Going into the 15th hole in the final round of the 110th Minnesota Golf Association Amateur Championship on Wednesday, Sam Matthew and playing partner Ben Welle were tied for the lead. Each golfer was staring at his chance to win it all.
It was on that very hole at Medina Golf and Country Club, however, that Matthew made his best case for the cup — which, later that afternoon, he accepted after finishing with a 4-under-par 212 for his three-day total.
Matthew, of Midland Hills Country Club, made his fourth birdie of the day at the 15th. Welle, who finished second with a 3-under 213, bogeyed.
“Fifteen was a turning point,” Matthew said. “It got me two shots, which was huge coming into the last couple holes. It gave me a cushion.”
Robert Bell and Andy Jacobson tied for third at 1-under 215. Wednesday’s round was the last as an amateur for Bell, who will enter the men’s State Open in two days as a professional.
Bell, who hurt himself with a triple-bogey Monday and another one Wednesday, said he is ready to make the jump.
“I didn’t have to play in [this tournament] this year, but I wanted to,” Bell said. “There’s nothing to hang my head about. I played good golf. I really wanted to win, but there’s nothing wrong with bronze.”
The tournament started Monday with 156 golfers and was narrowed down to 62 for the final round. Welle and Jacobson led at 3-under 69 going into Tuesday’s second round, while Matthew posted back-to-back 70s to go into Wednesday’s final round with the lead.
Matthew and Welle both shot even-par 72 Wednesday, making Matthew’s one-stroke advantage coming into the day a key to victory. Matthew said he was happy with his short game throughout the tournament, attributing his victory to making several significant putts.
The victory makes Matthew, 20, exempt for the State Open, in which he plans to participate if it fits into his schedule.
After accepting the first-place trophy, he appeared happily overwhelmed by all the attention he was receiving. After all, he said, it’s the biggest amateur victory of his career to date.
“It’s huge,” Matthew said. “It’s what I’ve been trying to do since I started playing golf. It’s just another step.”