Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

North proves he's still No. 1 in Manitoba PGA two-peat

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After three straight runner-up finishes at the Titleist-FootJoy Manitoba PGA Championship, Carman's Dean North is on a new kind of roll -- a winning streak.

North, the No. 1-ranked player in the province, captured his second consecutive championship at the Selkirk Golf & Country Club on Wednesday, shooting a cool 2-under 69 in the final round to finish the 54-hole tournament at 4-under 209, three strokes ahead of runner-up Dave Lavallee of Quarry Oaks. The win likely locked up yet another player-of-the-year award for North.

"I said to (Free Press reporter) Tim Campbell last year that I went a stretch without winning a tournament for five or six years and I was kind of having some demons, wondering if I was ever going to win it again," he said. "To come and win last year and then win it again this year feels pretty nice, to know I've really exorcised those demons."

Along with the confidence boost, North took home a cheque for $2,250 and arguably the most prestigious trophy in Manitoba pro golf.

He entered Wednesday's final round tied at 2-under with Lavallee, with Glendale assistant pro Andrew Steep nipping at their heels two shots back following a second-round 68.

After nearly two decades as a pro, North was comfortable dealing with the pressure.

"The trick when you're so close with everybody else is to just manage your own game and try to ignore what they're doing. I try to cheer for them to do good things and then that motivates me to take care of my own game."

He did just that, and after mistakes by Lavallee and Steep on the front nine, he carried a comfortable lead into the final nine holes.

"I just tried to hit a four-iron too hard on one hole and pulled it underneath a pine tree and took double bogey on that," Lavallee said.

"And when you're trying to catch up with Dean North, it's a tough job."

Steep, whose round started promisingly with a birdie on the first hole before he got derailed by some three-putts, echoed Lavallee.

"When you've got the best player in Manitoba ahead of you, it's tough to come back on the back nine when you're spotting him five shots," he said. Steep, only 23, finished the tournament at 3-over 216, good for his second straight third-place finish at the tournament.

Lavallee shot a two-under on the back to make things interesting, but when North sank a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th to take a three-stroke lead, it was all but over.

"For three days I'd been watching putts roll over the edge and then that one just went right in the centre," North said. "And that pretty much sealed it."

Any lingering doubts he might have had were quashed when he stepped off the 16th green to find two of his biggest fans waiting for him.

"When I made that putt, I didn't know my wife April and (three-month-old daughter) Cora were here," he said with a smile.

"My caddy said to me, 'I knew you were going to make that because I saw your new baby girl and your wife here. I knew something special was going to happen."

April carried Cora with her for the final two holes, and they celebrated with Daddy on the 18th green after he holed his final putt.

North thought Cora's presence might have helped.

"First time she's ever been on a golf course and I make a 25-footer for birdie, so maybe there's a little magic there."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 29, 2010 C1

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