Burleson's Putter Earns Him Second MGA Mid-Players' Championship
October 1, 2020
By Nick Hunter
CANNON FALLS, Minn. – Playing bogey-free golf through his first 33 holes at the 14th Minnesota Golf Association Mid-Players’ Championship at Cannon Golf Club helped Justin Burleson to his second victory at the event in three seasons, defeating Matthew Norgaard during Wednesday’s final match, 2 and 1.
During Burleson’s five matches this week, he played 65 holes at 12-under par with just five bogeys to earn his fifth-career victory Wednesday, collecting at least one state win in each of his last three seasons.
“The key in match play is not to give away holes,” Burleson said Wednesday. “60-plus holes with five bogeys is about the best I can do.
“I’ve played really good in the last month. I finished second at [MPGA Combination] and second at the [MPGA State Public Links]. Seconds are great, but even at this level, we’re out here to win and play the best we can, so the win means a lot.”
Playing state events since 2013 after moving from Texas, Burleson has quietly become one of the state’s most consistent golfers, compiling over 20 top-5 finishes in the past seven years, while placing second eight times.
“Most of it is mental. I got back into competitive golf after taking a year or two to get used to thinking through tournaments again," he said. "It’s a different game thinking through your shots and it took a little bit to get back to that side of the game.
“The last four or five years, I still hit the ball the same and can hit some good iron shots, but it all comes down to putting. I putted well today and putted great all week—I made more putts from five to 10 feet this week than I have all year.”
Despite a pair of birdies and an eagle on the scorecard during the final match Wednesday, Burleson trailed Norgaard by one through nine holes before tying the match with a par at the 10th and taking the lead for good at the 11th, when his birdie look from four feet was conceded.
Falling down by two after a bogey at the 12, Norgaard tapped-in for birdie at the 13th to pull within one, but it was all the closer he would get. Burleson sank his birdie opportunity from six feet at the 14th and would close out Norgaard at the 17th with a par to earn the win, 2 and 1.
Burleson’s road to the final match began with a victory over Patrick Simmer, 6 and 5, before dispatching Topher Baron during the Round of 16, 2 and 1.
Burleson found himself on the right end of unfortunate circumstances prior to the start of Tuesday’s quarterfinal round when opponent, and last year’s runner-up, Jamie Quesnel decided to forfeit out of caution after feeling ill early Tuesday. The unexpected rest helped a refreshed Burleson to a 1-up victory over 2014 MGA Amateur champion Jesse Bull to reach the championship round.
In recent years, Burleson has also showcased his proclivity to playing well in adverse conditions, which is inevitable at some point during the season in the state of Minnesota. His first state win at the Minnesota Public Golf Association Mid Public Links Championship at Blackberry Ridge Golf Club in 2016 came amid howling wind conditions during the final round.
Burleson claimed a two-stroke victory over Tony Vincelli in blustery conditions at last year’s MGA Mid-Amateur Championship, where the final two rounds were postponed nearly five weeks due to weather-related issues.
The 37-year-old Burleson rose to the top of the leaderboard again this week against a trifecta of wet, cool and breezy playing conditions.
“The beginning of the round was really cold today, but it wasn’t too bad until the 14th,” he said. “Those last four holes, the wind really started blowing. I hit some good punch shots through that stuff and kept it pretty straight.”
Norgaard, a longtime professional at Somerby Golf Club who regained his amateur status in 2018, began the championship with a victory over Ryan Luessenheide, 5 and 4, before taking down Tyler Obermueller during the Round of 16 late Monday.
Advancing from the quarterfinal round with a victory over Tony Krogen, 4 and 3, Norgaard reached the final match against Burleson following a 2-up win over Tim McKenney during the semifinal round.
“It was a great match—a lot of good golf and a lot of good shots,” Norgaard said Wednesday after earning his best finish at the championship. “Ultimately, I just made too many mistakes and it wasn’t enough. It was fun to compete, but Justin deserved to win today—he played better.
“I mis-clubbed on a few holes with the wind and tried to recover and ultimately it came down to two putts. On 14 I missed a 4-footer and on 16 I missed a 6-footer. It was gusty and they were both downhill and on the wrong side of the hole.”
Since returning to golf as an amateur, Norgaard qualified for the MGA Amateur last season, but failed to make the cut on his home course at Somerby Golf Club. He won his opening-round match at the MGA Mid-Players’ Championship at Crow River Golf Club before falling to Quesnel during the Round of 16.
Earlier this season Norgaard defeated Ben Strauman during the opening round of the MGA Players’ Championship at Hastings Golf Club before exiting with a loss to Peter Capouch, 3 and 2. Norgaard then notched his first top-10 finish at the MGA Mid-Amateur Championship at Northland Country Club earlier this month, finishing tied for seventh.