Nobody, however, was beaming brighter than former four-time champion Todd Fanning, who rediscovered an old friend — amateur golf.
“I was curious as to how I would play, not really what I would shoot, because even when I’ve been hitting the ball poorly, I’ve been scoring OK,” said Fanning, who shot even-par 72 in his first major competition since regaining his amateur status in January. “I’m ready to go. This is good. I hit the ball very solid today. I impressed myself.”
Fanning, 40, played as a touring professional for 10 years. He’s a four-time Manitoba golfer of the year and a member of the province’s golf hall of fame.
But it rained and blew on him like everyone else at Links on Monday, creating an unusual challenge at the 6,590-yard David Grant-designed course near the shore of Lake Winnipeg.
“This course was designed for a west wind and it blew out of the southeast and it rained and it was cold so I’m quite happy with 72,” said Fanning, who stood in a tie for third, four shots back of Mancini’s smart 68.
The only player between them was the only other player under par, former two-time champ Garth Collings of Breezy Bend, who was grumpy after a 71 because he bogeyed the last two holes by going in the water.
Mancini, 24, has been a top-10 finisher at the last three amateurs and showed Monday he means business again.
None of the top-10 players after Monday action had a worse start but Mancini recovered with gusto after making a double-bogey six at the par-4 second, a driveable 347 yards with the wind.
“I was two-over after two but I realized this is a marathon,” Mancini said after blading a sand wedge out of the greenside bunker out of bounds. “I’m proud of myself for staying with it.”
He rallied with four birdies in a row between Nos. 5 and 8, and nearly birdied the ninth. In all, he had seven birdies to set the pace.
Tied with Fanning in third spot are Breezy’s Brad DePape, Glendale’s Michael Goldberg, who birdied the last hole, and Southwood’s Shawn Baker.
Defending champ Brad Kirton of Pine Ridge was in a large group at 73 that included Niakwa’s Scott Markham, Pine Ridge’s Scott Loewen, Derek East of St. Charles and Eric Johnson of Breezy Bend.
“If you’d told me I’d be 71 at the start of the day, I’d have thought that wasn’t good enough,” Collings said after his stumbling finish. “This golf course, somebody will kill it. Maybe not in this wind, but Tyler was 68. I had a 66 on the board, four-under after 12 …and I just hit a couple of bad shots coming home.”
Fanning had said prior to his first amateur in 16 years that he was worried about his play from the tee.
“I was nervous on the first tee and overall, I chipped out twice and had one penalty stroke today, so the tee shots cost me a little bit but for the most part it was pretty solid,” he said. “And the course is just immaculate. The fairways are cut super short and the greens are perfect. We are going to have a good championship here.”
NOTES: It’s the first time since 1997 at Rossmere (when Jamie Wilkie beat Collings by one) that the championship is being played all four days at one course… This year’s tournament, save for the weather, has a solid leaderboard to start but it will take plenty to match its last appearance here in 2005. In the most thrilling finish in decades, Jordan Krantz shot a final-round 65 to edge Scott Markham and Stew Bannatyne by a single shot… Late-day lightning and thunder, plus some pooling water forced a suspension of play at 6:30 p.m. Monday with 69 players still on the course. The restart will go at 6:30 a.m. this morning and today’s tee times will likely be delayed by an hour.