Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Neepawa's water hazard was just too much

Flooding forces marquee golf event to move to Portage

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It's a minor problem on the grand scale of provincial well-being but Golf Manitoba officials have been quick on their feet to avert trouble with their marquee event of the year.

The Manitoba Men's Amateur will not be contested at Neepawa Golf and Country Club as originally planned. Spring rains and a maddeningly high Whitemud River messed a lot of things up on the course. The flooding has finally subsided and the layout is finally just open in its regular 18-hole configuration.

Flood Fight

Rather than fight the mess and put unrealistic pressure on a clean-up -- not to mention encourage grass to grow to its fullest in a matter of days -- Golf Manitoba decided last week to relocate its championship to the Portage Golf Club, where it will be played on the same dates: July 18-21

"We've obviously been in close touch with Landon Cameron (Neepawa's GM and head pro) about the situation and they clearly want to showcase their golf course with optimum playing conditions," Golf Manitoba executive director Dave Comaskey said Wednesday. "It's not as good as they'd like it to be and if that's the case, then it's likely not as good as we'd want it to be."

The decision on the move to Portage came as late as possible, but the folks in Neepawa aren't being left in the cold.

Golf Manitoba has committed the Rural Amateur to the club for next summer and has promised to bring the Manitoba Men's Amateur back for 2013, the next time in the unofficial rotation that it's scheduled to be played outside of the Winnipeg area.

For 2011, the change in venue involved a lot more than a quick email or fax.

"Asking somebody to free up a course in the middle of July, that's an awful big commitment and a huge ask three weeks out," Comaskey said. "We just can't say enough for the people in Portage for getting us out of a bit of a pickle."

Comaskey said Plan B had been under consideration for some time given the severe flooding in so many parts of the province, but Golf Manitoba was wary of asking too many questions too soon.

"The rumour mill gets spinning on just a few feelers so we tried very hard to be careful," he said. "The people in Neepawa, to their credit, waited as long as they could before letting us know and we have been very fortunate to find such a good solution."

A field of 120 players will contest the event in Portage. Exempt or qualified players have until Monday to register.

-- -- --

The Manitoba Amateur has some extra importance this summer because it will determine entries to the Canadian Amateur being played at Niakwa Country Club Aug. 11-14.

Manitoba has been allotted a meagre seven places in the field of 240 players for the national championship.

Exemptions will be determined by the Manitoba Amateur.

Of course, competitors can earn a place in the Canadian Amateur field by successfully enduring a qualifying round on the Monday of tournament week at Niakwa.

As of Wednesday's entry deadline, it appeared that only 14 Manitoba players had registered for the qualifier.

Golf Canada has promised at least five players will earn entry from the qualifying round.

-- -- --

Next week, Canadian golf eyes will also turn to Winnipeg as the Canadian Tour makes its annual stop for The Players Cup hosted by Jonathan Toews.

There will be plenty of headlines for the event, including early-in-the-week pro-ams and fundraisers featuring Toews and other NHL stars.

The $200,000 competition begins next Thursday at Pine Ridge and the field will include four-time PGA Tour winner Notah Begay III.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 7, 2011 D3

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