WAYZATA, Minn. – When Johnny Larson walked off the 16th green Wednesday at the Minnesota Golf Association Players’ Championship at Woodhill Country Club, he trailed Trent Peterson by two holes with just two to play.
Larson’s late surge on the final two holes evened the match at the end of regulation and on the first playoff hole, Larson stuck an 9-iron to three feet and rolled in his birdie to capture the championship.
“I kept the same game plan and didn’t do anything different than I did for the first five rounds out here,” Larson said after the championship. “I hit a lot of 3-woods and 3-irons off the tee to keep the ball in play and I tried to keep everything in front of me and made some putts down the stretch.”
Peterson, Valleywood Golf Course, jumped out to an early lead by rolling in a 10-foot birdie on the opening hole, and took a 2-up lead after rolling in another birdie on the par-5 third hole after his third shot from the sand rolled to six feet from the cup.
“[Peterson] is one of the best amateurs Minnesota has seen for awhile, he’s near the top of the leaderboard in every tournament he plays in,” Larson said. “When he gets up a couple of holes early, you really need to grind to get some holes back.”
Larson, Decotah Ridge Golf Club, responded with a red number on the sixth hole to cut into Peterson’s lead. Larson’s birdie putt slipped just inside the left edge of the cup after putting his approach eight feet from the pin.
Both players made birdie on the 339-yard seventh hole before a bogey by Peterson on the ninth evened the match heading to the final nine holes.
Peterson regained the lead on the short, par-4 11th hole as his drive landed short of the green. He chipped to two feet and rolled in his birdie to again go 1-up. The lead was short-lived as Larson responded with a birdie on the following hole to even the match again with six holes to play.
Peterson took a 1-up lead once again with a birdie on the 14th hole and after Larson missed a short par putt on the 16th, Peterson’s lead increased to 2-up with two holes to play.
Larson hit an iron off the tee to the middle of the fairway and put his approach to five feet on the 17th hole. Peterson put his second shot to about eight feet with the opportunity to seal the match with a birdie.
Peterson’s putt just missed the right edge of the cup as he would make par before Larson’s birdie try rolled to the cup and dropped, as he trailed by one with one hole to play.
Peterson found trouble on the 18th as he pushed his tee shot into trees along the right side of the fairway. He hit an impressive second shot that found the green and he was left with 20 feet for birdie.
Larson’s approach found the left side of the green as he had a chance for birdie to extend the match. His putt was a slippery, downhill putt that curled just in front of the cup, and he tapped in for par.
Peterson needed only two putts to close out the championship, but left his birdie putt five feet short of the cup. Larson breathed new life after Peterson’s par putt slid just past the cup as the championship headed to extra holes.
On the first playoff hole, Larson opted to aim right for the pin, an aggressive move as there was very little room to miss right of the flag.
“I’ve had that shot about a half dozen times this week. It was 140 yards right on the number and for me it’s just a little 9-iron. It started left of the hole and it fell to the right. I had a good line on it and it went to three feet.”
Larson said he told his dad, who caddied for him during the final match, that he was fortunate to still be in the match at that point and was taking dead-aim at the flagstick.
The result all but sealed the match as Larson had a 3-foot putt for birdie. Peterson’s approach landed on the front edge and after his birdie stopped short, Larson rolled in his putt to capture the title.
“I was fortunate to get a couple holes back late on the front nine and got it back to even,” he said. “The last nine was a lot of fun, but there were a lot of nerves coming down the stretch.”
“It’s as good as it gets,” Larson said after the win. “To play in a tournament like this at a venue like this is the reason I want to play amateur golf—I love it.”
Unfortunately for Peterson, Wednesday’s result was identical to last year’s tournament as he lost the championship match to Minnesota Gopher Genki Hirayama, 3 and 2, at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn.
“I thought I played really good today,” Peterson said after the championship. “I got up early, which was nice, but I made a couple mistakes and it got back to even. I got a lucky break on 16 when he missed his putt and I was looking good. I didn’t have a great drive on the last hole and somehow got it on the green and made a three-putt.”
“On the playoff he just hit a great shot—nothing you can do about that,” Peterson said. “It was a lot of golf but I’m very pleased with how I played. I wish I could’ve got it done time, but I’m playing some good golf right now.”
Larson downed Jim Lehman during Wednesday’s semifinal match, 4 and 2, before facing Peterson in the final.
With back-to-back birdies on the second and third holes, Larson took the early 2-up lead and never relented as his lead would increase to 4-up at the turn.
Lehman rolled in a birdie on the 14th hole to cut into Larson’s lead, but with a bogey on the 16th hole, Larson clinched the match, 4 and 2.
Peterson came from behind to beat Justin Doeden during Wednesday’s semifinal, winning 2 and 1 to advance to the championship.
Doeden, Legends Club, won three consecutive holes early on to take a quick 3-up lead. Peterson took advantage of a Doeden bogey on the fifth hole and after Doeden conceded the sixth, Peterson pulled within one.
The match went back to even after Doeden missed his par putt on the tenth hole, before a birdie by Peterson gave him the lead on the 12th.
Peterson took a 2-up lead with another birdie on the 14th hole, but Doeden jarred his approach on the 15th hole to pull within one late.
With a birdie on the 17th hole, Peterson closed out the match, 2 and 1, to advance to the final against Larson.
View results for Minnesota Players Championship Golf Tournament