ALEXANDRIA, Minn. (Sept. 13, 2013) – With a tap-in for par on the first playoff hole Friday at Alexandria Golf Club, Josh Blackman ended Sammy Schmitz’s two-year run as champion, winning his second Minnesota Golf Association Mid-Amateur Championship.
Blackman began his round two strokes behind the leader and carded an even par 72 before making par in the playoff to defeat Schmitz and David Steingart. It’s the second title for Blackman as he took home the 2005 crown when the championship was played at both Rochester Golf and Country Club and Cannon Golf Club.
“I got off to a good start in the first round at Alexandria Golf Club. I putted pretty well, but I didn’t play very well yesterday at Geneva. It was a tough course—I’d never played it before and didn’t really know where I was going,” Blackman said. “Today I wanted to keep the ball in front of me and avoid big numbers,” he said.
Blackman, Mankato Golf Club, began his round with nine straight pars, shooting even par 36 on the front nine to stay at 2-over for the tournament. With a birdie on the par-4 10th hole, Blackman was able to get to 1-under and made another birdie on the 12th to get to 2-under.
After back-to-back bogeys on the 13th and 15th holes, Blackman found himself at even par again. His approach on the 16th found the fringe on the right side of the green, but Blackman rolled his birdie putt perfectly to the cup and it fell to put him back at 1-under for the round.
On the final hole Blackman’s approach found the sand left of the green and his third shot rolled to five feet. Blackman pushed his par putt right and he tapped in for par to finish the round even par and 2-over par for the tournament (219).
“I scrambled well today,” Blackman said. “I didn’t really know where I stood and when we got to the 16th green people started to flock so I thought something was up. I had an inkling that it was between he and [Steingart].”
“My mind was calm but my body wasn’t going into the playoff,” Blackman said. “I got to hit last, which was nice. I put the ball in the fairway off the tee and hit my best shot of the day with a six-iron.”
Eight years after his first victory, said he’s proud of the way he competed during the week and didn’t give up after shooting 76 Thursday.
“It means a lot,” Blackman said after the victory. “I didn’t play in a lot of MGA stuff because we moved out of state. It’s nice to know that eight years later, I can still play as good as I did when I was 33. I think I’m better now than I was when I won the first time.”
Schmitz, the 2011 and 2012 MGA Player of the Year, had a chance to make par and force a second playoff but his quick, left to right putt just grabbed the right edge and refused to drop.
For Schmitz, Valleywood Golf Course, it’s the second playoff defeat this season. Schmitz lost to Minnesota Gopher Jon DuToit at the Minnesota State Open at Edinburgh USA in July.
“Overall the week was good and bad,” Schmitz said. “I played solid during the first round but I just didn’t putt very well. Yesterday was a nightmare. I hit six greens in regulation and didn’t get up and down. There were some tough conditions; the greens were really fast and I just couldn’t get a feel for the course.”
“Today I felt great, I came out flying and just didn’t convert on the back nine the way that I wanted,” Schmitz said.
He started with a birdie on the second hole to quickly move to 1-under before an eagle at the sixth hole moved him to 3-under par for the round. He made another birdie at the par-4 eighth hole and made the turn at 4-under par.
Schmitz continued his strong play on the final nine holes with a birdie at the par-5 12th hole to get to 5-under for the round, but gave a stroke back with a bogey on the following hole. With five consecutive pars, Schmitz would finish his round at 4-under par 68, and 2-over 219 for the tournament.
“Today on the tee I was set up in perfect position on almost every hole—except for the playoff,” Schmitz said. “I put myself in good spots all day and I putted well enough.”
“Going 0-for-2 in playoffs this year is a little disappointing,” he said.
David Steingart, Edina Country Club, started Friday’s final round one stroke behind the leader and posted a 1-over par 73 to finish at 2-over 219 as well. Steingart had an opportunity to win the tournament but made double-bogey on the final hole before going to a three-way playoff.
“I putted really well the first round at Geneva but didn’t strike the ball very well but I made so many putts. Yesterday [at Alexandria Golf Club] my ball striking was good and I putted well again so I had a good round yesterday,” he said. “The only short putt I missed all week was my bogey putt on 18,” Steingart admitted.
Steingart said his plan for the final round was to play conservatively off the tee, but depending on pin location, he would pick his spots to get aggressive.
“If the pin was tucked or in a dangerous spot I played safe. If the pin was open and in the middle of the green, I got more aggressive and tried to go at it,” he said. “The round today was up and down,” he said. “I had two-double and two bogeys—which is not like me. Normally I play like I did in the first two rounds with par, par, par and a birdie here and there.”
Steingart played in the final group of last year’s tournament but didn’t finish the way he had hoped.
“This was the best I’ve ever played in the Mid-Amateur,” he said. “This year I played well all three rounds.”
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