Lefties Uhl, Soni named Manitoba’s top amateur golfers

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/11/2020 (645 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The future of Manitoba golf is in good hands.

On Wednesday, Golf Manitoba revealed Bobbi Uhl of Shilo Golf & Country Club and Neel Soni of St. Charles Country Club as the 2020 amateur golfers of the year.

It’s the first time either one of them has won the award, but considering Uhl is 20 and Soni is 18, it could be the first of many.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Bobbi Uhl, competing in the Manitoba Women’s Amateur Championship in July, was named one of the 2020 amateur golfers of the year.

Uhl was a two-time finalist for the female golfer of the year award and was able to finally get over the hump this time around. This season she won the women’s match play championship at St. Charles, an event she lost in the finals in both 2018 and 2019. Uhl also finished second at the women’s amateur championship. Uhl, an Erickson native, is currently in her third year golfing at Longwood University in Farmville, Va. She was in the middle of a team practice when the announcement was made, but she made sure her coach, Brittany Dabule, had her phone and was hitting the refresh button to find out who the winner was.

“We were doing a drill and once everyone was done the drill, I could tell I had won because (Dabule) made everyone stop and she started clapping and congratulated me and everything,” Uhl told the Free Press over the phone. “It was really nice and I got really excited. I jumped up and down for like a second.”

The other finalists for the top female honour were Rhonda Orr (Southwood), Veronica Vetesnik (Kingswood) and Crystal Zamzow (Swan River). Uhl said it’s been a goal of hers to win the award for quite some time. Longwood’s fall season has been cancelled and they’re currently settling for 20 hours of practice a week and intrasquad tournaments, but Uhl and her teammates expect to compete against other schools in the spring.

JESSE BOILY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Neel Soni plays at the Golf Manitoba Men’s Junior Championship at the Selkirk Golf and Country Club last July.

“I mean, it’s huge. In general, 2020 has been awful with COVID and everything else in the world just sucks. To be able to come out and win the match play, being so close to winning the Am, and then winning this award, it made it such a good year,” said Uhl.

“Sadly, we didn’t get to play this year at college but we get to play in the spring. Hopefully this good mojo I got going on kind of continues for the next year or more.”

Soni was also busy when the announcement was made. The first-year University of British Columbia student, who is at home and taking courses online as the school’s golf season was cancelled, was on his computer in the middle of a chemistry quiz. He admits to having a tough time focusing on the quiz as his mind was on the award. Luckily for him, it was worth the wait as Soni edged out Austin Dobrescu (Shilo), Braxton Kuntz (Breezy Bend) and Marco Trstenjak (Elmhurst) to win.

Soni capped off his junior career this summer with a junior men’s championship. He led the 54-hole event after the first round and held on from there with scores of 68-70-70. He then proved he could compete at the next level as he posted a four-day total of 289 at the men’s amateur championship for a second-place finish, three shots back of first. He nearly made history as no golfer has won Manitoba’s junior and amateur men’s championships in the same season.

“I tried more to focus event by event… Being able to perform well in both the junior and the amateur was really good to see after a lot of hard work. I’m definitely thankful to receive the award, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it was something I was playing for. It was more just playing the event day by day, round by round, and I’m really thankful to receive a reward like this.”

Soni took pride in showing everyone that the juniors can play with the best of them.

“I think for me, one of the things is also being a smaller guy. I definitely hit the ball a long way for my size,” said Soni.

“I’m trying to make sure I’m showing everyone that I can keep up with them hitting the golf ball. I focus a lot on my swing mechanics and technique, so, just showing with my work, if I play good, I’m really competitive.”

As for celebrating the occasion, well, options are limited when it’s a global pandemic, but that doesn’t make it less special.

“I guess celebrate with my family. A lot of people are really proud of me and reached out to me, which is really nice to see,” Soni said.

“I guess just taking it in a little bit. Unfortunately, I’ve got some more exams coming up in the next few days and I got to quickly shift my focus back and study for those, but I’m definitely going to enjoy it for a little while. It’s a great honour to receive.” 

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
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Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...

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Updated on Wednesday, November 4, 2020 10:52 PM CST: Adds photo

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