Jones Beats Norland Second Year in a Row, Wins Minnesota PGA Senior Match Play
October 12, 2017
By Nick Hunter
MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. – Avenging a runner-up finish to Steve Whillock a year ago, Dale Jones regained the lead with three holes to play Thursday, hanging on to defeat Larry Norland, 1-up, to claim the 2017 Minnesota PGA Senior Match Play Championship Thursday at Somerset Country Club.
Hoisting the hardware for the first time since 2008, Jones couldn’t have picked a better place to earn a victory than at Somerset, where he spent his childhood a few blocks from the clubhouse.
“I grew up across the street and started caddying in 1970,” Jones said after winning his semifinal match Wednesday. “In 1974 I started working in the golf shop, so I’ve caddied here and was assistant pro here for five years.”
A two-putt par gave Jones the lead on the opening hole after Norland’s chip from back-right of the green rolled all the way off the front, leading to a three-putt for double-bogey. Bouncing back on the ensuing hole, Norland hit a 30-foot, right-to-left breaker for birdie to even the match.
Jones had more than one miscue on the par-3’s on the front nine Thursday, shanking his tee shot into a row of trees right of the fourth fairway, but recovered by hitting his approach inside of 10 feet and would two-putt for bogey, while Norland managed to halve the hole by rolling in his 12-footer for bogey.
Catching another break after his second poor tee shot in a matter of four holes, Jones hit his second shot from 60 yards right of the flag and rolled to within four feet to save par to regain a 1-up lead following a bogey by Norland.
“Once I shanked those two irons on the par-3’s, I got a little leery and tentative out there. But I just tried to hang in there,” Jones said.
Unable to get up-and-down for par after missing the eighth green left, Norland two-putted from 20 feet for par to even the match as the two remained deadlocked until Norland’s approach at the 10th stopped six feet from the cup, where he would convert his birdie look to take his first lead of the match.
Jones missed an opportunity to even the match at the par-5 12th, reaching the green in two before three-putting for par. Norland failed to extend his lead at the 14th when his birdie chance from six feet lipped-out.
Sending his tee shot out of bounds right of the fairway at the par-5 16th, Norland would concede the hole as the match drew even with two holes to play. Finding trouble off the tee for the second consecutive holes, Norland struggled to reach the green and was unable to save par from 15 feet, while Jones made a routine two-putt par to take a 1-up lead to the final hole.
From the left rough, Norland’s approach landed on the back of the green, while Jones punched to the front edge where the two would each two-putt to halve the hole with par and give Jones a 1-up victory.
“[Norland’s] out-of-bounds tee shot left a chance for me to me to get even on 16,” Jones said of his late comeback Thursday. “I thought his drive on 17 might be too far right, so I was just trying to hit my 60-yard lob wedge on the green and hoping a two-putt would be good enough.
“It warmed up and I hit the ball pretty solid,” Jones said after playing two rounds in brisk temperatures at Somerset Wednesday. “I played well yesterday and today, just made a lot of mistakes, so I’m encouraged and discouraged all at the same time. Being the runner-up last year, it was good to win this year. It’s always nice to win.”
Along with his two victories, Jones, a mainstay in the Minnesota Section for the past 11 years, has qualified for a number of national events, while earning 22 top-5 finishes and over 30 top-10 finishes locally.
Since he became eligible for the 50-and-over senior events in 2012, Jones has raised his game to an impressive level—earning 17 top-5 finishes and over 40 top-20 finishes during that stretch.
Prior to finishing tied for 14th at the Minnesota Senior PGA Professional Championship in August, Jones had not finished worse than fifth, including three runner-up finishes in consecutive seasons against the state’s best senior professionals.
Falling to Jones in the semifinals last season, Norland moved one step closer to earning his first section victory with his best finish since 2011. This season, Norland has notched two top-10 finishes in 16 events.
“I played okay. It looked like neither one of us wanted to take control,” Norland said after his round Thursday. “I don’t think either one of us got more than 1-up the entire way, but you make one or two mistakes and a guy as good as Dale will take advantage every time.
“It’s a little disappointing, but it happens. I hit some really, really good shots when it counted. That pitch shot on 15 might be one of the best I’ve ever hit. It was a horrible lie and knew that I needed to make par. To put it that close when you need to was kind of fun. That’s something you can pull on for a long time.”
For complete tournament results go to: https://mnpga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/mnpga17/event/mnpga1771/contest/82/leaderboard.htm