Wheeler teeing it up at Manitoba Open

Proceeds from tourney go to True North Youth Foundation


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If things go the way Blake Wheeler is hoping, he won’t have a ton of time to work on his golf game this spring because his Winnipeg Jets would be in the middle of a lengthy Stanley Cup playoff run.

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If things go the way Blake Wheeler is hoping, he won’t have a ton of time to work on his golf game this spring because his Winnipeg Jets would be in the middle of a lengthy Stanley Cup playoff run.

However, the veteran winger will still be looking to squeeze in some time on the links to get ready for the CentrePort Canada Railpark Manitoba Open in August. Wheeler, 36, has been granted a sponsor’s exemption into the prestigious event.

“It’s always been a passion of mine. A few of the guys have done the tournament and had a blast,” Wheeler said Friday following his team’s practice. “Competitive golf’s always fun. My game’s nowhere near where it was before I started having kids. But I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Mark Scheifele played in the tournament in 2018 and again last year, while Kyle Connor got the honours in 2019. Wheeler was originally scheduled to tee it up that summer, but had to withdraw due to family commitments.

“A hallmark of PGA TOUR Canada is how we try to engage with the communities in which we play. I can think of no better way than to have a player from the Winnipeg Jets play in the CentrePort Canada Railpark Manitoba Open,” PGA TOUR Canada Executive Director Scott Pritchard said in a statement. “Having Blake Wheeler as part of our field will add a spotlight to the tournament and allow Blake to feel a little different type of pressure than perhaps he’s used to.”

The 2023 Open will be held August 24-27 at Southwood Golf & Country Club. Net proceeds from the tournament will again go to the True North Youth Foundation to support its Project 11 Mental Wellness Program and to introduce the game of golf to children at Camp Manitou. Last year’s event donated $115,000 to TNYF.

“We are thrilled that Blake has accepted our invitation to compete in the tournament this August. We will have a full week of exciting and fun events that will promote golf in our province and support the important initiatives of the True North Youth Foundation and Blake’s participation will add tremendous excitement to that,” Neil Taylor, Southwood Board Vice-President and Tournament Chair, said in a statement.

Wheeler was asked if he’ll be going to Scheifele or Connor for some tips about the event or the course, which provided a humbling experience as they missed the cut on all three occasions by a wide margin.

“No, I’m more of a feel player. We’ll wing it,” he said with a laugh. “I’ll take it as seriously as making sure the ball goes in the hole, but I’m not necessarily going to go out there trying to break any records or anything. We’re just going to try and have a good time.”

And what about finding some time to work on your game?

“Getting away from the house for five hours in the summer (is tough). When you’ve got kids, that’s kind of where you want to spend your time,” said Wheeler. “But I try to play as much as possible. I’ve tried to nudge my kids into it a little bit, too. I’ll find some time and whatever happens happens. It’ll be a lot of fun.”

The Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks are the three worst teams in the Western Conference. They’re all in competition for the No. 1 overall draft pick this summer and the chance to select phenom Connor Bedard.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all considered legitimate playoff contenders, even if their seasons haven’t gone as smoothly as they’d like so far.

Go figure, then, that the Ducks, Coyotes and Blackhawks went 3-0 against the Avalanche, Flames and Blues Thursday night, outscoring them by a commanding 15-4.

“Every game is a battle. You can’t let up, you can’t take your foot off the gas pedal, because whoever you’re playing that night, they’re good players,” Jets coach Rick Bowness said Friday out of the lesson to be taken from so many upsets in a single night.

“I don’t care what they standings say about them — they’re good players. They’re in the National Hockey League, the best league in the world. So if they’re here, they’re here for a reason. It means they good players. Maybe things haven’t gone their way this far, but when you step on the ice, they’re National Hockey League players, which means they’re playing in the best league in the world and they’re capable of winning every night.”

Four players opted out of Winnipeg’s practice on Friday, but there’s no concerns about their availability for Saturday’s game against Philadelphia.

Forwards Pierre-Luc Dubois and Nikolaj Ehlers, defenceman Dylan DeMelo and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck all took a pass on hitting the ice.

“Maintenance. We’ve got a lot to guys banged up and they need maintenance days,” said Bowness.

Forwards Mason Appleton and David Gustafsson are the only two players currently on the injured list.


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.

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