a close second but when I went to second stage (of Q-school) and I drove it well and didn't putt worth a damn. So that for me is the recurring lesson, to putt well."

Game priority for 2011: "Become a better putter."

Something I never thought I'd do that I've done in pursuit of my golf dream: "I never thought, in all of my wildest dreams, that I'd be playing golf in South Africa, which I did in 2009. That was just an amazing experience. And another thing, I never thought I'd have such amazing relationships with guys on tour. There is something about the Canadian Tour and pro golf in general, that it's such a bonding experience."

 

Matt Johnston, 26

Winnipeg

Turned pro 2007, Manitoba Amateur champ 2006.

Status for 2011: Lost CanTour card, went back to Q-school and regained conditional status. Playing Hooters Tour winter series and pro series.

Biggest lesson of 2010: "I would say patience. Once again with all the tournaments, playing all the time, it's easy to get ahead of yourself and lose perspective with where you're at and what you're doing."

Game priority for 2011: "Short game, 100 yards and in."

Something I never thought I'd do that I've done in pursuit of my golf dream: "I didn't think I'd be spending half my life in a car. And also the places you go and people you meet."

 

Tyler Mancini, 26

Winnipeg

Turned pro 2009. Manitoba Match play and Mid-amateur champ.

Status for 2011: Lost CanTour card. Will attend CanTour's Florida winter Q-school in late March. Playing Gateway Tour.

Biggest lesson of 2010: "Not sure there's one that stands out. This is a different style of play because there's travelling and you have to get used to different kinds of golf courses and adapt quickly. I think it was a most important year in terms of understanding what it takes to go low and being comfortable going low and lower."

Game priority for 2011: "You're always working on your swing but this year I'm trying to focus a little more on short game. I have a good short game to begin with but these guys out here, it's really good."

Something I never thought I'd do that I've done in pursuit of my golf dream: "You do a lot of crazy things. I've billeted a few times trying to save some cash. At the tournament in Seaforth last year, I billeted out at a farm, about a half-hour away. We were called up for supper and the lady takes me out to the garage and hands me this pitchfork and asks me to harvest some potatoes. She pointed me to the garden, asked me to get some potatoes and said we'll wash them up for supper."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 26, 2011 C4

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