Minnesota Golf Association

A Back Nine Surge Gives Mueller Early Lead at MGA Mid-Amateur Championship

August 30, 2020

 
By Nick Hunter
nick@mngolf.org
 
 
  DULUTH, Minn. – Playing in his first state championship since regaining his amateur status earlier this spring, Tommy Mueller posted a 4-under 66 on his home course at Ridgeview Country Club Sunday to pace the field at the 33rd Minnesota Golf Association Mid-Amateur Championship.
 
Carding a pair of bogeys to play his first nine holes in two over, Mueller came out firing on the back nine, carding four birdies and an eagle and will take a two-stroke advantage over Joe Conzemius when he shifts venues to Northland Country Club for his second round Monday.
 
“The front nine plays more difficult than the back by far, primarily because of the par-3’s,” Mueller said following his round Sunday. “There’s only one par-5 on the front, so typically if I can make the turn even or even a couple over, Ridgeview is all about the back nine.  
 
“I thought the course was set up very fair. Obviously, I brought home field advantage and I took advantage of the back nine, which is always my strategy on that course.”
 
Carding a pair of bogeys to begin his front nine Sunday, Mueller quickly found his footing when he chipped in for birdie at the 10th before sticking his approach inside of three feet on the following hole to get back to even par for the championship.
 
Jumpstarted by his "best putt of the season," Mueller dropped an eagle chance from 40 feet at the 13th to quickly climb the leaderboard, moving to 2-under for the round.
 
Taking advantage of the final two par-5’s on the back nine Sunday, Mueller also rolled in short birdie chances at the 14th and 16th holes to finish the opening round with the lead at 4-under 66.
 
“The familiarity of the course and home field advantage was key today,” he said. “Knowing the greens, where the pins were, and where you can and cannot miss is huge on both courses, but it definitely served as an advantage today. Anyone from Duluth has an advantage knowing these two courses.
 
“I wish I was playing Ridgeview two more times,” said Mueller, who now transitions to Northland for his second round Monday. “I’ve probably played [Northland] 20 times and I think I have gray hair because of some of those holes. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
 
Originally from Michigan, the 37-year-old Mueller played hockey at Ferris State University prior to pursuing a professional golf career, playing mini tour events for a few years before deciding to return to amateur golf. He’s playing in his first state championship this week.
 
“I thought there was no better time to get my feet wet again and start playing some tournament golf.”
 
Conzemius used two eagles during his opening round Sunday at Northland Country Club to jump into contention early, before a pair of late bogeys put him in the clubhouse at 69.
 
“I hit the ball great today. I hit my tee ball well and I never really got myself out of position too much, which at Northland is critical. You’ve got to be coming in from the right angle if you want any chance to make birdie out there,” Conzemius said Sunday. “I didn’t have a lot of short putts, but I left myself in the right spot a lot.”
 
After sinking back-to-back birdie looks at the fourth and fifth holes, Conzemius fell back to even par with a pair of three-putt bogeys before hitting a 7-iron to eight feet at the par-5 ninth, sinking his eagle putt to turn in 2-under.
 
The 2017 Minnesota Public Golf Association State Public Links champion gave back a stroke with a bogey at the 12th, but answered by holing out from 105 yards at the par-4 13th for his second eagle of the round.
 
“Normally with a good wedge shot, you’re just hoping to have a good chance to make [a birdie], so I kind of lucked out, but it was a big momentum boost and it’s always fun to see those twos on a scorecard,” Conzemius said.
 
Conzemius finished the round with back-to-back bogeys to card a 2-under 69 as he now moves to Ridgeview Country Club for the second round Monday, two shots off the lead.
 
“I’ve played Northland a handful of times, so I was comfortable enough to get myself around,” he said. “I’ve never played the course we’re playing tomorrow, so I’m a little concerned about the fact that I haven’t played it, but if I hit the ball the way I did today and I can chip and putt, hopefully I can put up a good score.
 
“It’s been such an interesting summer with the pandemic and the lack of tournaments, so my game has really been a roller coaster. I’ve had some spurts where I’ve played really well and spurts where I’ve played terrible. The last two weeks I haven’t been playing well, so it’s good to come out today and play a good round.”
 
Tim Ertmer and two-time champion Troy Johnson each carded a round of 1-under 70 at Northland Country Club Sunday and will begin Monday’s second round tied for third.
 
The 33rd MGA Mid-Amateur Championship continues Monday when the second round begins at 9 a.m. at Ridgeview Country Club and 10:12 a.m. at Northland Country Club.
 
 


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