Minnesota Golf Association

Carlson and Gregory Share 36-Hole Lead at MGA Senior Amateur

September 16, 2020

By Nick Hunter
  MINNETRISTA, Minn. – It’s been 10 years since Leif Carlson last claimed the Minnesota Golf Association Senior Amateur Championship, but after his round of 1-over par 73 Wednesday at Burl Oaks Golf Club, Carlson has put himself in line to collect the seventh state championship win of his career.
Standing in Carlson’s way, however, is Jay Gregory, who is making his debut at the event this week, having turned 55-years-old two weeks ago. Gregory also happens to be the 11th-ranked senior amateur player in the world.
Carlson and Gregory enter Thursday’s final round of the 99th MGA Senior Amateur Championship tied for the lead after both finished 36 holes of play at 1-over par 145.
“I played well again today and got off to a better start,” Carlson said Wednesday following his bogey-bogey start to begin the championship Tuesday. “I didn’t get in any trouble early on. I kept it in play and hit a lot of greens. I was really hitting it solid.”
Carlson, the 2012 MGA Senior Men’s Player of the Year, rolled in a 25-footer for birdie at the second Wednesday before chipping in for birdie at the sixth to move to 2-under for the championship, taking sole possession of the lead. With a pair of late bogeys, Carlson closed out his front nine even par for the round, but found trouble at the 10th, finding the penalty area, which led to a double-bogey.
“I got in trouble in 10—I hit a bad shot out of the rough into the water, but I played pretty well after that,” Carlson said. “From there I just wanted to hit the fairway. There’s a lot of water out here, particularly the first few holes on the back nine. I was hitting my irons really well, so I wasn’t too worried.”
Carlson found his footing to play a steady final eight holes, including a par save at the 15th after sending his tee shot over the green. On the ensuing hole, Carlson hit his approach inside of five feet and converted his birdie chance, going on to post a 1-over 73 to share the lead with 18 holes to play.
Making his Senior Amateur debut at Woodhill in 2008, Carlson went wire-to-wire to claim a four-stroke victory. At the 2010 championship at The Minikahda Club, Carlson dropped a long par putt on the final hole to edge David Kokesh and Rick Sandretto by one stroke for his second victory.
Carlson also has a trio of four-ball victories to his credit, along with his win at the Twin Cities Senior Championship at Majestic Oaks Golf Club in 2017.
A pair of late birdies helped Gregory to a round of 73 to open the championship in a tie for second place Tuesday, one shot off the lead. During Wednesday’s second round, Gregory got up-and-down from a greenside bunker for birdie at the 16th to post the day’s low round, an even par 72 to join Carlson atop the leaderboard.
“My ball-striking has been good,” said Gregory, who is making his first state appearance this week. “I’ve been good off the tee and my iron play has been good, which is always nice.”
On Wednesday, Gregory rolled in a short birdie look at the second to get to even par for the championship, but would take back-to-back bogeys to finish his outward nine. Hitting his 8-iron to 12 feet at the 11th, Gregory converted his birdie chance to move to even par for the round, but found trouble off the tee at the 12th.
“I hit one in the water—I thought I hit it perfectly, but I made a six there,” Gregory said before a final birdie put him into a share of the clubhouse lead late Wednesday. “Yesterday I made a seven on [No. 6] and that kind of killed my round. That was an oops moment, but I’ve hit the ball pretty good. I’m just trying to figure out the greens out here.”
A former professional in Missouri, Gregory currently resides in Lineville, Iowa and recently joined Bemidji Town and Country Club after getting married to Sheila Johnson, a Bemidji, Minn., native, in August.
Gregory wasted little time getting acclimated to the golf scene in northern Minnesota, shooting 5-under 139 to win the men’s club championship last month.
Among Gregory’s recent victories are back-to-back wins at the Golf Channel Amateur Tour National Championship, the Iowa Senior Masters and the Kansas City Match Play Championship. As an amateur, he qualified for the U.S. Senior Open last year in South Bend, Ind., but would miss the cut.
“That was a highlight for sure,” Gregory said of teeing it up with the best senior players in the world. “That helped me a lot in other tournaments because that’s as big a stage as you can be on.”
Away from the golf course, Gregory has hosted a bow-hunting program called The Wild Outdoors on The Sportsman Channel for nearly three decades.
Steve Whittaker, who won the 2011 championship at St. Cloud Country Club, carded a 3-over 75 Wednesday and will begin the final round three shots off the lead in third place, while 18-hole co-leader John Anderson sits tied for fourth place with Bob Neuberger at 5-over 149.
The 99th MGA Senior Amateur Championship concludes Thursday, with final-round tee times beginning at 7:40 a.m. at Burl Oaks Golf Club.

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