Rose, Anderson Share 1st in Sr. Am Qualifier; Culligan Wins Playoff
July 25, 2018
By Mike Fermoyle (firstname.lastname@example.org)
MENDOTA HEIGHTS -- John Anderson and Jerry Rose have each been to the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship once. Each was in a good position on the second day of stroke-play qualifying (the top 64 players in the stroke-play portion of the tournament advance to match play), and each ended up failing to advance.
Both would love to get another crack at it, and now they will.
Anderson, the 2016 MGA Senior Player of the Year, and Rose, the 2017 Senior Player of the Year, both shot 1-over-par 73's at Mendakota Country Club on Wednesday in the Sectional Qualifying for the 2018 U.S. Senior Amateur and thereby earned co-medalist honors. They also earned the first two of three available spots in the Senior Am, which will be played Aug. 25-30 at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Ore.
Kevin Culligan claimed the final spot -- the hard way. He shot 74, which put him into a five-man playoff (Culligan, Jon Empanger, Patrick Muellerleile, Bob Cavanagh and Dave Rehfeldt), but he emerged from it after four holes with his place in Eugene reserved.
Rose, who is from Alexandria, is a former three-time Resorters champ. More recently, he won the MGA Senior Players Championship last year, and nearly won it again this year, finishing second. He also finished second in the 2017 Minnesota Senior Amateur.
On Wednesday, he hit the ball well right from the beginning of the round, but Mendakota isn't easy. The course is in nearly flawless condition -- unlike the club house, which suffered severe damage two weeks ago after lightning hit a nearby storage building (the storage building was destroyed) -- but scoring was difficult, and no one in the 50-man field for the qualifier was lighting it up, including Rose. A three-putt at the 10th hole had him 2 over par.
But Rose is one of the longest hitters in Minnesota senior golf, and he put his power to good use at the 571-yard, par-5 12th hole, where he nearly reached the green in two, chipped close and made a birdie. The 13th at Mendakota is also a par-5, and he birdied that one, as well, this time with a 20-foot putt. After giving one back with a bogey at the par-3 13th (192 yards), Rose had multiple chances to get back to even par over the final five holes but couldn't get any more birdie putts to fall.
As it turned out, he didn't need them.
Anderson, on the other hand, did need to make one last putt.
Playing in the second-to-last group, he hit a 5-iron from 180 yards to within 15 feet of the hole at the 394-yard, uphill par-4 18th. He was 2 over at the time, and he knew -- thanks to an app on his cell phone -- that there were a bunch of 74's already in the club house, plus Rose's 73. That meant a playoff was likely, and if he wanted to avoid it, he needed to make the putt, which he did.
"I never hit a driver all day," he said afterward. "Just the 3-wood, except on No. 10 (312 yards, par 4), where I hit a little rescue. The 3-wood worked pretty well. It kept me in the fairway, and this game is a lot easier from there."
Anderson won the Minnesota Senior Open and the State Senior Public Links in 2009, and he's had so many top-5 and top-10 finishes in state events since then that no one can keep track of them all. His one appearance at the U.S. Senior Am came in 2014, and he has some fond memories of it, along with some not-so-fond memories.
"It was at Big Canyon (near Los Angeles), and the heat index was 105 degrees," he recalled, fliniching slightly at the memory. "It was really hot. But I was going along pretty well, and with nine holes to go in stroke play, I was in about 15th place. I was in great shape (1 under for the round, 2 over for 27 holes). Then I went double bogey, bogey, double bogey, birdie, and I can't remember exactly how it went. What I do remember is that I made three doubles, three birdies and one bogey on that last nine -- and I missed qualifying for match play by one stroke."
Rose, who like Anderson, is 59, had a similar story about his Senior Am adventure in 2016 at Old Warson, which is near St. Louis.
"I played really well the first day," he said. "I'm pretty sure I was in the top 10 at that point. But in the second round, I must have three-putted six or seven times. I'd hit my first putt 5 feet short on one hole, and then I'd hit it 8 feet past on the next. And it never got any better. I just couldn't get the speed of those greens that day. After all those three-putts, I ended up missing the cut by a stroke."
The last group in Wednesday's qualifier finished just before play would have had to be stopped because of lightning in the vicinity of Mendakota. That meant the playoff had to wait a while.
As if being in a playoff weren't hard enough on the nerves, the five guys in this playoff had to wait an extra half hour to get started, because of the lightning delay. Culligan hit his tee shot into a fairway bunker on the first extra hole, the 509-yard, par-5 first, but he ended up with the shortest birdie putt, from about 15 feet. He missed. So did everyone else. He pulled his tee shot at the 140-yard, par-3 second and missed the green, but a nice chip shot and a clutch 4-footer for par kept him alive.
Culligan had the nearie again at No. 3 (403 yards, par 4), only to lip out his birdie putt.
By the time the playoff reached the fourth tee, there were only three left. Rehfeldt, this year's MGA Senior Players Champion (he defeated Rose in the final), was the victim of a pull-hooked tee shot at the first hole and failed to make par there. Cavanagh was eliminated when he bogeyed No. 3.
No. 4 at Mendakota is a deceptively hard, 160-yard par-3. Visually, the hole tells you to favor the left side of the green, but it slopes significantly from left to right. So you're much better off, actually, on the right side.
Culligan, who hit an 8-iron to 4 feet and birdied the hole in regulation play, hit a 7-iron in the playoff, after the wind had picked up. He missed the green by roughly 10 feet to the left, in the fringe, but he could still putt from there. Empanger (the 2015 MGA Senior Player of the Year) was just a few feet from him, but in the rough. Muellerleile was 10 yards farther left. From there, he chipped his ball across the green and into the rough on the far side. Empanger's chip looked pretty good, but the ball just kept trickling and ended up 20 feet past the hole.
That was an indication of how difficult Culligan's putt was going to be, but he made it look easy, nearly holing it and tapping in from 15 inches for his 3. Neither Muellerleile nor Empanger could save their pars. So Culligan was in.
"I'm just glad I get to play some more golf," he said. "I've only played seven rounds this year."
Culligan, 60, played in two long-ago U.S. Public Links tournaments (one in the '70s, one in the early '80s), but this will be his first Senior Am.
U.S. Senior Amateur Sectional Qualifying
At Mendakota Country Club
Par 72, 6,771 yards
T1. Jerry Rose, Alexandria 73 (co-medalist)
T1. John Anderson, Andover 73 (co-medalist)
3. Kevin Culligan, Mendota Heights 74 (won 5-for-1 playoff for the last spot)
4. Jon Empanger, Chaska 74 1st alternate
5. Patrick Muellerleile, Afton 74 2nd alternate
6. Bob Cavanagh, Perham 74
7. Dave Rehfeldt, Roseville 74
T8. Jim Lehman, Minneapolis 75
T8. Jeff Teal, Excelsior 75
T8. Don Walsworth, Leawood, Kansas 75
T11. Terry Moores, River Falls 76
T11. J.T. Johnson, Sparta, Wis. 76
T11. Todd Hillier, Hoople, N.D. 76
T11. Mark Sperling, Lakeville 76
T11. Brian Reagan, Mendota Heights 76
T11. Scott Ainsworth, Eden Prairie 76
T17. Michael Tharp, Sheboygan, Wis. 77
T17. David Kokesh, Bloomington 77
T17. David Steingart, Edina 77
T20. Bill Tadewald, Hopkins 78
T20. David Whittaker, Por. St. Lucie, Fla. 78
T22. Tim Kelley, Minnetonka 79
T22. Andrew Dallas, Lakeville 79