Ziegler pulls off rare Colorado "Double"

Hale Irwin didn’t do it, and neither did Steve Jones, Dale Douglass, Bob Byman or Jonathan Kaye.

They were all well-known Colorado golf standouts, but none of them accomplished what Broomfield’s Steve Ziegler did this year.

The Stanford golfer, who plays out of The Ranch Country Club, on Sunday became the first player since 1985 to win the CGA Stroke Play and CGA Match Play in the same calendar year.

Ziegler, who wasn’t even born when Brandt Jobe pulled off his sweep of the CGA’s top two tournaments 24 years ago, claimed the Stroke Play title at Lakewood Country Club on Sunday, roughly five weeks after winning the Match Play at Bear Creek Golf Club.

“It’s one of the greatest moments I’ve ever had on a golf course,” the 20-year-old said. Winning both tournaments in the same year “means a lot. I thought about it even before the Match Play. It was a broad, grand goal, and it’s not easy to accomplish. It says a lot that the last player to do it is a mainstay on the PGA Tour.

“I’ve never done anything grander than this.”

Ziegler, a junior-to-be at Stanford, shot back-to-back 4-under-par 67s on the weekend for an 11-under-par 273 total, which was good for a three-shot margin over former University of Colorado golfer Tom Gempel. Gempel, the Pinery Country Club player who also finished second to Ziegler in the Match Play last month, closed with a 69.

Fifteen-year-old Wyndham Clark of Cherry Hills Country Club, winner of the CGA Junior Stroke Play, held the lead with nine holes remaining, but battled a balky putter on the back side. He made bogeys on 10 and 11 and ended up sharing third place after a final-round 71. Tied at 278 with Clark was CGA Mid-Amateur champion Jon Lindstrom, who shot 68 Sunday.

Since the Stroke Play joined the Match Play on the CGA schedule in 1937, only eight players besides Ziegler have won both events in the same year. The golfers who previously pulled off the feat were Art Doering (1945), Lou North (1952), Paul McMullen (1955), Claude Wright (1956), Gary Longfellow (1974), Chris Nordling (1979), Rick Cramer (1982) and Jobe (1985).

After being close to peak form for six matches in last month’s Match Play, then four rounds of Stroke Play this week, Ziegler certainly appreciates what it takes to be No. 1 in both events.

“I can see why the last time it was done was so long ago,” he said.

Had any of the three players in the final group won, it would have made for a good storyline. Gempel, who hadn’t made much noise at the highest level of amateur golf in the state until this year, had Ziegler on the ropes in the Match Play before losing on the 36th hole of the finals. And it’s a good bet that no one as young as Clark (15) has ever won a CGA Stroke Play or Match Play, though Byman was 16 when he claimed the 1971 Stroke Play.

“It was nice to be in contention, but I know I can get better,” said Clark, considered one of the top 50 junior players in the country despite just entering his sophomore year at Valor Christian High School.

Ziegler went so far as to say Clark is one of the three top junior players he’s ever seen.

“I was extremely impressed,” Ziegler said. “He’s absolutely legit -- a future All-American.”

Clark held the outright lead after the last four holes of the front nine Sunday. Gempel also grabbed the outright top spot, though only just for one hole on the front side.

“I’ve come a long ways the last six months, and I’m happy with my progress,“ said Gempel, who plans to turn pro and go to PGA Tour qualifying in the fall.

For the second straight day, an eagle proved pivotal for Ziegler. While holding a one-stroke lead, the two-time Colorado state high school champion holed a bunker shot from 23 yards on the par-5 12th. The eagle gave Ziegler a three-shot lead, and no one got closer than two the rest of the way.

“That was certainly the turning point,“ he said. “I had a one-shot lead, and that was nothing the way our group was playing. But when (the ball landed after the sand shot) my eyes got real big, and it all came out perfect.”

The victory was another major golf accomplishment this year for Ziegler. In 2009, he won his first college tournament, played on the U.S. Palmer Cup team, advanced to the round of 16 at the British Amateur, won the CGA Match Play and Stroke Play, and qualified for the U.S. Amateur, which will be played later this month.

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