MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — Andrew McCain entered the final round of the 2015 Minnesota State Open two strokes behind Clayton Rask, but after just four holes Sunday, it was McCain who held a two-shot advantage over Rask.
McCain would hold off a late surge by Rask to win the championship by one shot as he carded a final-round 2-under par 70 to finish on top of the leaderboard at 10-under par 206, while Rask fired a final-round 73 to finish at 207.
“It’s been a tough summer for me and I haven’t played my best golf. Last week was a different style of golf and the greens here were a little less stressful and more benign,” McCain said of playing the state amateur at Northland Country Club earlier in the week.
“This win makes me feel better about the summer. I’ve had some mediocre finishes but I haven’t had a good week yet. I assumed one would come at some point—I didn’t think it would come at a professional event,” he said.
Following his second round Saturday, McCain said it was crucial to stay patient, especially on the front nine, and the birdies would eventually come.
McCain’s patience paid off Sunday as he put himself in position to make birdies on each of the first eight holes, dropping a four-foot putt on the fourth to get to 9-under before finding trouble off the tee on the ninth.
McCain’s second shot rolled off the back of the ninth green but he would recover by pitching to four feet, dropping his par putt to get up-and-down and turn at 1-under for the round.
With three bogeys over the first four holes, the 2010 champion and former Gopher Rask put himself in an early hole that he was unable to recover from.
Rask lipped out on the second and third holes before pushing his four-foot par putt right on the fourth to drop to 7-under for the championship.
Taking advantage of his length off the tee, Rask had a tap-in birdie at the par-5 fifth hole, but would finish the front nine at 4-over for the round after bogeys at the sixth and eighth holes, lipping out both times as McCain took a three-shot lead at the turn.
Dropping a short birdie putt to open the back nine, Rask would get back to 8-under for the championship.
With both McCain and Rask short of the green at the par-5 12th hole, McCain’s third shot from the right rough bounced perfectly on the green and rolled straight into the cup for eagle as he jumped to 11-under for the tournament.
Rask chipped to inside two feet, tapping in for birdie but remained three shots back after the eagle by McCain.
A birdie by Rask at the par-5 13th trimmed McCain’s lead to two, but McCain would slip at the 14th and 15th with back-to-back bogeys and the two pulled even with each other at 9-under par.
Both Rask and McCain found trouble off the 16th tee as both players pulled their tee shots into a row of trees in the left rough. Rask hit a low punch and rolled perfectly up to the green, stopping on the back edge with 12 feet left for birdie, applying heavy pressure on McCain.
McCain, Dellwood Country Club, would hit one of the best shots of the tournament as he also hit a low punch that rolled up the right side of the green and stopped eight feet right of the pin. He would drop his birdie putt to take another one-stroke lead over Rask at 10-under.
McCain would two-putt for par on both the 17th and 18th while Rask’s birdie attempt on 17 rolled just right of the cup and he would tap-in for par, one shot back heading to the final hole.
Rask put his approach on the final hole landed pin-high 15 feet left of the flag, but his putt would graze the left edge of the cup, refusing to drop as McCain clinched the tournament with a 2-under par 70 during the final round.
With the victory, McCain becomes the third consecutive amateur to win the event as Trent Peterson claimed medalist honors last year at Bunker Hills Golf Club, while Jon DuToit won the 2013 championship in a playoff at Edinburgh USA.
“There were some tricky pins out there so birdies weren’t that easy to come by,” McCain said. “I had a good shot on [No. 6] and had a tough putt, another good shot at [No. 7] and had a tough putt. The eagle on [No. 12] was huge and gave me a little cushion.
“The big turning point came on 16,” he said. “[Rask] and I both hit it in the trees and he hit first and hit a great shot--I was absolutely feeling the pressure. I figured he wouldn’t make birdie but I knew it was still do-or-die. I was really fortunate to make [birdie] there.”
A frustrating finish for Rask as he came into the championship with some momentum after a fourth-place finish last week at a PGA Tour Canada event, grabbing a paycheck of more than $7,000.
Rask will take home another $8,500 Sunday, finishing as the low professional, but says he’d prefer the hardware.
“I’ve been getting pretty comfortable getting a check instead of the trophy—I learned that one from [Don Berry] a long time ago. I’d rather have the trophy than the check. [McCain] played really well, he’s a heck of a player and got a bright future,” he said.
“Every read I had was a little more than I saw and broke more than I read,” Rask said of his early putting misfortune Sunday. “It was frustrating because I’ve been putting really well. I’ve got a couple things to work on—obviously back to the putting green, but I’m hitting it great. I just need to eliminate the simple [mistakes] and that’s been the Achilles heel for a while. It’s gotten a lot better this year, but I need to keep working.”
Erik Christopherson (StoneRidge Golf Club), Minnesota Gopher assistant coach Justin Smith (University Golf Club) and Donald Constable (Spring Hill Golf Club) finished tied for third at 4-under par 212.
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