Home-course advantage

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

Leave it to Matt Johnston to provide a little levity at a time when all anyone wanted to talk about was the emotion of being in first place.

"I definitely know where the first tee is," said Johnston, the St. Charles amateur who shot a 2-under 70 yesterday to climb to the top of the leaderboard and take a three-stroke lead over Tyler Mancini of Pine Ridge after three rounds of the Manitoba Men's Amateur Golf Championship.

HOME COURSE

Since the final two rounds of the tournament are at his home course, Johnston, who recently completed his junior season as captain of the University of Texas at San Antonio golf team, won't have any trouble finding the first tee. Nor will he need to engage in any sort of psychological warfare with himself.

"My goal is always to play the best I can," said Johnston, who has a three-round total of 211.

"I get so pumped for the Manitoba Amateur. My dad (David, his caddie) has a blast out there and he tells me stories.

"I'm so sick of grinding and not having fun out there. I'm having a good time. It's golf. Pick a target, hit it and go find it."

Mancini, the leader after the opening round, wasn't striking the ball particularly well but did some nice scrambling to keep himself within striking distance.

"I had a couple brain farts out there and the swing wasn't great but I made a couple of good par saves," said Mancini, who had three three-putts.

"I got a little flustered from that but I caught myself right away. I'm happy with 73 because it could have been a lot higher. This keeps me in it.

"I'm three shots back but you can make that up in a hurry. I'm in the final group and I'll battle it out with some good friends tomorrow. It's the first time I've been in the final group on the final day in the amateur and I'm going to have a blast."

Stewart Bannatyne of St. Charles, Garth Collings of Breezy Bend and Brad Kirton of Elmhurst sit five shots off the pace at 216.

Bannatyne shot even par on his home course but wasn't thrilled with his round.

"It's frustrating to leave that many (strokes) out there," said Bannatyne, who tied for second a year ago. "All things considered, am I frustrated I shot 72? Yes and no. Could I have been closer to the lead or leading? Yes. But it's a fight. You're going to get some shots and lose some shots."

Bannatyne plans on using his local knowledge of the track to his advantage during today's final round and also embraces the chance to go toe-to-toe with a few of his buddies.

"There isn't animosity," said Bannatyne.

"It's going to be fun. It's where you want to be. You want to have a chance (to win) instead of being the guy who's on the 10th or 12th fairway when the leaders tee off."

Collings was steady yesterday and his 73 could have been lower if his putting had been better.

MOMENTS OF FRUSTRATION

Kirton, the second-round leader, had several moments of frustration during his four-over 76 but remains in contention.

Mike Tibbs of Pine Ridge is alone in sixth spot at 217, while Dave Michaleski of Larters at St. Andrews and Peter More of Elmhurst are at 218.

The top four players earn a spot on the Willingdon Cup team and a berth in the RCGA Canadian Men's Amateur Championship at Mississauga Golf & Country Club from Aug. 11 to 18 in Mississauga, Ont.


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