MGA rallies late to win Minnesota Cup
Joe O'Brien and MGA rally to win Minnesota Cup <br>(Photo Courtesy of MGA)</br>
Joe O'Brien and MGA rally to win Minnesota Cup
(Photo Courtesy of MGA)
COON RAPIDS, MN (May 25, 2016) - With one match to play at the 40th MGA/PGA Cup Matches Tuesday, the professionals held a two-point advantage before a late surge by Claudia Pilot and Brenda Williams gave the MGA a two-point victory at Bunker Hills Golf Club.

Pilot and Williams both won the 16th hole to swing the match in favor of the MGA as the two would sweep all four points from professionals Angela Ause and Jody Christensen.

“I was thinking on the last hole, ‘What if this put means something?’” Pilot said following the match Tuesday. “I was just trying to get my putt close. We had no clue how close it was but I said if it does come down us, I don’t want to lose.”

The professionals still hold a commanding 27-11-2 lead all-time, but the amateurs have won three consecutive events, its longest streak since winning three straight from 2003 to 2005. Only one championship has been decided by less than three points since the two sides tied in 2004, with the MGA retaining the cup.

Pilot, The Pines at Grand View Lodge, and Williams, Windsong Farm, began by winning the first two holes to take a 2-up lead before dropping the sixth with a bogey. Regaining a 2-up lead with a birdie at the ninth, the two clinched the doubles match with a two-putt par on the 16th for a crucial two points for the MGA.

“The par on 16 was huge,” Pilot said. “We closed out the doubles match and [Williams] closed out her singles match and I went one up in singles. From there my mindset was to hit fairways and greens. I was proud of how we played on the back nine and finished solid.”

“We played pretty consistent,” Williams said, “I told myself I needed to just play my game when [Ause and Christensen] were out of the hole. Getting the speed of the greens was the toughest part for me today,” Williams said.

Jim Lehman and Jon Empanger played a big role in the MGA’s victory Tuesday, sweeping all four possible points from professionals Bill Israelson and Peter Krause.

Lehman, Windsong Farm, trailed early in his singles match against Krause, but would win three consecutive holes and take a 2-up lead after eight holes. Lehman’s lead was trimmed to one with a bogey at the 17th, but both players would par the final hole and Lehman prevailed, 1-up.

“I had two bogeys and one birdie today so I was pretty steady and I really only had one poor shot on 17,” Lehman said. “I started out 1-down but it was a close match all day.”

“It was fun today because I grew up playing high school golf against Bill Israelson and have known him since we were kids. Back in those days Israelson was the superstar,” he said. “[Krause] used to be the Director of Golf at Windsong Farm and he used to be my swing coach, so it was fun to have a match against those two.”

Empanger, who won the 2015 Senior Amateur Championship, rolled in a birdie chance at the par-4 13th to take a late 2-up lead and would hang on to edge Israelson, 1-up.

“It’s fun to play because there’s good competition but it’s a relaxed atmosphere. I enjoy the format—it’s fun to have two things going on at the same time,” Empanger said.

Leigh Klasse and Paige Bromen also contributed to the MGA’s third straight victory Tuesday, sweeping all four points from Lori Money and Kellie Hoiness.

Klasse, a three-time MGA Women's Player of the Year, won her singles match, 7 and 6, while Bromen earned a 4 and 3 victory and the two teamed up for a 4 and 3 victory in the doubles match to bring the MGA back within striking distance after the PGA jumped out to an early lead Tuesday.

Dale Jones and Bump Werness shined for the professionals Tuesday, winning all four points against Leif Carlson and Steve Whittaker as Jones and Werness played the first 12 holes at 8-under par.

Jones, a professional at Mendakota Country Club, earned a 6 and 4 victory in his singles match against Carlson thanks in large part to a birdie-eagle-birdie stretch to take a 5-up lead through the first five holes.

Rolling in a birdie at the 14th, Jones would close out his singles match while Werness took a 3-up lead after back-to-back birdies at the 10th and 11th holes before closing out Whittaker at the 16th with a par.

“We hit the ball well and had some nice shots, but we putted really well,” Jones said Tuesday. “It’s a fun event and it’s good camaraderie.”

Brent Snyder and Eric Rolland got the PGA out to a quick lead Tuesday by taking four points from Jesse Bull and Jesse Polk. Snyder won his match 5 and 4, while Rolland defeated Bull 3 and 2 and the two picked up another 3 and 2 win in the doubles match.

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