HASTINGS, Minn. (July 18, 2012) -- In retrospect, there was a kind of inevitability to Frederick Van Rooyen's victory on Wednesday in the MGA State Amateur.
The University of Minnesota senior-to-be from South Africa took the lead in the second round, when he shot a 3-under-par 68 at Hastings Country Club. He followed that with a 73 in the final round, which gave him a 54-hole total of 213 and a three-stroke cushion between himself and the three players who tied for second -- former champ David Christensen, Sammy Schmitz and Matt Schneider.
It's been 45 years since the State Am switched from match play to stroke play. Since then, there have been 20 -- out of a possible 46 -- winners who were either current Minnesota players or alumni, and the Gophers have tended to win their titles in bunches, beginning with a stretch of six in a row from 1970 to '75.
They also won two in a row (1980-81), three in a row ('85-87), four in a row (1998-2001) and now another two in a row.
A year ago, Donald Constable, who had recently concluded his senior season as the No. 1 player for Minnesota, won the State Am. He was succeeded as the No. 1 player in the Gopher lineup by Van Rooyen during the 2011-12 season.
So it seems fitting that Van Rooyen also replace Constable as the State Amateur champion. (Constable was absent this week because he's playing a national schedule of amateur tournaments this summer, and he's at the Porter Cup in Niagra Falls, N.Y., this week.)
But if Van Rooyen was the heir apparent, his ascension to the throne wasn't exactly seamlessly smooth.
His round started well enough. Although he pushed his tee shot slightly at No. 1 (520 yards, par 5), he had no trouble carrying the trees on the right and cutting the dogleg. He had only a 5-iron left from there, and made a 5-foot putt for his birdie.
A bogey at the No. 4 (435, par 4) was offset by a birdie at No. 7 (485, par 5).
"I would have hit a 3-wood off that tee," Van Rooyen noted. "But I broke my 3-wood on the practice range yesterday."
Which meant that for the last two rounds, he played with 13 clubs. That didn't seem to hinder him. At the 16th, he cut the corner with another of his towering drives, and instead of having a 5-iron left to the green, he had a 167-yard 8-iron.
The result was an easy, two-putt par.
Then he hit a rough patch. A bogey at the difficutl, 215-yard, par-3 eighth (the nines at Hastings were reversed this week; so that would normally be the 17th) was a big deal, but he also bogeyed the relatively easy, 335-yard, par-4 18th.
"I just hit a bad tee shot there," he said. "I hit a rescue that faded too much, and I ended up behind a tree."
That was followed by a double bogey at No. 10 (415, par 4).
"It was tough today," Van Rooyen conceded. "The wind made it tricky, and I was feeling some pressure. I think that's just normal, when you're leading a tournament. I was a little shaky there in the middle of the round."
As it turned out, the cure for that was another par-5, the 525-yard, 12th. The long-hitting Gopher star knocked his second shot onto the green, and made another two-putt birdie.
Down the stretch, his putter took over. At No. 14 (415, par 4), which has one of the most treacherous greens on the course, Van Rooyen made a 15-foot slider from the fringe for birdie, and he made a 5-footer for par at No. 15 (195, par 3), after pulling his tee shot 15 yards left of the green.
He pushed his tee shot at No. 16 (475, par 4) into the trees, and after chipping out, he pulled his third shot into the left greenside bunker, but rescued himself with a blast to 6 inches, thereby salvaging a bogey.
Van Rooyen bogeyed No. 17 (440, par 4), as well. But up ahead of him, 2011 MGA Player of the Year Sammy Schmitz had followed a birdie at 16 with a double at 17.
So Van Rooyen -- who is referred to as "Frederick" only on scoreboards in in the official results; he prefers to be called Erik, or Freddy, which is what most of his friends call him -- still led by two. He sealed his victory by draining a 35-foot birdie putt at the 160-yard, par-3 18th.
View results for Minnesota Amateur Golf Championship