MEDINA, Minn. (July 17, 2013) -- When Sam Matthew began his round Monday at the 110th Minnesota Golf Association Amateur Tournament, he said he wasn’t nervous. Despite being just 20-years-old, Matthew shot 2-under par to sit one-stroke behind the leader.
When he began his second round, surely some nerves would start to creep in. Not according to Matthew, he remained completely cool and collected and shot another effortless 2-under par 70 to take a one-stroke lead going into the final day.
Teeing off in the final group on the final day of the biggest amateur tournament in the state, Matthew had to have butterflies on the first tee box. Nope. He again insisted nerves weren’t an issue.
It wasn’t until late in the round Wednesday when Matthew, Roseville, Minn., began to feel the pressure mounting, glancing at the scores as he was closing in on the championship.
“When I got to 16 is when I started to feel it. I looked up and saw that I had a two-stroke lead and that’s the first time I got nervous. I bogeyed the next hole, but knew all I had to do was make par on the last two holes,” Matthew said.
That’s exactly what Matthew did. He would make par on the final two holes to edge Ben Welle by a stroke, finishing at 4-under par 212 to win the amateur championship.
When his final putt dropped, Matthews took off his cap and with a wide grin, acknowledged the sizable crowd that had gathered on the final green as they cheered his 54-hole performance.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet. I didn’t change anything from the first two days this week. I just wanted to stay consistent and avoid big numbers,” he said.
Despite his thin lead late, Matthew still opted to use the longest club in his bag when many people would probably have chosen the more conservative approach to keep the ball in the fairway.
“I like playing aggressive—15 through 18 I decided to use driver off the tee even though you don’t have to and it worked out in the end,” he said. “I putted well again today; I missed some, but I made the ones that counted.”
Matthew didn’t start as well as he had hoped as he birdied the second hole but would make three bogeys on the fourth, sixth and eighth holes to go 2-over at the turn. The back nine told a different story for Matthew as he made three birdies and one bogey before ending his round with back-to-back pars to clinch the tournament with an even par round of 72.
Matthew will begin his junior year at University of South Dakota in the fall.
Welle, Moorhead, Minn., played another solid round of golf as he opened the final round with six consecutive pars before a birdie on the seventh put him at 1-under par for the day.
He gave the shot right back with a bogey on the eighth hole and made the turn even par. On the final nine holes Welle made two birdies that were erased with two bogeys and finished with three consecutive pars to end his tournament with an even par 72 (213).
“I felt good coming into today, I’ve been playing good all week and got off to a good start. I birdied the seventh hole but made a three-putt on the eighth to go even through nine holes,” Welle said. “I had two quick birdies on 11 and 12 and I missed a short putt on 13; I read it the wrong way and made bogey,” he said.
As Matthew and Welle approached the 15th hole, the two were tied for the lead at 4-under par. Welle’s tee shot found the first cut on the right side of the fairway and tried to hit a low punch shot under the trees.
“I hit a terrible shot with a 4-iron and hit it into the trees but hit a nice shot after that which rolled up to the green nicely,” Welle said.
Welle’s third shot ran up the fairway, onto the green to within 10 feet of the pin. But Matthew put his approach even closer as he caught the slope of the green and spun the ball back to eight feet for birdie. Matthew dropped his birdie putt while Welle’s par putt slid past the hole and he would make bogey.
“The difference was a few bad swings today. I thought I played solid all week, but one stroke can make a huge difference,” he said. “I didn’t shoot over par once this week—which, on this course is tough to do. I’m happy with the way I played but disappointed that I finished second,” Welle said.
Welle finished his freshman season in May at Scottsdale Community College and plans to transfer to the University of Kansas in the fall for his sophomore year.
After his opening round 69, Andy Jacobson would post back-to-back 73s on the final two days of competition and finished in a tie for third place with former Minnesota Gopher Robert Bell at 1-under par 215.
“I came in with a chip on my shoulder after my round yesterday—I’m not leaving with a victory but I’m happy with the way I played,” Jacobson said. “It didn’t happen for me today; (Matthew and Welle) played fantastic golf this week and they earned it.”
Jacobson, Eagle Creek Golf Club, began his round with two pars before dropping a shot with a bogey on the third hole to go 1-over for the day. He would make up a stroke on the seventh hole, but a double-bogey on the eighth hole put him at 2-over at the turn.
“That was a poor double-bogey on eight. I had an easy up and down from 12-feet and just hit the ball over the green on the edge of the bunker; it was a squirrely, downhill lie,” he said.
Jacobson made five straight pars going into the back nine, and on the 14 hole found just a glimmer of hope. His drive on the 14th split the fairway and had just over 200-yards left to the pin. Jacobson hit a brilliant second shot to 10-feet and with an eagle jumped right back into contention.
“I was hoping on 14 after the eagle that some magic would happen. I missed a birdie putt on 15, made bogey on 16 and missed another birdie on 17 so it was pretty much over right there,” Jacobson said.
“I’m leaving here happy—I wanted to win but I tried my hardest and that’s all I can do,” he said.
Bell, University/Les Bolstad Golf Club, came into Wednesday’s final round three-strokes behind the leader and made a strong effort to get into contention. Bell opened the round with a birdie on the first, he dropped a shot with a bogey on the second but came right back with a birdie on the third.
He made par the last six holes of the front nine to go 1-under at the turn. With a bogey on the 10th hole, Bell couldn’t make up any strokes. He recorded back-to-back birdies on the 11th and 12th holes but made triple-bogey on the par-3 13th hole to all but end his championship hopes. He rebounded with a birdie on the 14th and made par on the final four holes to finish the round even par and 1-under (215) for the tournament.
Bell will earn professional status Thursday to play in his first tournament as a pro Friday at the Minnesota State Open at Edinburgh USA.
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