Confidence is the key

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:17 AM ET

Being in contention is no longer a trouble spot for Stewart Bannatyne.

Bannatyne, the easy-going amateur golfer from St. Charles, embraces the role that was once difficult on his nerves.

He's come a long way since his final round meltdown in the final group on the final day of the Manitoba Men's Amateur in 2003.

Just a year ago, Bannatyne was steady enough to hold the lead each of the first three rounds at the Amateur before eventually losing out to Jordan Krantz, who blistered the Links at the Lake course in Gimli with a round of seven-under.

"It would have been easy last year to go out and shoot 75. The golf course wasn't that difficult but you can make it difficult," said Bannatyne, who shot his second straight 72 yesterday at Transcona Golf Club to move into a tie for 11th place at the 2006 edition of the Amateur Championship. "People say you can't focus on score, but I don't think I ever remember playing a round of golf where I didn't.

'ABOUT HITTING SHOTS'

"But at the same time, when you're playing it's irrelevant. It's about hitting shots."

Obviously, Bannatyne was disappointed he was unable to go wire-to-wire but there was another sound moral to the story: Bannatyne didn't lose the title, Krantz went out and won it.

"The big thing I learned is that I can do it, it was a good confidence booster," said Bannatyne, who is coming off a strong season at Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Tex. "It was nice to go out there and have that shoot-out. But it did make me realize there were a lot of things that I didn't do great. I made 17 birdies and an eagle in four rounds and finished five-under. I didn't make a double (bogey) but there were 14 bogeys in that tournament and seven of them I think were three putts.

"It wasn't the best possible golf I could have played for four days, but it was very good."

It was a potentially uneasy start to the event this year for Bannatyne, who hit into the water en route to a double bogey and then made bogey on the second hole to fall to three-over.

"You're thinking, 'wow that's not a great start,' " said Bannatyne, who tied for second with Scott Markham of Niakwa in 2005. "I had to look at the club and find out where the club face was."

But instead of putting additional pressure on himself to take some risks to get back to par or better, Bannatyne focused on the process of shot-making and by the end of the day was just one shot above par and within striking distance of first-round leader Tyler Mancini.

"You just plug along, it's 72 holes" said Bannatyne. "In a lot of tournaments, I'd have three good rounds and a poor round. Now it's getting to the point of playing four good rounds in a row."

Bannatyne, who is set to return in the fall for his final season of eligibility, has spent some time thinking about his golfing future and he may have gotten a glimpse of it last week while playing in his first MTS Classic.

"Yeah, it was super positive. I really enjoyed it," said Bannatyne, who missed the cut during the Canadian Tour stop thanks mostly to shoddy putting.

"Missing the cut wasn't the worst thing in the world, I wasn't going to live and die by the results.

"I'm looking to go that route (turn pro eventually) and I know I can play out there. I just have to tighten things up. Everyone hits the ball well and it's about making the putts and cleaning up the mistakes."


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