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Peterson out-duels Burleson at Minnesota Mid-Am
Trent Peterson (MGA photo)
Trent Peterson (MGA photo)

By Nick Hunter

PRIOR LAKE, Minn. (Oct. 4, 2018) – After playing golf as a professional for a short period, Trent Peterson regained his amateur status in 2013 and during that time, he’s claimed at least one state victory in each of the past five seasons, accumulating a total of 12 wins.

Peterson preserved his streak Thursday when he successfully defended his title at the 31st Minnesota Golf Association Mid-Amateur Championship, firing a 54-hole total of 12-under 204 to beat Justin Burleson by two strokes at the Legends Club.

“I’ve been playing OK, I just haven’t won anything. The putter was the issue all summer,” Peterson said Thursday. “I hit the ball fine—it felt like I hit every green at the [State Amateur], but I just couldn’t make a putt. I kind of went back to what I used to do and now it’s more free-flowing and I’m making more putts. Hitting it close helps, but making those 10- or 20-footers is the difference when I didn’t make those all summer.”

Thanks to a birdie on his final hole, Peterson carded a 3-under 69 during the final round of last year’s championship at Southview Country Club to come from behind and beat Andy Jacobson for his second win of the season.

“Last year kind of snuck up on me—I’m not going to lie. I was in the second to last group and I wasn’t really watching the leaderboard because I was a couple back and doing my thing. I kind of stole it,” Peterson said. “This year it was different because I was up there the whole time, knowing I had a good chance to win and came through.”

Both Peterson and Burleson pulled away from the field after the two each carded rounds of 6-under 66 during Wednesday’s second round, setting up a recurring battle to determine the champion Thursday.

Calling Valleywood Golf Course in Apple Valley, Minn., home for the past several seasons, Peterson and Burleson have traded blows in the form of club championships on more than one occasion.

Meeting in the finals of the 2017 MGA Mid-Players’ Championship at St. Cloud Country Club, Peterson handed Burleson defeat before Burleson returned the favor in the semifinal round of the MGA Players’ Championship at the Jewel Golf Club weeks later.

Meeting in the finals of the Mid-Players’ Championship for a second straight season in June at Brackett’s Crossing Country Club, Burleson came out on top before clipping Peterson by one stroke at the Minnesota Public Golf Association Mid-Public Links Championship days later.

“It seems to be back-and-forth every time we play,” Peterson said.

The defending champion Peterson entered Thursday’s final round with the upper hand, two shots better than Burleson and saw his lead grow to three following a bogey by Burleson at the third. The two traded short birdies at the fourth before Burleson sank a 10-foot bender for birdie at the sixth, while Peterson failed to save par, watching his lead shrink to one.

Burleson gave an emphatic fist pump when his birdie chance from 20 feet fell at the par-3 seventh hole and he would momentarily take the lead by a stroke following a bogey by Peterson at the par-4 eighth, his second three-putt bogey of the front nine.

Peterson bounced back by rolling in his birdie look at the ninth as the two would head to the back nine with a share of the lead at 9 under for the championship.

Unable to regain momentum, Burleson managed to save par at the 10th by rolling in a 20-footer and made a pair of key up-and-downs at the 13th and 15th holes to remain in contention.

Peterson dropped a short birdie chance at the 12th and then another at the 14th to take a two-shot lead late, while Burleson couldn’t convert his short birdie chance at the 14th from six feet.

Burleson made a charge late when his third shot at the par-5 16th rolled to a stop short of the front edge of the green before he buried his birdie chance from 20 feet to pull within one of Peterson with two holes to play.

Finding the front edge of the green with his approach, Burleson’s birdie opportunity from 25 feet curled off the left edge, leaving a tap-in par before Peterson rolled in his birdie putt to win his second straight MGA Mid-Amateur Championship by two shots.

“The driver was key—not one penalty off the tee,” Peterson claimed was his biggest asset this week. “It was either down the middle or on the edge. I could get up and do what I wanted with it. That was key. My wedge game was good all week. Those birdies I made the first two days, a lot of them were just short. I didn’t make long putts, I was just hitting it close.

“Goal number one was to stay warm—I started with six layers. It’s tough to swing with all of the gear on, but it’s better than being cold,” Peterson said as players faced frigid temperatures during the final round Thursday. “After that I just wanted to keep doing what I was doing because I was playing well the last two days.”

Despite his seven runner-up finishes since he began playing in Minnesota in 2013 after migrating north from Beaumont, Texas, Burleson quietly put together his best season of amateur golf to date.

He collected his first state win at the MPGA Mid-Public Links Championship in 2016 before coming up short in four tournaments last year alone. Burleson claimed the Mid-Players’ Championship in June and tallied his second win at the MPGA Mid-Public Links for his second title at the event in three years.

“It was cold, I held in there and it could’ve been worse than two bogeys. I made a few putts today and had a couple I wish I would’ve made,” Burleson said after his round Thursday. “I hit it pretty good once it warmed up a little bit. This is probably the first tournament since high school where I shot 10-under. I guess you get what you get.

“I’m mainly happy the putter is still there,” said Burleson, who’s taken time away from golf this season to tend to his wife’s health issues. “It’s my best year so far with a couple wins. I had to pull out of a few events, but all in all, I played better this year than any other year. They seem to get better a little bit every year, so hopefully we’ll continue that trend.”

Troy Johnson posted a 3-under 69 during Thursday’s final round, helped by dunking his approach for eagle on the final hole to finish third at 210, while Jerry Rose placed fourth at 213 as the only other players to finish the 54-hole championship under par.

ABOUT THE Minnesota Mid-Amateur

In 1988, the MGA Mid-Amateur Championship was introduced at Edina Country Club. It is similar to the Amateur except participants must be 30 years or older and have a handicap index of 6.4 or lower. The low 54-hole score determines the winner. It is one of the most popular events, aside from the Amateur, as 264 players start the championship with aspirations of the title.

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