A Late Birdie Gives Cronkhite and Sperling the Win at MPGA Four-Ball
May 21, 2023 | 3 min.
By Nick Hunter
MONTICELLO, Minn. – A tap-in birdie on the final hole Sunday at Monticello Country Club secured a one-stroke victory for North Dakota State University golfer Gavin Cronkhite and Concordia University-St. Paul’s Brandon Sperling at the 46th Minnesota Public Golf Association Four-Ball Championship.
Cronkhite and Sperling, former teammates at Lakeville South High School, fired a 9-under 62 to begin the tournament Saturday, and followed it with a 65 Sunday to edge the team of Mike Christensen and Brian Moores.
“We kind of fed off each other. We found fairways when we needed to and did a good job of scrapping it out,” Cronkhite said following the round Sunday.
“We were making a lot of birdies the last couple of days and it was nice to get a couple on the card right away,” Sperling added. “We avoided bogeys today, worked well as a team and pieced it together.”
Cronkhite and Sperling got to work quickly during the final round Sunday, carding two birdies over their first four holes to reach 11-under for the championship.
Sperling converted his birdie chance from 20 feet at the par-3 10th before both Cronkhite and Sperling two-putted for birdie at the par-5 12th to move to 13-under.
Cronkhite chipped inside of four feet at the par-4 16th and made good on his birdie opportunity to put his team at 14-under.
Needing par at the last to force a playoff with Christensen and Moores, Cronkhite reached the par-5 18th in two, and tapped-in one final birdie to clinch the championship by shooting a final-round 6-under 65.
Sunday’s win for Cronkhite marks his third state victory, claiming the 2018 MPGA Junior Public Links Championship as well as being a member of the Minnesota Golf Association Junior Team Championship winning squad the same season.
“It was such a fun tournament—we don’t even get to play a ton together casually with our schedules, so it was great playing together these two days,” Cronkhite said. “This is the biggest [win] because we’re out of the junior ranks and there are a lot of great amateur players at a great course.”
Cronkhite finished his junior season at NDSU this spring, earning All-Summit League Second Team honors by notching four top-5 finishes in 12 events, while posting a scoring average of 73.77 for the season.
Sperling earns the first state championship of his amateur career Sunday, notching three top-10 finishes at state events since 2017.
“It’s great to get my first win and to do it with Gavin was a lot of fun,” Sperling said. “He really helped me out because he was hitting it straight when I wasn’t, and he played clutch down the stretch.”
A redshirt sophomore at Concordia-St. Paul, Sperling earned All-NSIC Second Team honors during his freshman season, claiming a pair of top-3 finishes, including a runner-up finish at the NSIC Championship last spring.
Christensen and Moores began the day three shots off the lead and the two got off to a fast start with back-to-back birdies to begin the final round.
Turning in 9-under for the championship, Christensen and Moores finished with a flurry of birdies, including three over the final three holes to finish one shot back at 14-under 128.
First-round co-leaders Jamie Quesnel and Max Tylke carded a 4-under 67 Sunday to place third, two shots back at 13-under 129.
Posting a final-round 65 Sunday, the twosome of J.T. Johnson and Jim Lehman claimed a two-stroke victory in the Senior Division, getting past the team of Tom Nordstrom and Mark Sperling.
Firing back-to-back rounds of 7-under 64, the team of Brian Orn and Brice Connor earned a three-stroke victory in the First Flight of the Net Division over the twosome of Jeff Goudy and Chris Hardie.