WINNIPEG, Canada (Aug. 15, 2011) -- After a couple of near-misses, Mackenzie Hughes has broken through to win the Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship.
The 20-year-old from Dundas, Ont., held off a challenge from defending champion Albin Choi to secure a two-shot victory at Niakwa Country Club in Winnipeg.
Hughes, a member of Canada’s national amateur team, had tied for fifth place in 2010 and third the year before.
“To say I’m a national champion of Canada is a huge honour,” said Hughes, who is entering his senior season at Kent State University in Ohio. “It’s been a long-time coming. I’ve had some close calls in these big events for Canada, so this feels amazing. Definitely, at the top of my list for wins.”
Hughes faltered on the back nine Sunday, posting three consecutive bogeys beginning at the 14th hole, and was tied with Choi after 16 holes. But he coaxed in a 10-foot putt for birdie on the par-three 17th at the classic Stanley Thompson-designed course to regain his one-stroke advantage.
Choi, also a national amateur team member, needed a birdie on the last hole to force a playoff but made a three-putt bogey as Hughes made par.
Both shot one-under-par 71 on Sunday. Hughes, who had led by two after three rounds as well, finished at 10-under 274.
“It was one of the hardest days of golf that I’ve had to play,” Hughes said. “It was really fun and I enjoyed being in that position, but I was sweating, big time. Thankfully, I got it done.”
An Ontario has now won the Championship four years in a row.
Choi, 19, of Toronto, was looking to become the 13th man in the tournament’s 107-year history to repeat as champion.
In addition to getting his name etched on the Earl Grey Cup alongside some of the greats of Canadian golf, including Richard Zokol, Jim Nelford, Gary Cowan, Moe Norman and Ross Somerville, Hughes earns a berth in the PGA Tour’s 2012 RBC Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, near his home in Dundas.
“That’s storybook,” Hughes said. “Whenever (the Canadian Open) is at Hamilton, the last two times it was there, I was dying to be there playing. Obviously, back then I wasn’t good enough, but next year hopefully my game keeps improving and I can have a good week in front of the home crowd.”
He would have also picked up an invitation to the U.S. Amateur this month in Wisconsin but had already qualified.
Jacob Patte of Oshawa, Ont., turned in the best score of the final round, a 66, to surge into a tie for third place with a trio of fellow Canadians: Wilson Bateman of Spruce Grove, Alta., Cory Renfrew of Victoria and Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont. Bateman and Renfrew had shared the second-round lead.
The top finishers among the 38 international competitors were Americans Matt Hansen and first-round leader T.J. Bordeaux. They shared seventh spot at four under.
For Hughes, the victory caps an impressive year in which he also won the prestigious Glencoe Invitational in Calgary in June and the Mid-American Conference Championship in May while representing Kent State.
He also took medalist honours at a U.S. Open regional qualifying tournament and played his way into a Canadian Tour event in Calgary by winning a Monday qualifier. His success took him to No. 155 in the world amateur ranking entering the Canadian Men’s Amateur, which made him the country's third-best male amateur, behind No. 37 Choi and No. 108 Charlie Hughes. Both Mackenzie Hughes and Choi are certain to rise when the ranking is updated this week.