PORTAGE la PRAIRIE -- He spent 51 weeks figuring out how to win and Jesse Skelton's formula got the job done Thursday at the Portage Golf Club
By swinging aggressively all day and paying as little attention as possible to the strong westerly gale, the 23-year-old from Breezy Bend won his first Manitoba Amateur crown by two shots with an even-par round of 70 and a four-day total of 10-under 270.
"I've been thinking about this since I was finished last year on the 18th hole at Breezy," Skelton said Thursday, referring to his co-runner-up finish behind clubmate Peter More last July at his home course. "I practised all winter for it. For amateur golf in Manitoba, this is the one you want to win.
"The match play is great, the junior is great, but this is the one you want."
The provincial junior champ of 2005, who will graduate from the University of Manitoba later this year with a commerce degree (double major of finance and actuarial mathematics) did indeed win the Manitoba match play last month.
But this title elicited a two-fist pump and a broad smile from somebody who wears one of the best poker faces for golf anywhere.
"It's so great," Skelton said. "I'm so happy and relieved that I got it done. I never make it easy on myself in these things."
His 54-hole lead of one shot was gone in three holes Thursday, and he was one behind eventual third-place finisher Derek East of St. Charles on the ninth tee.
Skelton rallied with birdies at the ninth and 10th to get back in front, and even with a double-bogey six at the par-4 11th, he was never headed again.
East, the 21-year-old college junior from Eastern Michigan University, had the front nine's best card in the final threesome, a one-under 34. But he struggled to four bogeys and a double at the final hole for a 40 on the back to finish five back.
The runner-up spot went to 19-year-old Josh Wytinck from Glenboro, who works at Pine Ridge. Wytinck started the day four back and was five back before a late rally of four birdies in the last five holes.
Wytinck shot 68, giving him all four days with rounds in the 60s, the only player in the field to accomplish that.
His 12-foot birdie at the last, however, only meant Skelton could two-putt from four feet for the title.
"The thing about a one-shot lead (starting the day) is that, well, if you lose a one-shot lead, it's not the end of the world," Skelton said. "But it was so windy and I was hitting it pretty good, taking a lot of good, aggressive swings.
"And you know what, I play with Garth Collings all the time and he knows how to play in the wind so maybe that rubbed off a little bit."
The wind was downright pushy on Thursday, with gusts to 71 kilometres per hour in the afternoon.
"Some shots you'd hit you'd think were real good and they were suddenly over the green or short," Wytinck said after his best finish in his fourth amateur. "Even putting, a few holes I had to factor in the wind and that really made it a grind.
"I played good the entire tournament, just couldn't catch Jesse in the end. But this is good for him. I'm really happy for him."
Two-time former champ Collings of Breezy Bend shot 69 on Thursday to pull into fourth spot, six back of Skelton.
Teulon's Aaron Cockerill (71) and Rossmere's Ryan Pitzel (69) tied for fifth at three-under, while Breezy Bend's Eric Johnson shot 72 and hung onto seventh, the last automatic spot Manitoba has been granted for next month's Canadian Amateur at Niakwa.
Defending champ More was in a tie for eighth.
Jesse Skelton -10
Josh Wytinck -8
Derek East -5
Garth Collings -4
Aaron Cockerill -3
Ryan Pitzel -3
Eric Johnson -2
Myles Sullivan -1
Peter More -1
Scott Mazur E