DULUTH, Minn. — An eagle on the second hole Wednesday, gave Minnesota Gopher Jon DuToit the boost he would need to fire a 3-under par 68 to overcome a five-stroke deficit to win the 112th Minnesota Golf Association Amateur Championship at Northland Country Club.
Ben Welle entered Wednesday’s final round with a three-stroke lead over J.T. Johnson and Trent Peterson at 141, but he would shoot a 3-over par 74 during the final round to finish in second place by one shot for the second time in three years.
With the victory Wednesday, DuToit adds another title to his already impressive amateur golf resume, which includes a Class AAA state championship (which he shared with Welle in 2012), a Big Ten team title as well as the 2013 Minnesota State Open crown.
“This win is big—especially after the state open win, I struggled a bit with the game and didn’t play that well. But I’ve been working really hard and I can’t really put it into words,” DuToit said Wednesday.
“Coming in this week I haven’t played that much, tournament-wise. I’ve been practicing and I was refreshed coming in. The first couple of rounds were good, I haven’t seen this course since sixth grade, and it was nice to come out and get a good feel for the course the first couple rounds,” he said.
DuToit, Chaska Town Course, fueled his final round Wednesday by sinking his 50-yard approach from the fairway on the second hole to jump to 2-over for the championship and immediately into contention.
“You don’t really expect to hole shots from 50-plus yards, but that gave me a nice jump start, especially after hole three, a tough hole, to be 3-under through three holes was a nice momentum builder,” DuToit said.
After a string of six straight pars, DuToit would take advantage of his birdie look at the ninth hole and would make the turn at 1-over par for the tournament, just one shot off Welle’s lead.
DuToit would take control of the tournament after a par at the 13th, while Welle carded back-to-back bogeys to slip to 2-over.
With one of the most remarkable performances of the week, DuToit rolled in nine consecutive pars over the final nine holes, including a key up-and-down at No. 15 after his tee shot flared right and was forced to hit a cut into the 15th green.
DuToit was able to two-putt for par from the back of the green to maintain the lead before placing his tee shot pin-high, 20 feet away at No. 17, making another fundamental two-putt for par.
Leaving his approach on the final hole short by 30 feet, DuToit rolled his third to within three making, dropping yet another par to card a 68 and finish at 1-over par 214.
“I was just trying to trying to hang on, I don’t know if that was the best approach, but I was able to hole some nice par putts and keep the ball in play. The biggest challenge for me, besides the greens because they were tricky, was the weather the first couple of days,” DuToit said following his round Wednesday, “I know a lot of people were getting frustrated and not handling it very well, so I tried to stay patient and take advantage of the opportunities when they were there.”
“My goal was 4-under to get it back to even—I thought I would have somewhat of a chance and I wasn’t watching scoreboards or anything, so when I finished, my teammates said I had a one-shot lead and that’s the first that I knew,” he said.
Another consistent round by Welle was overshadowed by a couple of missed putts and two late bogeys as he finished second for the second time after losing to Sam Matthew by a stroke in 2013 at Medina Golf and Country Club.
“It’s a learning experience, finishing off rounds and making those two or three-footers coming in,” he said. “[First place] would’ve been ideal, but I’m happy with my play this week and I’ve got nothing to hang my head about,” Welle said.
Welle, Village Green Golf Club, made bogey at the par-4 third hole to slip to even for the tournament but answered with a tap-in birdie at the fourth to move back to 1-under.
Putting his tee shot in the long grass left of the sixth green, Welle chopped out short of the green, failing to get up-and-down for par and dropped to 1-over.
He would relinquish the lead after back-to-back bogeys at the 12th and 13th, sitting one shot back until the final hole.
With DuToit in the clubhouse at 1-over par 214, Welle needed birdie to force a playoff and would put his approach 10 feet right of the pin. His birdie putt missed the left edge and he would make par, finishing in second place at 2-over par 215.
“I played solid on the front and made one mistake on six and put it in the fescue,” he said. “I didn’t make birdie on nine, which happens, but I felt good about the front. It was the back that kind of got to me.”
“I missed the two-footer on 11 and missed right on 12, which you can’t do. I hit a good wedge shot, I thought, into 13 but it one-hopped over into the rough for a bad bogey there,” he said. I gave myself looks coming in but I just couldn’t make any of them. This one round nothing really fell my way.”
Trent Peterson, winner in 2009, carded a final-round 73 to finish tied for third with Sammy Schmitz and David Stein at 4-over par 217.
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