Gregory Earns First State Title With Victory Over Rose at MGA Senior Players' Championship
September 30, 2020
By Nick Hunter
CANNON FALLS, Minn. – Playing in just his second state championship this week, Iowa native Jay Gregory jumped out to an early lead over former champion and four-time Minnesota Golf Association Senior Men’s Player of the Year Jerry Rose Wednesday and never relented, claiming the 21st MGA Senior Players’ Championship at Cannon Golf Club, 4 and 3.
Gregory made his debut at the MGA Senior Amateur two weeks ago at Burl Oaks Golf Club and shared the 36-hole lead with eventual winner Leif Carlson before going on to place third behind Steve Whittaker.
Riding momentum from a victory at the Missouri Senior Amateur Championship last week, Gregory entered this week’s event ranked No. 12 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
“The win last week gave me some confidence, no doubt,” Gregory said Wednesday, “I played the same way there as I did here. Both courses were tight, not long and greens were severe and fast.
“The [MGA Senior Amateur] was my first true senior event in the state and I finished third. They’ve been great events at fun golf courses and this will go towards my [World Amateur Golf Ranking] points, too. I’m excited to come back next year and defend.
Wasting little time during the final match Wednesday, Gregory hit his approach inside of five feet at the opening hole and his birdie chance was conceded. Taking advantage of a Rose double-bogey at the third, Gregory’s lead swelled to two, but Rose would answer with a short birdie chance at the fifth.
Rose looked to continue his momentum at the seventh after hitting his approach inside of four feet, but Gregory rolled in his 12-footer for birdie to halve the hole and maintain a 1-up lead. Gregory took a 2-up lead to the final nine following a bogey by Rose at the par-3 ninth.
Taking control of the match at the 10th, Gregory managed to win the hole with a bogey after Rose was unable to find his tee shot right of the fairway. Looking to find a way back into the match during the inward nine Wednesday, Rose watched Gregory sink a 5-foot comebacker at the 11th to halve the hole with par before Rose got up-and-down for par at the 12th to remain three back.
Spinning his approach off the front edge at the 14th, Gregory drilled his birdie chance from 20 feet to take a commanding 4-up lead and would close out the match with a par at the 15th to earn the victory, 5 and 4, for his first state championship win.
“My ball striking was key more than anything,” Gregory said following his win Wednesday. “I putted well today, but I came out for about an hour last night before dark and worked on some things because I have not putted very well. It seemed to help because today I was hitting my lines and my speed was much better.”
Gregory, a 55-year-old originally from Lineville, Iowa, who has hosted an outdoor hunting television program for nearly three decades, opened the championship with a victory over Randy Jacobus, 5 and 4, before eliminating 2019 MGA Senior Amateur champion Trent Wilcox, 2 and 1, Monday.
Going up early during his quarterfinal match against Bruce Hegland Tuesday, Gregory showed no signs of slowing as he advanced to the semifinal round against Tom Whaley with a 4 and 3 victory.
Watching Whaley take the early lead late Tuesday, Gregory fell behind for only the second time this week as Whaley led for the first 15 holes of the match before a late rally, including a birdie on the final hole propelled Gregory into the championship match against Rose.
A disappointing finish for Rose, who was denied his second win at the championship Wednesday after defeating Leif Carlson to win the tournament at St. Cloud Country Club in 2017. The result this week is the second runner-up finish in the past three years after Rose fell to David Rehfeldt in 2018.
“It was a frustrating day. Other than a couple shots, I hit the ball pretty well,” Rose said Wednesday. “I made a couple mental mistakes—didn’t get many putts to go in and got off to a rough start.”
Needing a pair of victories to earn his fourth consecutive MGA Senior Men’s Player of the Year honors, Rose did just that Monday, defeating Brad Boehne during the opening round, 7 and 6, before cruising to victory during the Round of 16 over Larry Keithahn, 5 and 4.
He becomes just the second player, along with the late Loyal ‘Bud’ Chapman to earn four Senior Player of the Year nods.
“I came in and had been hitting the ball relatively well. I was focused on winning the first two matches because I knew it would give me a chance to win [MGA Senior Men’s Player of the Year],” he said. “It was a good week, overall, but it’s disappointing when you don’t play to your expectations.”
Rose slipped past Jeff Teal, 2 and 1, during the quarterfinal round Tuesday and used extra holes to get past 2016 MGA Senior Men’s Player of the Year John Anderson during the semifinals to reach the championship match against Gregory.