State Open golf: Peterson gets coveted payday

  • Article by: BRIAN STENSAAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 23, 2012 - 6:40 AM

A tap-in birdie on 18, following a dead-on wedge shot, wrapped up the State Open for the former state prep champion at Eagan.

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Ryan Peterson finally got his big winner's check.

"My dad has always said to me, 'One day, you're going to get one of those,' " he said of the oversized cardboard prize like the ones Adam Sandler stuffed into his car in the golf movie "Happy Gilmore."

But before Peterson could collect the $9,500, he needed one last clutch shot Sunday in the Minnesota State Open at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids.

He got it, and with his father along for the ride as his caddie.

Standing 86 yards from the final pin after a 300-yard drive on the par-4 finishing hole, Peterson drew a wedge and plunked his golf ball a foot from the cup. He tapped in for birdie to finish with a 5-under-par 67. His three-day total of 9-under 207 was one stroke better than fellow professionals Cameron White, Stephen Bidne and Ryan Helminen.

"Right when I hit it, I knew it was going to be good," said Peterson, 23, who let out a "be good" yelp after he struck his final approach shot. "I didn't know it was going to be that good, but within 10 feet for sure."

The shot more than made up for Peterson's lone hiccup of the day. Trailing by one to begin Sunday, Peterson didn't make bogey until No. 17. That left him in a four-way tie for the lead after the long- hitting White -- Peterson's playing partner in the final group along with Day 2 leader Justin Smith -- birdied the massive 250-yard par-3 hole.

White, though, missed his chance for a playoff with Peterson when he ran a 35-foot birdie try on 18 past the cup.

"I thought I made it," White said. "I gave it a good roll. From that distance, all you can do is put a good stroke on it and hope it goes in.

"Ryan played great all day, didn't make mistakes. I started slow and just wasn't getting [shots] close enough to make birdies."

Peterson put himself in position to win with a brilliant 7-under score after Day 1 before his driver went awry on Saturday in a round of 75.

That kind of score at Bunker Hills is rare for Peterson, who won a pair of big school boys' state championships there while at Eagan in 2005 and 2007.

Peterson turned professional in January after graduating from Colorado State, and was set to play in the Colorado State Open until he found out this year's Minnesota State Open was at Bunker Hills.

"I knew I couldn't pass it up," he said. "Ever since high school, I've thought [Bunker Hills] fits my eye. I'm a fairway-to-green kind of guy, hit it straight. If I can get the putter rolling, good things can happen here."

They certainly did Sunday, which ended with a lot of hugs, high-fives and photographs with a caddie who was bubbling with pride.

But did Dad collect the usual 10 percent?

"I think I'll probably take him out for a nice dinner," Ryan Peterson said.

Matt Schneider of Grand Rapids was the low amateur. He posted a 65 on Sunday and finished 5 under for the tournament, alone in sixth place. He tied for second in the Minnesota State Amateur earlier last week.

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    First place: Ryan Peterson • Second place (tie): Cameron White, Stephen Bidne and Ryan Helminen

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