DULUTH, Minn. At the 2013 Minnesota Golf Association Amateur Championship at Medina Golf and Country Club, Ben Welle carded a final-round 72 to finish in second place, one stroke short of winning the biggest tournament of his amateur career.
Firing an even par 71 to open the tournament Monday, Welle answered with a 1-under par 70 during the second round Tuesday at Northland Country Club to take a three-stroke lead, putting himself in perfect position to claim the prize that eluded him two seasons ago.
"I felt good today coming off a great round. I made very few mistakes yesterday and just made one bad swing today, really. I hit the ball better than I did yesterday,” Welle said after taking the lead Tuesday.
J.T. Johnson carded a 4-over par 75 during Tuesday’s second round while former champion Trent Peterson fired a 1-over par 72 for the second consecutive day as the two will begin the final round tied for second at 144.
Welle, Village Green Golf Club, got his second round started on the 10th tee and quickly rolled in birdie at the 11th before giving away a stroke on the following hole with bogey, turning at even par for the round after six straight pars.
A birdie at the par-5 fourth hole put Welle back to 1-under for the championship, but he would again pull even with another bogey at the sixth.
Welle bounced back with a birdie at seventh after putting his approach to six feet as he would again move to 1-under for the tournament.
Sending his tee shot wide right at the par-3 eighth, Welle showcased spectacular touch as he pitched to inside three feet, getting up-and-down for par. Another par on the final hole to shoot 70 and Welle would take the 36-hole lead by three shots at 141.
“When I birdied [No. 7] it kind of fired me up a little bit because I just gave a stroke back on six,” Welle said. “The up-and-down [on No. 8] was one out of a hundred—the birdie on seven and recovering on eight was the highlight of the round.”
“I’m hitting my driver really well and hitting the ball really solid, overall. I just need to continue to hit fairways and greens.”
Welle, who will begin his senior season at the University of Kansas this fall, finished tied for 21st at last year’s event before winning the 2014 Pine to Palm Championship in Detroit Lakes, Minn.
Johnson, Valleywood Golf Course, followed his opening round of 69 with a 4-over par 75 Tuesday and will enter the final round Wednesday tied for second at 144.
“I am absolutely elated to be where I’m at; no chance did I think I’d be here,” Johnson said following his round Tuesday.
Opening his round with a double-bogey Tuesday on the tenth hole, Johnson limited the damage early in his round by rolling in his birdie opportunity at the 11th.
Johnson would finish his front nine at 4-over par for the day after a bogey at the 13th before back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 17 and 18.
His troubles followed him to his back nine Tuesday as a bogey at the par-4 second hole put Johnson at 3-over for the championship.
Johnson managed to solidify his game over the final nine holes for the third consecutive round as he dropped a birdie putt from 12 feet at the par-5 fourth hole.
A bogey at the long par-3 eighth hole put Johnson back at 3-over for the tournament, but he would bounce right back with his third birdie of the round at the ninth to card a 75 and into a share of the lead with good friend Peterson at 144.
“I hooked it into the hazard on my first swing,” Johnson laughed following his round Tuesday. “I knocked it on and three-putted so I figured I got that out of my system and got back to even par where I’m supposed to be. I didn’t drive the ball as well but I putted the eyes out of the ball today—I probably should’ve shot 84 or 85.”
“I birdied all of the par-5s, had the double and a couple of unforced errors,” he said.
Peterson, Valleywood Golf Course, carded a 1-over par 72 to open the championship Monday and began his second round with back-to-back birdies Tuesday to jump to 1-under for the tournament.
Peterson, MGA Amateur champion in 2008, would make bogeys at the third and fifth holes and headed to the back nine at even par for the round.
Despite shaky results with his driver, Peterson was able to put together an impressive back side Tuesday with eight pars and a single bogey at the par-3 12th, carding a 1-over par 72 for the second consecutive round to earn a share of the lead at 144.
“I was trying to stay within shouting distance. I knew it was going to be tough and windy again but I like playing in the wind and I just wanted to keep it in play and I did that,” Peterson said.
“I was struggling with my driver, not spraying it, but steering it into the rough. Hopefully I can make some more putts tomorrow and keep the ball below the hole. If I can play the par-5s better, that should help.”
Minnesota Gopher and 2013 Minnesota State Open champion Jon DuToit carded a 1-over par 72 Tuesday and will enter the final round five shots off the lead in fourth place at 146, while three players are tied for fifth at 147.
The 112th MGA Amateur Championship concludes Wednesday as tee times are scheduled to begin at 8:20 a.m. at Northland Country Club.
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