Minnesota Golf Association

Sigel Medals, Hitchner and Holmgren Also Punch Tickets to Pinehurst

July 23, 2019

 
By Nick Hunter
nick@mngolf.org
 
 
  MORTON, Minn. – Helped by an eagle and two birdies over his final nine holes Monday at Dacotah Ridge Golf Club, University of Kansas golfer Ben Sigel posted a second-round 5-under par 67 to earn medalist honors and a spot in his third consecutive U.S. Amateur Championship.
 
Sigel opened Monday’s qualifier with a round of even par 72 before finishing the 36-hole event one stroke better than Pepperdine University’s Derek Hitchner and two strokes clear of North Dakota State University’s Van Holmgren, who claimed the final two spots to this year’s championship, Aug. 11-18 at the historic Pinehurst Resort and Country Club.
 
“I got off to a slower start this morning, but I stayed patient all day. My irons weren’t very sharp today, but I was able to make a good amount of putts and didn’t really force anything,” Sigel said after qualifying Monday. “All the pins were tucked, so you’ve got to pick and choose when you go at them. I think I did a good job of managing my game and hitting the right spots.
 
“I decided not to play in the [Minnesota State Open] to prioritize a little bit and get ready for today. After qualifying for the U.S. Junior Amateur and the U.S. Amateur the last two years, I’d like to think that I’m good at qualifying. I lost [in a 24-for-1 playoff at Pebble Beach] last year, so my goal is to make the cut and see what happens. I’m excited to get to Pinehurst.”
 
Playing his first four holes at 3-over par Monday, Sigel battled back by making four birdies over his next eight holes to move to 1-under before a late bogey put him at even par after the first 18 holes.
 
Beginning his second round on the 10th tee, Sigel got started by sinking a 5-footer for birdie at the 12th before hitting his tee shot off the tee at 17 into the penalty area, leading to bogey to fall back to even par for the round. Finding his stride at the 18th, Sigel rolled in a 15-footer for birdie before reaching the par-5 third in two, sinking a 20-foot putt for eagle to quickly jump to 3-under for the tournament.
 
“I knew I was in a good spot,” Sigel said of his eagle on his 30th hole of the day. “I thought [3-under] was going to be the number and I was lucky enough to get a couple more coming in.”
 
After getting up-and-down for birdie from short of the sixth green, Sigel rolled in one final putt from five feet for birdie to finish at 5-under 139 and punched his ticket to North Carolina next month.
 
“Each time I’ve qualified, I’ve shot between 1-under and 1-over for my first round,” Sigel said. The courses are always set up pretty tough and I knew [even par] was fine, after my start I was pretty happy with it. I put myself in a position to make a run on my last nine and I did.”
 
Sigel, a prep standout while at Minnetonka High School, began his summer by finishing 19th at the Dogwood Invitational in Atlanta in early June and then notched a fourth-place finish a week later at the Monroe Invitational in Rochester, N.Y.
 
After missing the cut by one stroke at the Trans-Miss Amateur Championship two weeks ago, Sigel turned in a final-round 66 last week to finish in a tie for fourth at the MGA State Amateur Championship. He will begin his junior season at Kansas this fall.
 
Posting four consecutive nines of 1-under 35 Monday, the Hitchner earned his second trip to the U.S. Amateur by shooting 4-under par 140 to claim the second qualifying spot.
 
“I was pretty nervous basically the whole tournament a couple years ago, so it’ll help knowing I’ve been in that position before,” Hitchner said of his first appearance at the national championship in 2017 at Riviera and Bel-Air Country Clubs. “I try not to get too ahead of myself with expectations and try to minimize it and play one shot at a time. Getting ahead of yourself can be pretty distracting and I don’t think that’s worth doing.
 
“Playing in better tournaments and deeper competition week after week has helped as well,” the soon-to-be sophomore said. “It makes every shot a little more important because if you drop a shot, usually you fall pretty far down the leaderboard. Playing within the team—there are a lot of good players at Pepperdine. That’s been a good benefit and shown me what I need to work on with my game.”
 
A hectic week for Hitchner translated to a pair of top-20 finishes at both the MGA State Amateur and the State Open last week before another 36 holes Monday.
 
“I feel like I was playing well both tournaments, but couldn’t get enough out of every round. I felt good and my game is in a good spot and was hoping that would carry over to today,” he said. “I thought I might be a little tired during the second round because I played 26 holes yesterday, but I held up well.
 
“It was pretty solid overall and really consistent. I didn’t really do anything particularly great, but got the job done. Even when I made a few bogeys I tried to stay positive and knew I’d give myself more looks.”
 
An impressive week finishes on a high note for Holmgren Monday, qualifying for the first USGA event of his career. Falling one stroke short of successfully defending his title at the MGA State Amateur Wednesday, Holmgren played in the final group for the second time in four days Sunday, posting a final-round 70 to finish third at the Minnesota State Open.
 
After carding his eighth consecutive round below par in seven days late Monday, Holmgren said, “I’m exhausted. I’ve played too much golf—31 holes in hot weather yesterday and 36 today, I’m about ready to not touch my clubs for a while.
 
“It’s really fun playing tournament golf, but when you play seven rounds in seven days, you don’t have much to time to work on it. My putting fell apart a little bit and I had to figure it out on the course instead of being able to grind for an hour and fix it. I wanted to play simple golf. Keep my same swing—I’ve been playing a little fade and not making it too stressful because I knew I didn’t have the energy to grind.”
 
Carding a 2-under 70 to open the tournament Monday, Holmgren began his second round on the 10th tee and took a bogey at the 15th hole before gaining some late momentum with a string of three birdies mid-round to get the 4-under. Despite a bogey on the final hole, Holmgren would grab the final qualifying spot at 3-under 141.
 
“The last seven tournament rounds I have not made a double-bogey and that’s pretty easy living,” Holmgren said. “I showed Minnesota what kind of golf I have. I’m not chasing trophies right now—I’m chasing good golf. And 20-under par in seven rounds is good golf.
 
“I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to show my game and I’m excited to play on a national scale. Nothing’s going to change [going to Pinehurst]. I got there playing a certain way and I’m going to keep playing a certain way.”  
 
Trent Peterson, St. Paul, Minn., and Brady Madsen, Raymond, Minn., finished as first and second alternates, respectively.
 
The U.S. Amateur returns to Pinehurst for the first time since 2008, when New Zealand’s Danny Lee defeated American Drew Kittleson, 5 and 4. Both the men’s and women’s U.S. Open were contested at Pinehurst in 2014 and it will be the site of the U.S. Open once again in 2024.


 


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