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On the road with Manitoba’s best golfer: Jawohl!

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HAMBURG, Germany — As far as work-related road trips go, this one’s a doozy. But if you’re going to keep up with Manitoba’s top professional golfer, racking up the air miles is required.

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Opinion

HAMBURG, Germany — As far as work-related road trips go, this one’s a doozy. But if you’re going to keep up with Manitoba’s top professional golfer, racking up the air miles is required.

Aaron Cockerill has been just about everywhere, man. And, for the next couple weeks, I’m going to be joining the Stony Mountain product on his globetrotting adventures.

First up is the latest stop on the DP World Tour, the Porsche European Open, which runs Thursday through Sunday at the luxurious Green Eagle Golf Course just outside Hamburg.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Adam Davy, PA Manitoba’s Aaron Cockerill is playing in the Porsche European Open, which runs Thursday through Sunday in Germany.

Among the established stars in the 156-player field are Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey, Martin Kaymer and Tommy Fleetwood. Not too shabby. But that’s just the appetizer.

Then it’s back to the Great White North for the main course next week as Cockerill makes his PGA Tour debut by teeing it up at the prestigious Canadian Open at historic St. George’s in Toronto.

World No. 1 and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler will be there. Rory Mcllroy, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, too, plus a number of Canadian players such as Corey Conners and his Winnipeg-based coach, Derek Ingram, who also works with Cockerill.

Yeah, yeah. Tough assignment. Boss didn’t have to ask twice about this one. Twist my rubber arm.

In all seriousness, this is big, bucket list stuff for Cockerill, 30, who is having a breakthrough season overseas and will be looking to continue the momentum in a major way. And it only feels right to check in on a homegrown talent who is out of sight, but definitely not out of mind for local sports fans.

Cockerill took a huge leap forward when he tied for second at a March tournament in Kenya, then briefly had the solo lead on the final day a few weeks later in Spain before finishing tied for third.

Not only did those results boost his bank account — Cockerill cashed cheques totalling more than CDN $320,000 for those two impressive finishes — they also put him on the professional map in a significant way.

He’s cracked the top 300 in the World Golf Rankings for the first time in his career. That makes him the highest-ranked Manitoban since Glen Hnatiuk was a PGA Tour regular a couple decades ago. Which is no small feat, considering we live in a place that is frozen and covered with snow for seemingly half the year.

Cockerill’s ascension has also opened the door for access to tournaments that previously would have been off-limits. One example: The PGA Tour sponsor’s exemption that will allow him to compete against some of the biggest names in the game next week.

That’s pretty sweet company for Cockerill, the two-time Manitoba golfer of the year who scratched and clawed his way through four seasons on the MacKenzie Tour- PGA Tour Canada between 2015 and 2018, earning CDN $37,000 total in 37 tournaments.

Qualifying as the lone Canadian on the DP Tour (formerly European Tour) in 2019 turned out to be a real life-changer. Although he’s not totally out of the woods career-wise just yet, his recent performances have provided a bit of breathing room.

Cockerill currently sits 40th in points rankings, which brings a level of job security. Each season, the top 100 earn full-time status for the following campaign on the second-best tour in the world.

He finished outside the top 100 last year and only had part-time status as a result, but his strong start is now opening doors to a full-time schedule in Europe.

After missing the cut in two of the first three tournaments this year and falling to 541st in the world, Cockerill finished in the money in five straight events — including those two close calls with the winner’s circle.

However, that was followed by two straight missed cuts in Spain and England. All part of the growing pains and steep learning curve for a young player now dealing with heightened expectations.

Since then, Cockerill took a two-week hiatus to return to Winnipeg for some family time and a friend’s wedding. He was supposed to get back into the swing of things last week in the Netherlands, but a positive COVID test kept him home an extra seven days.

Now fully recovered, he flew out of Winnipeg early Monday morning with enough of a layover in Toronto so that he could sneak in a quick practice round at St. George’s. He knows a massive opportunity is staring him in the face and wants to ensure he’s as prepared as possible.

Then it was back on the big bird by early evening — joined by yours truly — for a nine-hour overnight flight to Hamburg, through London, on top of a six-hour time change.

My in-depth, behind-the-scenes feature on Cockerill — looking at the athlete, the human being and all the people who’ve helped get him to this big stage and how all his hard work is starting to pay off — will run in the June 11 print edition of the Free Press.

Two tournaments. Two continents. Approximately 16,000 kilometres round-trip.

Buckle up. There’s a lot of ground to cover between now and then.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

History

Updated on Monday, May 30, 2022 10:29 PM CDT: Corrects spelling of Jawohl in headline

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