Minnesota Golf Association

A String of Late Birdies Give Miller Early Lead at Minnesota Golf Champions

September 28, 2018

By Nick Hunter
  GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. – Getting a boost from three birdies over his final six holes Friday, professional Ross Miller carded a 3-under par 70 to open the 44th Minnesota Golf Champions tournament at Golden Valley Country Club with the early lead.
Playing in the final group on the opening day, Miller played his first 12 holes in even par before carding a trio of late birdies, including back-to-back birdies on his final two holes to pace the field, finishing with a two-stroke advantage over fellow professionals Derek Stendahl, Phillip Olson and Jeff Sorenson.
“I putted really well today. I just kind of grinded—lot of scrambling out there,” said Miller, winner of the 2018 Tapemark Charity Pro-Am. “I hit some good mid-iron shots. Also, I made some long par putts at the beginning of the round that kept my round together.
“I thought the course was tough, but I had a couple practice rounds under my belt, which helped.”
Miller, from Sundance Golf Club, started slow with a bogey at the par-4 third hole, but bounced back with a birdie at the par-3 fifth hole to draw even for the round. Miller would make the turn in red figures following a birdie at the ninth.
Giving back a stroke with a bogey at the par-3 11th, Miller found his footing despite the cool and blustery conditions Friday, converting his birdie look at the 13th and would finish the opening round with a pair of birdies at the 17th and 18th holes to card a 3-under par 70.
“Any birdie that wasn’t on a par-5 felt like a birdie today,” Miller said. “You really need to play well on the [six] par-5s.”
Helped by his flatiron during Friday’s opening round, Stendahl took the early clubhouse lead with three birdies against two bogeys to card a 1-under par 72.
“Thank goodness for the putter. I made a lot of putts that saved a lot of bad shots,” Stendahl said Friday.
Stendahl began his opening round with consecutive pars before wedging his approach inside of four feet at the par-5 sixth, converting his birdie opportunity and would turn at 1-under.
Dropping back to even with a bogey at the 11th, Stendahl responded by carding back-to-back birdies at 12th and 13th holes, rolling in a pair of 8-footers. A bogey on his final hole would put Stendahl in a share of second place with a 1-under par 72.
“I just got up-and-down from a lot of bad spots,” he said. “The course is really good and the greens are amazing—some of the best greens I’ve putted on all season.
Stendahl, a professional at Rush Creek Golf Club, is searching for his first victory since his win at the 2017 Minnesota PGA Head Professional Championship at Medina Golf and Country Club.
Olson bogeyed his opening hole Friday, but bounced by sinking his birdie look from 10 feet at the fourth and would move into red figures by sinking his birdie putt from 10 feet at the seventh before a three-putt bogey dropped him back to even par for the round.
A steady back nine saw Olson card eight pars with a birdie on the final hole, sinking a downhill, slippery birdie chance from four feet to post a 1-under par 72 to finish the first day of competition in a tie for second.
Sorenson, winner of the 2006 championship at Minneapolis Golf Club, played his outward nine in 1-under despite putting four birdies on the scorecard. Recording two birdies against a pair of bogeys over the final nine put Sorenson into a share of second at 72.
The 44th Minnesota Golf Champions continues Saturday with the second round scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. at Golden Valley Country Club.
7,004 YARDS, PAR 73
1. Ross Miller (p), Sundance GC, 36-34—70
T2. Derek Stendahl (p), 36-36—72  
T2. Phillip Olson (p), Bearpath G&CC, 37-35—72
T2. Jeff Sorenson (p), The Minikahda Club, 36-36—72
T5. Sam Matthew (p), North Oaks GC,
T5. Casey Vangsness (p), Minneapolis GC, 36-37—73  
T5. Caleb VanArragon, Bunker Hills GC, 38-35—73
T5. Ryan Helminen (p), Ridgeway CC, 37-36—73
T9. Joe McCormick, Crow River GC, 38-36—73  
T9. Brent Snyder (p), Troy Burne GC, 38-36—73
T9. Joe O’Brien, Rush Creek GC, 36-38—73
For complete tournament results go to:  https://mnpga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/mnpga18/event/mnpga187/contest/1/leaderboard.htm

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