Tripp Kinney (IGA photo)
By Rick Brown
POLK CITY, Iowa (July 25, 2018) – Golf can be exhilarating. And kick-in-the-stomach cruel.
Both sides of that emotional coin were on display Wednesday during the final round of the 116th Iowa Amateur Championship at the Tournament Club of Iowa.
of Waukee rolled home a 5-foot birdie putt on the 18th green to outlast defending champion Trevor Ullestad
of Jewell on the third hole of their sudden-death playoff.
Minutes earlier, Ullestad had missed a 3-foot birdie putt at No. 17 that would have made him the 12th man to successfully defend his title, and first since Bo Anderson in 2001 and 2002.
Kinney, 20, who plays collegiately at Iowa State, took advantage of his second chance a hole later. This was the first playoff he’d ever been a part of.
“You never want to see a guy to miss a putt,” Kinney said. “It’s so hard, in that pressure situation. Fortunately I was able to get another hole. But Trevor played great today. I don’t want to take anything away from him.”
Kinney hit a knock-down 7-iron, into the wind, to 5 feet on the third playoff hole. After Ullestad didn’t get up and down for par when he missed the green left, Kinney had two putts to win. He needed just one.
“I was so nervous at that point,” said Kinney, who has played for the last two Cyclone teams that reached the NCAA finals. “It was a 5-footer. That’s the stuff I practice all the time.”
Kinney and Ullestad finished regulation play at 210, 3-under par. The two had started the final round tied for the lead and both closed with 71s.
“I played pretty well coming down the stretch just to get in the playoff,” said Ullestad, 22, who completed his eligibility at Missouri this spring. “Whenever you miss a short putt to win and end up losing, it hurts pretty bad.”
Former champ Jon Brown, who won the IGA Match-Play Championship last month, tied for third with University of Iowa golfer Alex Moorman at 210. Moorman’s 69 was the lowest final-round score.
Brown closed with a 70 and made the biggest move of the day, taking the lead with a front-nine 4-under 31.
“I did hear about it,” Kinney said. “But my mentality today was not to worry about anyone else, and just worry about what I could do. I was able to focus on what I could control.”
Brown, 50, who won the Iowa Amateur in 2006, looked like he might outplay the college kids once again. Brown had defeated Iowa’s Matthew Walker in the match-play semifinals, and beat Iowa State’s Frank Lindwall in the final.
But he couldn’t sustain his front-nine fireworks and Kinney and Ullestad passed him on the par-5 13th. Kinney made an eagle, Ullestad a birdie.
Kinney would bogey the next three holes, and his lead over Ullestad melted to a single shot.
The par-5 17th proved to be a pivotal hole in regulation, as well as in the playoff. Kinney had a 15-footer for eagle, but settled for birdie. Ullestad had a 6-footer for eagle on the same line as Kinney’s eagle attempt, and made it to draw even with a hole remaining.
Ironically, Kinney’s eagle on the 13th hole, from 8 feet, was on the same line as the 12-footer Ullestad had attempted for eagle from the back fringe.
“I definitely got a good read off his putt (on 13), and I guess he got a good read on mine,” Kinney said.
Ullestad missed the 18th green long and to the right, but got up-and-down. Kinney two-putted for par and the Iowa Amateur was headed to a playoff for the first time since 2015, when Mike McCoy beat Gene Elliott on the first hole of sudden death.
The shot that ultimately won the championship for Kinney is that 7-iron into the third playoff hole.
“That’s a shot I wouldn’t have been able to hit last year,” Kinney said. “Into the wind I struggled mightily. I couldn’t control the spin, or where it was going. I worked with my coaches at Iowa State so much. I ended up hitting that shot three times, once in regulation and twice in the playoff. Luckily, my game continues to progress.”
This is the fourth Iowa Golf Association-sponsored tournament title for Kinney. He won the Iowa Junior Amateur in 2013 and 2014 and the IGA Match Play title in 2017. On Wednesday, he added his name to a tournament that has been around since 1900.
“An unbelievable feeling,” Kinney said.
Kinney hopes to ride the momentum from Wednesday’s win into his junior season with the Cyclones.
“Winning is always fun,” Kinney said. “It’s something that hasn’t come very often since I got to college. It’s something I want to continue learning how to do, learning how to compete. If I can do that, hopefully my game continues to grow and I continue to get better.”