GOLDEN VALLEY, MN (August 31, 2016) -- While he’s collected eight amateur victories to add to his golf resume over the last 15 years, Wednesday’s victory at the 95th Minnesota Golf Association Senior Amateur Championship might be Jim Lehman’s most significant, and certainly most impressive.
Lehman posted a 5-under par 68 during the final round Wednesday at Golden Valley Golf and Country Club to cruise to an 11-shot victory over Jerry Rose and David Haslerud, claiming his third MGA Senior Amateur title in the last four years.
“I was very nervous—I really wanted to win this thing. I really wanted to come in here and play well and I put a lot of pressure on myself,” Lehman said Wednesday. “I missed the cut last year and it was disappointing to play so poorly after having two good years before that.
“They’ve all felt really good but this one may feel the best because I’ve put so much pressure on myself. The first two I didn’t really have huge expectations. Today I had huge expectations.”
While Lehman’s win Wednesday is certainly the biggest margin of victory in recent history, Dave Tallman’s 13-shot win over Nat Rogers in 1927 at Somerset Country Club still stands as the most lopsided victory in tournament history.
Lehman began with a birdie on the opening hole, similar to what he’s done all week, landing his second shot short of the green at the par-5 and putted to within a few feet for a tap-in birdie.
He repeated that tactic at the par-5 sixth and would move to 4-under for the championship. His only blemish on the scorecard came at the par-5 10th, where he was unable to get up-and-down for par.
Lehman answered by sinking a 40-foot putt for birdie at the 12th and added back-to-back birdies at the 13th and 14th to get to 6-under and take an insurmountable nine-shot lead.
After a 10-foot comebacker for par at the 15th, Lehman said he felt like he was in full control. “That made me feel pretty good and at that point I knew I didn’t have to do anything heroic the last three holes. Then I hit a really good drive on 16 that gave me the opportunity to make a routine [par].”
Nearly dropping his eagle chance on the final hole, Lehman rolled in his short birdie to claim the championship by 11 shots at 212, posting his fifth consecutive round below par.
“The mindset was to keep doing what I had been doing, be patient and hit good shot after good shot the best I could. I actually started out a little shaky; I birdied the first hole, but hit poor drives on two and three. After that, I don’t know what happened, I felt a calmness. I had having six birdies today—that’s not like me.
“I work really hard on my game and I practice a lot. I don’t play that many rounds of golf other than tournament rounds, but I practice almost every day. I feel like after doing this for a few years, I think it’s really helping and benefitting me.”
Lehman entered the final round of the 2013 championship tied for the lead with David Kokesh before a huge putt on the 17th hole gave him a one-stroke victory at Bearpath Country Club.
The two-time MGA Senior Men’s Player of the Year overcame a three-stroke deficit to successfully defend his title in 2014 at Somerset Country Club.
“I’ve never had a lead like that before,” Lehman said of his two-shot advantage over Rose prior to the final round Wednesday. “If you can get off to a good start it’s important in any round. It gives me a chance to calm down a little bit and maybe the nerves go away a little bit. It was the most freed up I’ve felt swinging the golf club in a long time. Knowing I could make a big number [on the final hole] and still win was a very unusual experience.”
Rose opened the championship with a 2-over par 75 Monday before firing a 2-under par 71 during the second round Tuesday. But despite rolling in five birdies Tuesday, Rose said he struggled to put the ball in the right spots on the menacing and heavily sloped greens at Golden Valley.
That trend, along with trouble off the tee to begin his final round, plagued Rose early Wednesday, but he scrambled well to grind out a 1-over par 38 on the front nine. His approach rolled back off the front of the edge at the par-4 third hole, nearly sinking a 50-footer for birdie as his ball bounced off the right edge of the cup.
Rose’s third at the par-5 sixth found the left greenside bunker before hitting out inside five feet and converting birdie to move to 1-under for the tournament. Back-to-back bogeys at the seventh and eighth put Rose at 1-over for the championship before he had to make another clutch two-putt after his approach landed behind the ninth flag and rolled off the front edge.
Beginning the round two shots behind Lehman, Rose fell four shots back to begin the final nine and would take a double-bogey at the par-3 14th to fall even further behind. A three-putt for bogey at the 16th would put Rose at 77 for the day and he would finish in a tie for second with Haslerud at 233.
“I was expecting to score better today, for sure,” Rose said following his round Wednesday, “I got in the wrongs spots again today and I was spinning the ball too much and I couldn’t keep them on the greens. I had a couple of good shots, like the one on 9, I hit it 10 feet past the hole and it backs all the way off the green and you’ve got a tougher third shot than you did second shot.
“It was really more around the greens than anything today. I played okay; I’m disappointed in the way I played today. It’s a game of inches, especially on this course. A couple feet one way or the other and I certainly shoot even par.”
Rose carded a 1-over par 72 at White Bear Yacht Club on August 15 to earn a share of medalist honors and qualify for the 2016 U.S. Senior Amateur Championship September 17-22 at Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis, Mo.
“[Lehman] played really well today and I would’ve had to have played even better, but I’m happy for him and thrilled to see him win. He deserves it,” Rose said.
Haslerud entered the final round five shots off Lehman’s lead and carded three bogeys over the first seven holes before drawing even for the day with three birdie in a six-hole span Wednesday.
A bogey at the par-5 15th would put Haslerud into the clubhouse with a final-round 74 and into a tie for second with Rose at 223.
View results for Minnesota Senior Amateur Golf Championship