Cockerill riding wave of success ‘I know that I can win out there,’ says Stony Mountain golfer
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Food poisoning might be the only thing that can slow Aaron Cockerill down these days.
Manitoba’s top professional golfer is currently in England, where a severe case sidelined his plans to play in a U.S. Open qualifier this week.
“Twenty-four hours of it. Was a tough scene,” a mostly-recovered Cockerill told the Free Press on Wednesday in a telephone interview.
No question having to withdraw from Tuesday’s 36-hole event in which seven of the 83 competitors (plus two alternates) earned their way into next month’s major in Los Angeles was a crappy development. It is not one he’s going to spend much time sulking about, considering how well things have been going as of late.
Cockerill, 31, is coming off the most impressive month of his life, playing in four straight DP World Tour Events in Japan, South Korea, Italy and Belgium in which he finished second, 21st, 16th and 10th. He pocketed more than CDN $420,000 in that span, has rocketed to 23rd on the 2023 European order of merit and a career-high 218th in world rankings.
Not too shabby from the self-taught swinger from Stony Mountain.
“It was a great run on,” said Cockerill. “I think that was part of (getting sick). A couple of different continents. A lot of time changes. I didn’t miss a cut so it’s a lot of rounds, and I was in the mix almost every week. So it’s a lot of intense golf. I think (the food poisoning) was my body’s way of telling me take a day off and chill out here.”
Fortunately, he’s got some great company with whom to do that. His wife, Chelsea, and their three-month-old daughter, Addison, have been on tour with him the past two weeks. On Wednesday, they hit the streets of London as tourists, making the most of an otherwise ill-fated trip.
“We’ve been going around holding her up to every monument and attraction we’re seeing. We’ve got quite a collection so far,” said Cockerill. “She’s not going to remember any of these, but one day we’ll piece it all together for her.”
Cockerill and his clan are flying back to Winnipeg on Thursday, where he’ll spend the next couple weeks re-charging his batteries.
‘I think (the food poisoning) was my body’s way of telling me take a day off and chill out here’–Aaron Cockerill
Then it’s back on the road, where he’ll tee off against some of the best in the world playing on a sponsor’s exemption at the RBC Canadian Open in Toronto June 8-11. He’ll be looking to build off last year’s PGA Tour debut, in which he made the cut and ultimately finished 48th.
“Last year I was still just getting my feet wet and starting to have a little bit of success in Europe. I feel like this time, I’m more prepared and know what to expect,” said Cockerill.
“Obviously, being in Canada, this is a huge tournament for me. We’re going to do the same thing as last year. Family and friends, Mom and Dad are going to come, we’re going to all stay together and make a weeklong trip out of it, maybe see a Blue Jays game. It’s going to be fun.”
Cockerill will be rubbing shoulders with some of the best in the business, including Rory Mcllroy, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry, Sam Burns, Cameron Young, Sahith Theegala, Webb Simpson, and Matt Kuchar.
There will also be a healthy contingent of Canadian competitors including Corey Conners, Mackenzie Hughes, Adam Svensson, Nick Taylor, Adam Hadwin, Taylor Pendrith and Michael Gligic.
“It’ll be cool to see how I stack up against those guys. Hopefully play a little bit better this time around and see how we can do,” said Cockerill.
He’s also slated to play in PGA Tour events this summer in Kentucky and California as part of a DP World Tour partnership, along with a full slate of tournaments still to come overseas.
Cockerill is filled with newfound confidence, thanks largely to coming so close to his first pro win at the ISPS Handa Championship last month. He lipped out for a victory on the first playoff hole, before falling to Australia’s Lucas Herbert on the second sudden-death hole.
“I’m definitely still disappointed. Second is a great finish, but I want to win,” said Cockerill.
“You have to play so well. There’s 156 guys and you kind of need everything to go your way. And it almost did. The first putt on the playoff hole, half an inch harder or half an inch to the right and it’s a different story. Then if his drive doesn’t hit somebody on the second playoff hole and he gets a drop… all the stars have to align, I suppose.”
‘I know that I can win out there. I’ve been close a few times’–Aaron Cockerill
Cockerill is certainly making the most of his first fully-exempt year on the DP World Tour, after he earned his card last season finishing 107th in the rankings (the top 117 qualified). That allows the two-time Manitoba golfer of the year to pick and choose what events he plays, rather than hope for enough open spots on a week-by-week basis.
In addition to the magical past month, Cockerill also has a fourth place and 13th place finish this season, for a total of six tournaments in which he’s been inside the top 21.
Given his success, there’s absolutely no concerns about his status for next year. He’s got bigger goals in mind now than just hanging on to his tour card.
“I know that I can win out there. I’ve been close a few times,” he said. “It’s crazy when you think how fine the margins are over 72 holes. Like the breaks that have to happen.”
Cockerill still has a slim chance of getting into the British Open in July if he can climb a bit higher on the DP rankings by then. If not, he plans to play in a qualifier for the prestigious event, which will be held in late June. Hopefully, his stomach will be a little more co-operative than it was this week.
“It will be nice to take some time now to recoup, kind of look back on the last month, and take some positives going forward, for sure,” he said.
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.