Conzemius and Heltne Medal, Butler and Johnson Headed to U.S. Four-Ball

October 3, 2022
By Nick Hunter

  CHASKA, Minn. – Carding an eagle and five birdies during their back nine Monday at Chaska Town Course, the brother-in-law tandem of Joe Conzemius and Erik Heltne posted a bogey-free 10-under 62 for a two-stroke victory, claiming a spot in the field of the 2023 U.S. Amateur-Four Ball Championship.

After several close calls in recent years, Conzemius and Heltne both qualify for their first national championship.

“This means a lot. I’ve been an alternate many, many times and have never gotten in,” Conzemius said Monday. “To [qualify] in the four-ball with my brother-in-law is emotional and I’m super excited. A USGA event has been a goal of mine for a long time.”

“It’s going to be a special trip. It’s a special tournament for the both of us to be able to do this together for our first USGA event,” Heltne added.

Starting on the 10th tee Monday, Heltne started the scoring by sinking his birdie chance from 20 feet at the 10th. Adding two more birdies to the scorecard during their front nine, Conzemius and Heltne turned in 3-under for the round.

“I like that we started off [No. 10]—I think that side is the harder nine,” said Conzemius. “I feel like we left one out on 18. We should’ve birdied that one and we didn’t, but 3-under on the back nine, we felt like we were right in it.

“We just needed to play a good back nine, and my partner played an unbelievable back nine.”

Conzemius rolled in a 25-footer for birdie at the first, but Heltne heated up by converting back-to-back birdie chances at the third and fourth holes.

With Heltne already in for birdie at the seventh, Conzemius gave his team a jolt by sinking his eagle putt to put the pair at 8-under for the tournament.

Heltne would take over from there by sinking back-to-back birdie chances at the eighth and ninth holes to help him and Conzemius to a round of 10-under 62.

“We’ve always had chemistry. We’ve been alternates and we’ve missed by one,” Heltne said. “I’ve played a lot of golf this year, and I woke up this morning and thought, ‘I’m going out with a bang.’

“I felt it from making the first putt on our first hole.”

Joining Conzemius and Heltne at the Cassique and River Courses at Kiawah Island Club in Kiawah Island, S.C. next May is the twosome of John Butler and Joel B. Johnson, who shot an 8-under 64 and survived a three-way playoff to claim the second qualifying spot.

“USGA events are the best,” said Johnson, who advances to his third USGA championship. “It’s first-class all the way around. No matter how we do, it’s going to be a blast.”

“This is my first time [qualifying], so it’s pretty emotional,” said Butler, who nearly lost his life in a car accident last summer. “I almost gave up golf and I’ve been battling back. My game isn’t there yet, but luckily Joel bailed me out. Awesome to do it with a good friend like Joel.”

Butler and Johnson got off to a blistering start Monday when Johnson converted three consecutive birdie chances to begin the round.

Johnson capitalized once again on his birdie opportunity at the fifth, and Butler reciprocated with his first birdie of the round from six feet at the seventh to put the twosome at 5-under for the tournament.

Butler and Johnson would turn in 7-under after Johnson’s back-to-back birdies at the eighth and ninth holes.

The momentum was short-lived, however, as Butler and Johnson carded consecutive pars before taking bogey at the par-4 13th.

Getting back on track with a Butler birdie from 20 feet at the 15th, Johnson rolled in his birdie chance from 10 feet at the par-4 17th to help his team into a three-way tie for second at 8-under 64 with the twosome of Eric Deutsch and Ben Meyer and the team of Shane Barnes and Jay Kautt.

During the playoff, Johnson wedged his approach inside of four feet and rolled in his birdie chance to clinch the final qualifying spot.

“We got off to a hot start today and then we just tried to survive on the back, which we did,” Johnson said. “We played 10, 11, 12 and 13 in 1-over and it could’ve been 6-over, but I made a couple of bombs for par to keep us going.

“Overall, we putted unbelievable. We both putted great, and my iron game was really good. That’s the key—if you get good iron play and can putt really well, you’re going to make birdies.”

Earlier this season, the 50-year-old Johnson qualified for the U.S. Senior Open at The Old Course at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa., where he posted rounds of 84-78 to miss the cut.

Previously, Johnson qualified for the 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur at John’s Island Club in Vero Beach, Fla., where Minnesotan Sammy Schmitz aced the par-4 15th hole (the 33rd hole of the final match) en route to a victory.

Deutsch, winner of the 2004 MGA Amateur, rolled in his par putt from 30 feet during the first playoff hole to secure his spot as first alternates with partner Meyer, while Barnes and Kautt finished as second alternates.


Qualifying Spots: 2 Alternates: 2

Nick Hunter

Nick Hunter is entering his tenth season covering golf in Minnesota as news editor for the MGA's website. He resides in New Prague with his wife, Amber, and two sons.

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