Collings dominant in 2006

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

There was significant change, but some things stayed the same during the 2006 Manitoba golf season.

Garth Collings, who had himself another fantastic season and was named Labatt Manitoba Amateur Golfer of the Year for the fourth time in what is becoming an illustrious career, is a prime example of the status quo reigning supreme.

The Breezy Bend member won his fifth Manitoba mid-amateur crown by a whopping 11 strokes, took home his fourth consecutive Saskatchewan mid-amateur crown, placed fourth in the Manitoba men's amateur to secure a spot on the Willingdon Cup team for the 12th time and also captured his sixth Grey Owl championship (with a tournament record score to boot).

Brandon's Kaitlin Troop had one of the most impressive golf seasons in recent history as she pulled off a rare double-double, lapping the field to win the women's junior title by 29 strokes and then holding off her cousin and friend Stacey Bieber of St. Charles by nine strokes to win her first Women's amateur crown.

Troop was the first person to claim both titles since Tannys Aspevig of Rossmere accomplished the feat in 1967.

At the ultra-competitive Manitoba men's amateur, Matt Johnson of St. Charles came through on his home course to win the coveted title for the first time in his young career.

Johnston, who is playing his senior season at the University of Texas at San Antonio, also made it to the round of 16 in match play at the Canadian Amateur.

Another one of the great stories on the amateur scene was the continued emergence of the Bisons golf program at the University of Manitoba under the tutelage of coaches Garth Goodbrandson and Derek Ingram.

The Bisons had another great showing at the CIS/Canadian College national championship as both the men's and women's teams finished third.

The individual performances of Brad Kirton, who tied for third, and Tyler Mancini, who tied for ninth, were also impressive.

Kirton's strong play was enough to earn a trip to the World University Golf Championship in Italy, where he tied for 31st while representing Canada.

At the professional level, it was a tough year for players from the keystone province.

Selkirk's Glen Hnatiuk was frustrated during his Nationwide Tour season and at one point, decided to take a few weeks off from the game to get refreshed mentally.

He eventually returned, but came to the conclusion at the end of the season that he won't be touring in 2007.

Hnatiuk, who made $54,675 while playing in 20 Nationwide Tour events, plans to rehab an injury and spend some time in Florida getting his game back on track. He is expected to go to PGA Tour Q-School next fall.

The former PGA Tour member isn't the only one taking a break from the touring grind in 2007.

Long-time mainstay and Pine Ridge dynamo Rob McMillan won't be playing on the Canadian Tour next season, perhaps with the exception of the Winnipeg stop on the circuit in July.

McMillan finished 51st on the Canadian Tour's Rolex Order of Merit with $8,389 in earnings but never really found his groove. He made eight of 11 cuts but his best finish was a tie for 12th in what was his second tournament of 2006.

PRODUCTIVE

The top Manitoban on the Canadian Tour last season was Adam Speirs of St. Charles, who was 46th with $9,997 in earnings in what was his most productive season since turning professional.

Speirs made it to the second stage of PGA Tour Q-School and though he faltered in the first two rounds, he finished with two rounds in the 60s and is hoping to make further strides in 2007.

Speirs won't be the only Manitoban playing regularly on the Canadian Tour though, since Dauphin-product Ryan Horn placed second at the fall qualifying school to earn full-time status for 2007.

Horn, who spent the summer working at the Dauphin Lake Golf Club and didn't even compete in the Manitoba Amateur, is a former Manitoba junior champ with an outstanding short game.

Another great story coming out of Canadian Tour Q-school was provided by Dale Leblanc of Thompson. Leblanc, who now lives in Arizona, earned non-exempt status during his fifth and final attempt at Q-school -- despite shooting 80 in the first round.

The 2006 MTS Classic provided its share of heated moments before Josh Habig -- who made a bold fashion statement during the final round with some bright yellow pants -- won his first Canadian Tour event, outlasting the colourful Darren Griff by two strokes.

And Carman's Dean North, now the head pro at the Selkirk Golf & Country Club, outlasted the competition to win his second straight Callaway Manitoba PGA Player of the Year award.


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