Hughes wins Canadian amateur crown

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:48 AM ET

WINNIPEG - He will have to wait a year but a golf dream will come true for Mackenzie Hughes.

The Dundas, Ont., native shot a 1-under par 70 at the Niakwa Country Club on Sunday to win the Canadian Men’s Amateur Golf Championship.

Hughes not only earned an exemption into the 2011 U.S. Amateur Championship with the victory, but has also been granted an entry into the 2012 PGA Canadian Open, which will be held in Hamilton — a chip shot from Dundas.

“I’m ecstatic to be playing in the PGA next year,” Hughes, 20, said. “That’s like, storybook. When it was in Hamilton the last two times, I was dying to be playing and obviously, back then, wasn’t good enough. Hopefully, next year, my game keeps improving and hopefully, I can have a good week in front of a home crowd.”

The Kent State sophomore, who was already in the U.S. Amateur, certainly had a good week, heading into the final round as the leader. He wound up edging defending champ Albin Choi of Toronto by two strokes, but it wasn’t easy.

“It was one of the hardest days of golf I’ve had to play,” Hughes said. “It was really fun. I enjoy being in that position but I was sweating big time.

“I got off to kind of a slow start. I tried not to panic. I made a few birdies on the par 5’s and that calmed me down. With five holes to go, I kind of let it slip and made it more interesting because I had a three-shot lead at one point. Got it done, thankfully and I’m happy to be a champion.”

Hughes bogeyed the 14th, 15th and 16th holes.

“I was saying, ‘What are you doing? You’re giving it away,’” said Hughes, who made a 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th to settle himself back down.

“Today, I’m a national champion of Canada,” he declared. “It’s a huge honour. I’ve had some close calls in these big events for Canada. It feels amazing. It’s definitely on top of my list for wins.”

Choi also shot 70 to finish second with a 2-under 276.

“I didn’t play very well today,” Choi said. “I didn’t play well enough to win so, I’ll just have to take second place. Hat’s off to Mackenzie, he played very well and made a lot of putts when it counted, and he was the one holding the trophy in the end. I was very happy for him. We’re all good friends and I know what it feels like, winning last year. It’s a great feeling and I’m really happy for him.”

Choi had also earned a berth in the U.S. Amateur later this month.

Meanwhile, Winnipeg’s Scott Markham finished at 2-over 286 to take the honour as top Manitoban over Todd Fanning (291) and Adrian Kibsey (295).


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