Twice the bridesmaid but never the bride, Stony Mountain’s Aaron Cockerill finally got over the hump and won the 2010 Manitoba Men’s Junior Championship — doing so in dramatic fashion, beating friend and rival Myles Sullivan in a sudden-death playoff.
A sizable gallery had formed around Niakwa’s 18th green by the time Cockerill holed his championship-winning putt, raised his arms and grabbed his head in relief.
“I’ve been working for this for three years,” he said after being congratulated by a mob of friends and family. “I finally got it done.”
He was the runner-up at the 2008 juniors and finished tied with Sullivan for third last year.
After playing the first two rounds on his home course at the Teulon Golf & Country Club, he had built a sizable lead over the field with rounds of 71 and 68, but a rough 80 in the third round left him two back of Southwood’s Bryce Barr entering Friday’s final round. Barr, Sullivan and Cockerill were grouped together and went back-and-forth all day, culminating in a dramatic final hole.
Cockerill teed off at the par-4 18th with a one-shot lead over the other two and quickly found himself staring down a very long birdie putt to guarantee the title.
He missed, giving Sullivan a chance to tie and force a playoff. He did exactly that, holing a fantastic downhill birdie putt from the fringe — a shot he later said was probably the biggest of his career.
“That was pretty crazy,” he said afterwards. “I hit it and it started going, I thought, ‘Hey, this looks pretty good.’ It just kept trickling and getting closer and closer and finally went in.”
Cockerill and Sullivan both shot 73 on Friday and finished the 72 holes at four-over 292.
Any momentum Sullivan picked up on 18 went for naught, however, when his tee shot on the first playoff hole drifted left and landed behind a raised fairway bunker.
He nearly saved par with a chip from the fringe that went just wide, setting up Cockerill’s tournament-winning par putt.
“I’d played in a playoff against (Sullivan) before,” said a relieved Cockerill. “It took us five holes and he beat me so I wanted to get it done as quick as possible.”
The pair had actually faced off in playoffs twice before and are no strangers on the course. Their familiarity certainly hasn’t bred any contempt, though.
“We’re both good friends,” said Sullivan. “He’s a lot of fun to play with and a great competitor.”
“It was tough to see him make bogey (on the playoff hole),” said Cockerill.
“But at the same time, you’ve still got to win.”
Breezy Bend’s Alex Crawford finished tied with Barr, who missed the playoff after bogeying the 18th, for third thanks to a final round 73. They finished with 294 totals.