Dale Leblanc was at the end of his rope, his patience worn thin by four unsuccessful attempts to become a touring pro, but the fifth time proved to be a charm.
Leblanc, who grew up in Thompson and has been living in Phoenix, Ariz., since 2000, finished in a tie for 25th at the Canadian Tour Fall Qualifying School in Ashburn, Ont., on Friday to earn non-exempt status for the 2007 season.
"This was my fifth and final time, as my wife tells me," said Leblanc, a 32-year-old who works at a golf course a couple days a week and has been learning to be a home appraiser. "It's a pretty exciting time for us."
Leblanc's Q-School didn't start well as he carded an 8-over 80 in the opening round. He knew this was his last chance and the pressure had an impact.
'TRYING TOO HARD'
"You want something your whole life and you feel like maybe it's slipping through your fingertips, maybe you're trying too hard," said Leblanc, noting his childhood friend Ryan MacKenzie flew up from Winnipeg to caddie for him. "You think you need to shoot par and the more you shoot for par, the more bogeys you seem to make. I got off to a really nervous start and got my butt kicked a little.
"I was trying to save the world when all I really needed to do was hit a golf ball."
Leblanc's story is an inspiring one.
"I grew up in Thompson, playing a small nine-hole course and if it was 2,900 yards, I'd be surprised," said Leblanc, who is looking forward to going home, painting his new house and being a father to his nine-week old child for the next few months. "I'm 32 going on 22, I hope. In relation to how much golf I've played in my life, I hope I'm just starting my career. Hopefully, my game is maturing."
PROPS FOR HORN: The news that Dauphin's Ryan Horn finished third and earned exempt status on the Canadian Tour next season brought a smile to the face of University of Manitoba Bisons co-coach and former Canadian Tour player Derek Ingram.
"Ryan was a big part of our program and we were happy to have him," said Ingram, noting university life wasn't for Horn so he only played one year. "He was a great team player, had great attitude and a fantastic work ethic. He had all the skills and he wanted to play golf. Ryan is a tremendous talent and he's got a genius short-game. One of the best I've ever seen. All I can say is it's brilliant. I'm glad he's getting some results. That's awesome. We're really happy for him and it's good for the program."
Ingram didn't miss a beat when asked what advice he might offer to Horn.
"When you're trying to play for a living, it becomes more of a lifestyle management," said Ingram.
"Managing your time in terms of getting your practice time and getting away from the game a little bit when you're not practicing or playing. And just doing the right things -- eating right, sleeping right.
"The biggest thing is he got to the Canadian Tour by doing a lot of good things. Now don't get out there and change things. The same recipe that got you there is the recipe that will give you success there."
Horn, who didn't play in the Manitoba Men's Amateur this year but has been working feverishly at his game, said part of his success had to do with growing up.
"I'm getting older, I'm a little bit more mature and I know a little bit more about my golf swing and my game," said Horn, who estimates he played between 80 and 90 rounds this year.