Minnesota Golf Association

Polk and Schmitz Qualify for First U.S. Four-Ball; Gophers Flanagan and Longbella Headed Back to Philly

September 30, 2019

By Nick Hunter
  STILLWATER, Minn. – Jesse Polk and Sammy Schmitz have teamed up at nine state championship events since 2014, and together the two have claimed three titles, while finishing no worse than sixth.  
In 2016 the two paired up and carded a final-round 63 to earn a come from behind victory in the Mid-Amateur Division at the International Four-Ball Championships by three strokes at the Fox Club in Palm City, Fla.
On Monday, Polk and Schmitz earned the opportunity to showcase their talents on the national stage once again, carding eight birdies over their final 10 holes at StoneRidge Golf Club, leading to a 9-under 63 to earn medalist honors and a qualifying spot in the 2020 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
“We’ve missed by one every single year that we’ve played in this except last year,” Polk said Monday. “We had a good opportunity because [Schmitz] plays here and I [advanced from U.S. Open Local Qualifying] here this year and I thought it was a good omen. Every time we missed by one, it’s been here.”
“I think the strategy for us is to let each other do our thing,” Schmitz said of playing and finding success on multiple occasions with Polk. “We don’t get too crazy about talking about clubs and what you’re going to do because sometimes when you talk strategy too much, there’s just too much information.
Beginning on the 10th tee Monday, Schmitz carded a pair of birdies at the 10th and 13th holes to quickly move the twosome to 2-under, but Polk and Schmitz would take a step back with bogey at the 16th. Following a par at 17, the two quickly heated up by carding five straight birdies to jump to 6-under.
“We had a bitter taste in our mouths after 17. We were a little upset and then birdied five in a row. That got us moving,” Polk said.
With both staring down birdie putts at the sixth, Schmitz sank his chance and Polk followed it by rolling in a 10-footer at the eighth. On the final hole, Schmitz hit his tee shot to 18 feet and sank one final putt to grab medalist honors with a round of 9-under 63.
“It’s a good partnership from the standpoint that Sammy doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. I’ll make a mistake on a hole or two or whatever it is, and nine times out of 10, he’s not going to make worse than par,” Polk said. “The thing that I like about the relationship and partnership is that it loosens me up. He’s not going to hit it out of play and it frees me up to swing at it and I don’t have to worry about anything else.”
“We wanted to birdie the last four holes,” said Schmitz, 35, who hails from Farmington, Minn. “We were rolling and wanted to keep it going. We both looked at the line very carefully on the last hole and I gave it enough pace where it wasn’t going to roll more than a foot past. It held its line and snuck in there. It was the perfect way to finish the round. After we got to nine, we felt pretty good about it.”
Polk, who lives in Prior Lake, Minn., and will turn 35 next month, carded a 1-under 71 in early May to finish in a tie for third at U.S. Open Local Qualifying, advancing in a playoff with a par. He also advanced from local qualifying in 2012 and earned a spot in the U.S. Mid-Amateur the same season.
“This is going to be fun because you get to spend it with a buddy,” Polk said. “We have other friends that are going, too, and friends throughout the United States and Canada that are going to be there. [U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying] was fun and Sammy’s played in many USGA events. It can get lonely at times. The ability to have our wives come with makes it more fun for us to experience that together.”
“Jesse and I grew up playing hockey—it’s a team sport. Being part of a team is fun. You go play in the U.S. Amateur or the U.S. Open Sectional, you’re on an island,” said Schmitz, who will be playing in his 12th USGA championship, but first with a teammate.
Joining Polk and Schmitz at the national championship at the Philadelphia Cricket Club May 23-27, 2020 will be University of Minnesota golfers Angus Flanagan and Thomas Longbella, who carded an 8-under 64 Monday to claim the final qualifying spot.  
Feeding off the Gophers’ first team title in over five years at the MacDonald Cup at Yale University Sunday, Flanagan, who claimed his second collegiate victory at the event, and Longbella, who finished seventh, had opportunities early, but couldn’t convert any chances, prompting a change in strategy beginning on the third tee box.
“We had it rolling at the start—I drove [No. 1] and three-putted. We’ve been on greens running a lot slower than these and breaking a lot more. Normally you think fast greens break more, but we were out there overreading it,” Flanagan said. “We both hit it greenside on two and we both made par and then we switched the order on the third tee.
“That’s what my dad always taught me in four-ball—if you’re struggling the first couple holes, change it up and we did that and it worked.”
The result was three consecutive birdies before Flanagan rolled in his second birdie of the round at the par-4 eighth to put the two at 4-under for the round.
Flanagan, a junior at Minnesota, nearly holed out from the fairway at the 10th, carding his team’s fifth birdie of the day and rolled in a 6-footer on the ensuing hole to move the Gopher twosome to 6-under. Flanagan and Longbella would each birdie the 13th and 17th holes to post an 8-under 64.
“We thought if we birdied 18, we’d kind of be locked in. We thought we were on the bubble,” Gopher senior Longbella said. “I think it’s going to be a great opportunity—we played the [Big Ten Championships at The Philadelphia Cricket Club] in May, so we already know the course. Angus won out there, so obviously he likes the course.
“I got to know the course pretty well. I know some good parts and definitely some bad parts,” said Flanagan of the site where he won his first collegiate tournament. “The course will suit us well—it’s long and it’s a brutal golf course. Put your head down, put your big-boy pants on and go from there. That’s what we like to play and what Tom and I tend to play well on.”
It’s the first USGA championship for Flanagan, who hails from Woking, England, while the Chippewa Falls, Wis., native Longbella previously qualified for a pair of U.S. Junior Amateurs.
Former teammates at the University of Minnesota, David Morgan and Justin Smith needed a playoff to qualify for last year’s championship after shooting a 7-under 65 at Chaska Town Course. Morgan and Smith, who is now head coach of the Gopher men’s golf team, fired another 65 Monday to finish as first alternate, while Joe Conzemius and Erik Heltne finished as second alternates, shooting 6-under 66.

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