MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. (Sept. 10, 2014) — After two days of challenging course conditions at the 93rd Minnesota Golf Association Senior Amateur Championship, Wednesday’s final round at Somerset Country Club didn’t get any easier as temperatures plunged, only to be made worse by biting winds.
Through five lead changes, Jim Lehman found a way to come from behind for the second straight year to capture the championship by a single stroke over Mark Knutson and David Haslerud, shooting 9-over par 225.
“There are a lot of guys who could’ve won this tournament,” Lehman said after his round Wednesday. “Throw in iffy weather conditions; I had no idea what it was going to take to win this tournament. I just kept grinding away, making as many pars as I could make.”
It was Lehman’s steady play through the unfavorable conditions late Wednesday that proved to be the difference, carding the second-best round of the day at 75.
Starting three shots off the lead, Lehman made a bogey on the second hole to fall to 7-over for the championship. He picked up a stroke on the following hole by burying a 40-foot putt for birdie before a double-bogey at the sixth dropped him to 8-over.
“That [putt on No. 4] was a bomb and a miracle-type putt. That’s one out of a hundred that I would make and it kind of got me back on track because I started out with a bogey on the second hole,” Lehman said.
The defending champion rolled in another birdie at the eighth, but it would be erased with a bogey at the par-4 ninth hole as he made the turn at 2-over for the round.
From there Lehman would roll in six consecutive pars before taking the lead (with playing partner Knutson) while walking down the 16th fairway after a triple-bogey by then-leader, Jerry Rose.
After a double-bogey by Knutson on the par-5 16th, Lehman took sole possession of the lead as he rolled in par, but Knutson would quickly pull back within one with a birdie on the 17th as Lehman made par.
On the final hole Lehman’s approach landed just short of the green while Knutson’s fairway wood rolled up and over the green where he would pitch out to six feet for par.
Lehman opened the door by leaving his birdie putt well short and couldn’t get his par to fall as he tapped in for bogey to finish at 225. Knutson’s par putt slipped just inches left of the cup and he would also make bogey, erasing his chances to force a playoff.
It was Rose, playing in the final group with Haslerud, who came out swinging early Wednesday and took the lead on the second hole after an early birdie and a double-bogey by 36-hole leader Haslerud. Rose then rolled in seven consecutive pars to shoot even par on the front.
Rose, Alexandria Golf Club, quickly began to struggle on the back with four bogeys through the first five holes, but managed to keep a thin lead heading to the par-3 16th.
His tee shot sailed far left into the hazard where he took a drop and pitched short of the green. Rose chipped past the flag and two-putted to make a triple-bogey, dropping to 11-over and would surrender the lead to Lehman and Knutson, who were 8-over.
Haslerud, Hastings Country Club, fell a few strokes off the lead after some early trouble on the front nine with a double-bogey at the second and three more bogeys before making the turn at 8-over, eventually pulling within one shot of the lead late.
The bogey by Lehman on the final hole gave Haslerud a chance to force a playoff, but his approach missed the green right before his chip missed the pin left as Lehman would clinch the championship.
“Any time you can win a state championship, it’s a huge honor and a huge thrill,” Lehman said of his second consecutive win. “I have invested a lot of time and effort into playing golf over the last few years. It doesn’t happen very often, but to be able to win a tournament of this magnitude in Minnesota is an absolute thrill.”
“I feel like I have a ways to go and I’d like to continue to compete at the national level,” Lehman said. “I played in the Senior British Amateur where I finished 24th. On paper it’s okay, but I want to be a better player than that. The only way you can do that is by winning tournaments and becoming tournament tough, and I feel like I’m starting to get to that point.”
For the second straight year Lehman will travel to compete in the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship, as he qualified for match play a year ago.
“I know all the good players in the country in my age group—I know how they play, and I know what I need to do to get there, and I’m working hard to get to that point,” he said.
Knutson, 2012 champion, finished fifth in the tournament last season felt that facing a deficit and demanding conditions during the final round was going to be a challenge.
“I knew being three shots back and with the weather that there weren’t going to be a lot of birdies made today,” Knutson said. “Grinding out pars was going to be the deal.”
“I played pretty solid on the front, but it was unbelievable how difficult holes were playing into the wind,” he said. “I couldn’t reach two—I had two good shots and I was 40 yards short. Overall I played really solid; I didn’t hit any shots off the map and just had two unfortunate breaks.”
View results for Minnesota Senior Amateur Golf Championship