Jim Lehman (Minnesota Golf photo)
By Nick Hunter
BEMIDJI, Minn. (Sept. 17, 2018) – As a three-time champion of the Minnesota Golf Association Senior Amateur Championship, Jim Lehman enters this week’s tournament riding a wave of momentum.
Lehman made the cut at the Trans-Miss Senior Championship in May before advancing to the quarterfinal round of the MGA Senior Players’ Championship in June. He qualified for the MGA Players’ Championship a week later and placed first in the Senior Division at the 2018 Minnesota State Open in July.
More recently, Lehman notched a top-15 finish at the 72-hole Canadian Men’s Senior Championship in Bathurst, New Brunswick two weeks ago before falling in a playoff with teammate Jerry Rose at the MGA Senior Amateur Four-Ball Championship last week at Northfield Golf Club.
“I feel like I’ve been playing a lot of good golf lately and this summer has been really good,” said Lehman, a two-time MGA Senior Men’s Player of the Year winner. “There are a lot of really good players in Minnesota in senior amateur golf, but if I can continue to play well, I have a good chance to win.”
Lehman fired a 2-under 70 Monday, posting one of two rounds below par to open the championship at Bemidji Town and Country Club, and he will take a one-stroke advantage over Bruce Hegland to the second round Tuesday.
“I played very solid—other than a three-putt bogey on my very first hole, I didn’t make any other bogeys the rest of the way,” Lehman said. “I hit most of the fairways and most of the greens and I felt very comfortable out there. Overall, I’m happy with 2-under.
“If I continue to play my game and hit fairways and greens and minimize my mistakes, that’s how I succeed typically and that’s what I’m going to focus on. There are some guys behind me that can play good golf as well.”
Beginning his opening round on the 10th tee Monday, Lehman took a step back with bogey, but answered by rolling in his birdie look from 15 feet at the 13th and would turn at even par.
Lehman, from Windsong Farm, wedged his approach at the par-4 third hole to 10 feet and sank his birdie chance to move into red figures for the round and would finish the day with a birdie on the final hole, dropping a short birdie chance from three feet to take the opening-round lead by one stroke.
Lehman won his first MGA Senior Amateur in 2013 at Bearpath Golf and Country Club and successfully defended his title at Somerset Country Club a year later. In 2016, Lehman cruised to an 11-stroke victory, posting an impressive 7-under 212.
Hegland also began his first round off the 10th tee Monday and started slow with a pair of bogeys before sinking a short birdie chance at the par-5 15th to get back to 1 over for the round.
Rolling in a slippery, left-to-right 10-footer for birdie at the first, Hegland drew even before taking a step back with bogey at the fourth. Thanks to a strong finish late with birdies at the sixth and ninth holes, Hegland would card a 1-under 71 to sit one shot off the lead after the first day of competition.
“It wasn’t a very good start—I thought it was going to be a long day,” Hegland said of his two early bogeys Monday. “I was happy with my lag putting, I didn’t have a ton of birdies, but I had a lot of long putts.
“I’ve done well up here and won the [Vandersluis Memorial Golf Tournament] a couple of times, but I have zero expectations this week. I’m trying to keep it in play—hit it and find it. This course, even when I don’t play well, I know where to miss.
Hegland, a member of Cannon Golf Club, collected a win at the 2005 MPGA Combination Championship, but has claimed 13 top-10 finishes in the state since 1999.
Bob Rolston, from The Minikahda Club, posted a round of even par 72 Monday and sits in third place with 36 holes to play, while four players are tied for fourth at 73.
The 97th MGA Senior Amateur Championship continues Tuesday with the second round slated to begin at 8 a.m. at Bemidji Town and Country Club.
ABOUT THE Minnesota Senior Amateur
The Championship will consist of three
Senior (55-64), Master (65-74) and
Grand Master (75 and over). All players in the
Championship will play 18 holes of stroke
play each of the first two days. Master and
Master champions will be determined
after 36 holes. Senior Division results will be
determined after 54 holes.
There will be a cut after 36 holes, and the 36
scoring players (plus ties) from the
Senior and Master Divisions, will continue and
an additional 18 holes on the final
day of competition.
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