Minnesota Golf Association

Bell, Ebner and Hills Among Five to Advance Through U.S. Open Local Qualifying at Troy Burne

May 8, 2018

By Nick Hunter

  HUDSON, Wis. – At the 2012 U.S. Open Local Qualifying at Troy Burne Golf Club Robert Bell, then a junior at the University of Minnesota, was 3-under heading to the final nine holes before putting two balls out of play at the par-4 10th hole.

Bell would go on to shoot a 72 and finish as the first alternate, one shot out of a playoff for the final qualifying spot. Tuesday’s return to Troy Burne brought back some painful memories, but fortunately for Bell the ball bounced in his favor as he posted a 3-under par 68 to earn medalist honors to move on to Sectional Qualifying for the 2018 U.S. Open Championship at Shinnecock Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., June 14-17.

“They added a new bunker [on No. 10], which would’ve been helpful back then because it would’ve stopped a couple tee shots from going through the fairway and out of bounds,” Bell recalled. “I got a pretty good laugh when I was playing a practice round out here seeing that new bunker.

“I don’t know if revenge is the best word, but I definitely had a stronger mindset coming in and played this course a bunch in college so I knew the layout and how demanding it is and I hit it well.”

Playing his front nine at 1-over following a bogey at the eighth, Bell drew even with a tap-in birdie at the fateful 10th hole. Catching a fortuitous bounce from the cart path at the par-5 16th, Bell got-up-and-down for birdie and added two more on the final two holes to finish on top of the leaderboard at 68.

“I tried to stay patient all day; I was hitting some really good shots on the front side, I just couldn’t get anything to fall in,” Bell said. “I was hitting my driver pretty straight and my iron shots were on point all day—I felt like I had pretty good control over the golf ball the entire day. I was hitting good putts that weren’t falling early, but they definitely started to fall at the end.”

After graduating from Minnesota in 2013, Bell turned professional and spent some time playing on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada in 2015. Most recently Bell has been working on his game and attempting to qualify for events in Arizona before deciding to move back home to Pierz, Minn., this spring.

“I’m back home and it’s nice to be with family and friends and see all of them again. It’s hard to assess where my game is at because I haven’t been playing a ton, but I’m very happy with how I played today. It was nice to be in the hunt and feel that pressure when you’re under the gun and what you have to post for a score.

“I didn’t have a good last year playing professional golf and you sometimes wonder if this is what you’re meant to do. The game comes and goes, but after today, it feels like I’m ready to go again.”

Bell claimed the 2008 Minnesota State High School Class AA individual title as a member of the Pierz High School golf team. That ensuing summer he won both the Minnesota State Junior Boys’ Championship and the Minnesota Boys’ Junior PGA Championship.

Among the first to qualify Tuesday was former Edina High School golfer Jack Ebner, who carded a 1-under par 70 to move on to the second stage of qualifying.

“I drove the ball unbelievable today and my putting, until the last three holes, was on fire. I had 11 putts on the front nine, which is all you can ask for," Ebner said Tuesday. "It would be unbelievable to qualify—to say I’m two rounds away from playing in the U.S. Open is phenomenal and the USGA knows how to run events—playing in them is always a pleasure."

Getting his first taste of playing on the national stage, Ebner carded a 5-under par 68 last June to earn one of three spots to the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kan., but he was unable to advance to the match play portion of the championship.

Ebner started fast by rolling his short birdie look on the opening hole before moving to 2-under with a birdie at the fourth. Back-to-back birdies at the seventh and eighth holes put Ebner at 4-under, but he dropped a shot with a bogey at the ninth.

“I was getting pretty excited. It was hard not to get some thoughts in your head,” Ebner said of his hot start Tuesday. “I made a good bogey on nine from 15 feet, which was a good momentum boost.”

Bouncing back by rolling in a birdie from 20 feet at the 11th Ebner moved back to 4-under but stumbled down the stretch Tuesday, carding three bogeys over his final six holes to finish in a tie for second at 1-under par 70.

“I made a few bad club choice selections that left me with tough putts. I three-putted 13 because I hit way too short of a putt. Hit the wrong club on 15 and then 17 was just a really tough hole today.”

Matt Tolan, an Eau Claire, Wis., native, also posted a round of 1-under par 70 Tuesday to earn a qualifying spot to his fourth USGA event. Tolan, a sophomore at the University of South Dakota made appearances at the 2016 U.S. Junior Amateur, as well as the 2017 U.S. Amateur Championship. He moved on through local qualifying for the 2017 U.S. Open by firing a 4-under par 69 at Mendakota Country Club.

On Tuesday, Tolan played his front nine at 3-under par before struggling on the back nine, posting four more birdies with four bogeys and a double to hang on and finish at 1-under par 70.

“I had a lot of birdies and was a little shaky coming in but made a solid 20-footer down the hill on the last hole for a good round of 1-under. I played clean golf on the front—a lot of fairways and a lot of greens and put some shots close. I did a good job of keeping myself out of trouble,” Tolan said. “I played a practice round yesterday and played fine, but I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself and shoot what I could shoot.”

Coming back from a front nine of 2-over par, Brian Hills rolled in four birdies and one bogey over his final nine holes to finish in a tie for second at 1-under par 70. A club fitter at Second Swing Golf originally from Monticello, Minn., Hills moves on for a third time, advancing in 2016 at Minneapolis Golf Club and in 2009 at Edinburgh USA.

Frank Lindwall, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, fired a round of even par 71 to finish in a tie for fifth before making par on the third playoff hole to eliminate Clayton Rask, earning the final sectional qualifying spot.

Rask, a former Gopher who now resides in Smyrna, Ga., and Dylan Baker, from Eden Prairie, Minn., finished as first and second alternates, respectively.

7,034 YARDS, PAR 71


1. Robert Bell, Pierz, Minn., 37-31--68 (medalist)
T2. Jack Ebner, Edina, Minn., 33-70--70 (qualifier)
T2. Matt Tolan, Eau Claire, Wis., 33-37--70 (qualifier)
T2. Brian Hills, Monticello, Minn., 33-37--70 (qualifier)
T5. Frank Lindwall, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 35-36--71 (qualifier, won playoff)
T5. Clayton Rask, Smyrna, Ga., 37-34--71 (first alternate)
T5. Dylan Baker, Eden Prairie, Minn., 38-33-71 (second alternate)
T5. Jesse Larson, Shakopee, Minn., 36-35--71
T9. Ryan Helminen, Harrison, Wis., 37-35--72
T9. Taylor Koser, Rice Lake, Wis., 36-36--72


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