Hanstad, Tylke and Conn Among Winners on Day One at MGA Mid-Players' Championship

June 10, 2024 | 4 min.
By Nick Hunter

  BREEZY POINT, Minn. – Following a strong showing at the Twin Cities Open, during which he fired an opening-round 64 last month, two-time defending champion Bryce Hanstad picked up a pair of victories Monday at Deacon’s Lodge to open the 18th Minnesota Golf Association Mid-Players’ Championship.

Hanstad cruised during his opening round match against Billy Barnhart, 7 and 5, to begin his title defense early Monday before a string of birdies late in the match allowed Hanstad to pull out a victory over John Pavelko, 3 and 2.

“I put some good time in over the winter and made some minor tweaks and honed in some things,” Hanstad said following his first two matches Monday. “I’m getting more and more comfortable, but my expectations coming in are to play well.

“My ball-striking kept me in it today, and the putter helped me finish things off. It slowly turned into a strength of mine, which is a nice change of pace.”

Hanstad fell behind Barnhart early Monday before winning six consecutive holes to close out the front nine with a comfortable 5-up lead. Winning the 11th and 13th holes allowed Hanstad to close out his first-round matchup with a lopsided victory, 7 and 5.

After falling behind once again during Monday’s afternoon session, Hanstad and Pavelko traded birdie punches as Pavelko took a 1-up lead to the back nine before Hanstad found his stride on the putting surface, sinking three birdie chances over a four-hole stretch, closing out the match at the 16th, 3 and 2.

“I kind of fought it most of the day and was able to escape,” said Hanstad, winner of five state titles since 2007. “Sluggish start during the second round—started to hit the ball better, but struggled a little bit getting the pace of the greens down. Found a little rhythm on the back and found a little something in my putting that, hopefully, will continue tomorrow.”

A former Colorado State University golfer and winner of the 2007 MGA Amateur Championship, Hanstad defeated Ryan Conn at Royal Golf Club in 2022 before defeating Conn again last June at Alexandria Golf Club for his second straight victory at the event.

Hanstad will face Bryan Orlenko during the final round of pool play early Tuesday.

Making his inaugural appearance at the 30-and-over championship this week, Max Tylke, winner of the 2021 MGA Players’ Championship, carded a pair of early birdies during his opening-round match against Richard Wuollet, cruising to victory, 5 and 3.

Tied with Nick Jarrett heading to the final hole during Monday’s afternoon round, Tylke’s second at the par-5 ninth rolled off the back of the green, where he’d hit a miraculous flop shot for a tap-in birdie to claim the win, 1-up.

“I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens,” Tylke said after going undefeated during the first two rounds of pool play. “I chipped well, made a lot of pars and kept it steady. The key will be to keep three-putts out of play. You can get on the wrong side really fast and then you have ten feet for par.

“For the first 30 holes, I never really got into trouble today. Somewhere along the line I found some places where you don’t want to be, and it got really close. My short game bailed me out at the end.”

Tylke will face Aaron Wiemiller early Tuesday, looking to move on to the match play portion of the championship.

Conn, winner of the 2019 MGA Four-Ball Championship and last year's MPGA Combination Championship, cruised during his opening-round match against Blake Onkka, 5 and 4, before earning a second victory by default during Tuesday’s second round of pool play.

Conn will look to advance to match play once again, but Derek Rolle stands in his way as Rolle earned a victory by default to begin the championship before downing Onkka, 1-up.

Others to win their first two matches of pool play Monday include 2017 Minnesota Public Golf Association State Public Links champion Joe Conzemius, 2021 MPGA Mid Public Links champion Joel B. Johnson and 2006 Twin Cities Championship winner Ralph Baxley.

Highlights during Monday's first day of competition included Wuollet's ace at the par-3 17th hole with a 6-iron from 189 yards. Wuollet then holed out for eagle at the par-4 fifth, knocking in his approach from 127 yards with a gap wedge to help him defeat Wiemiller, 2 and 1. 

The final round of pool play is scheduled to begin at 8:34 a.m. Tuesday at Deacon’s Lodge, followed by the start of quarterfinal round.


Nick Hunter

Nick Hunter got his start covering sports for the Mankato Free Press while attending Minnesota State University, Mankato. 

He then contributed to several online outlets, including Bleacher Report, prior to turning his focus to golf.

Hunter enters his 12th season covering golf in Minnesota as news editor for the MGA website. He resides in New Prague with his wife and two sons.

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