Van Rooyen Makes Clutch Putts Down the Stretch, Wins State Amateur
July 18, 2012
By Mike Fermoyle (firstname.lastname@example.org)
HASTINGS -- In retrospect, there might have been a kind of inevitability to Frederick Van Rooyen's victory on Wednesday in the MGA State Amateur.
The University of Minnesota senior-to-be from South Africa took the lead in the second round, when he shot a 3-under-par 68 at Hastings Country Club. He followed that with a 73 in the final round, which gave him a 54-hole total of 213 and a three-stroke cushion between himself and the three players who tied for second -- former champ David Christensen, 2011 MGA Player of the Year Sammy Schmitz and Matt Schneider.
There was also a three-way tie for fifth, including Andy Jacobson, who went 7 over par on his last five holes in the first round on Monday while shooting 79, but came back with a 68 and a 70 to finish at 217, four strokes out of first place. He tied with Jesse Larson and Van Rooyen's Minnesota teammate Colton Buege.
It's been 45 years since the State Am switched from match play to stroke play. Since then, there have been 20 winners -- out of a possible 46 -- who were either current Minnesota players or alumni, and the Gophers have tended to win their titles in bunches, beginning with a stretch of six in a row from 1970 to '75.
They also won two in a row (1980-81), three in a row ('85-87), four in a row (1998-2001) and now another two in a row.
A year ago, Donald Constable, who had recently concluded his senior season as the No. 1 player for Minnesota, won the State Am. He was succeeded as the No. 1 player in the Gopher lineup by Van Rooyen during the 2011-12 season.
So it seems sort of fitting that Van Rooyen also replace Constable as the State Amateur champion. (Constable was absent this week because he's playing a national schedule of amateur tournaments this summer.)
But if Van Rooyen was the heir apparent, his ascension to the throne wasn't exactly seamlessly smooth.
His round started well enough. Although he pushed his tee shot slightly at No. 1 (520 yards, par 5), he was able to carry the trees on the right and cut the dogleg. He had a 3-iron from there, and made a 5-foot putt for his birdie.
He dropped a shot when he bogeyed the No. 4 (435, par 4), but he got it back with a birdie at No. 7 (485, par 5).
"I would have hit a 3-wood off that tee," Van Rooyen noted. "But I broke my 3-wood on the practice range yesterday."
Which meant that for the last two rounds, he played with 13 clubs. That didn't seem to hinder him. At the 16th, he hit a towering drive over the trees and cut the corner of the dogleg. So instead of having a 5-iron left to the green (the club he probably would have hit after a 3-wood from the tee), he had a 167-yard 8-iron.
The result was an easy, stress-free, two-putt par.
Then he encountered a rough patch. A bogey at the difficutl, 215-yard, par-3 eighth (the nines at Hastings were reversed this week; so that would normally be the 17th) wasn't a big deal, but he also bogeyed the relatively easy, 335-yard, par-4 18th.
"I just hit a bad tee shot there," he said. "I hit a rescue that faded too much, and I ended up behind a tree."
That was followed by a double bogey at No. 10 (415, par 4). Suddenly, he was 1 over par for the tournament.
"It was tough today," Van Rooyen conceded. "The wind made it tricky, and I was feeling some pressure. I think that's just normal, when you're leading a tournament. I was a little shaky there in the middle of the round."
Meanwhile, a couple of his pursuers were closing in. Schmitz had started his round with an eagle at the first hole and a birdie at the par-4 second, which got him back to even par for the tournament. He bogeyed the fourth and the eighth, but birdied the ninth to make the turn in 34 (2 under) and was now Plus 1 overall.
Schneider, who began the round at Plus 1, was still there after a front-nine 36. He bogeyed the 10th, but then birdied the 335-yard, par-4 11th and 12th, which put him at even par for 48 holes.
Christensen, a former pro who was a regular on the Nationwide -- now web.com -- Tour, bogeyed the first three holes, then rallied and birdied the last hole to shoot 73. But he spent most of the round a stroke or two behind Schmitz and Schneider.
Van Rooyen made more birdies during the three days (15) than anyone else, and he birdied all three par-5's in each of the last two rounds. It was another par-5, the 525-yard, 12th, that got him going in the right direction again on Wednesday. The long-hitting Gopher star missed the fairway to the right -- that was a recurring theme for him in Round 3 -- but the ball stayed inside the tree line. Consequently, he had a reasonably clear path to the green and knocked his second shot on with a 5-iron. Another two-putt birdie.
That got him back to even par, and tied him with Schneider. They were both one ahead of Schmitz, who had bogeyed No. 10 and birdied No. 12. Schmitz dropped two behind when he bogeyed the 435-yard 13th. (It could have been worse; he made a 15-footer for the bogey.)
Down the stretch, it was Van Rooyen's putter that made the difference.
The 14th green at Hastings is one of the most treacherous on the course, and it claimed Schneider as one of its victims on Wednesday. His second shot backed off the severely sloped front portion of the green, and after an indifferent chip, he three-putted for a double bogey.
Right behind him, Van Rooyen hit a 9-iron a little too hard, the ball ended up about 3 feet over the green. From there, he had a scary-looking 15-foot slider that could easily have gotten away from him, but he made the putt for a birdie -- which meant that in a span of about 10 minutes, he went from being tied of the lead with Schneider to being three ahead.
Schneider fell another stroke behind when he missed an 18-inch putt at No. 15 (195, par-3). Like Christensen, he ended up shooting 73.
Van Rooyen pulled his tee shot 15 yards left of the green at the 15th. He hit what he said was his best pitch shot of the week from there just to get the ball to about 6 feet, and then made that putt, too.
At the 475-yard, par-4 16th (it's a par-5 for the members), Van Rooyen blocked his tee shot into the trees on the right, and after chipping out, he hit his third shot into a greenside bunker. This time, it was his sand wedge that came to the rescue, as he blasted to within a foot, thereby salvaging a bogey.
Up ahead, however, Schmitz had made a birdie at 16. So now he was 1 over for the tournament, and only one behind Van Rooyen, who was even through 52 holes.
The 17th hole at Hastings is a 440-yard par-4 with a green that falls off hard to the right. A right front pin position when the greens are fast is considered by a lot of people to be unfair. That was where the pin was for the final round, turning the hole into a nightmare. Anyone who was more than a few feet to the left of the cup putted off the green.
Schmitz was 5 feet left of the green with his second shot. He hit a chip that didn't look too bad -- until it got close to the hole and began picking up speed. It went off the green, through the fringe and into the rough. He had to hit another chip from there, and it went 4 feet past the hole.
He missed the putt, made a double bogey, and that was it for his chances. A par at the 18th gave him a valedictory 71. Only Jacobson and David Haley Jr., who tied for eighth at 219, did better on Wednesday. They both shot 70's.
"I just made too many mistakes," Schmitz said, "and my second shot at the 17th was one of the biggest. Anyone who looked at the hole knew that you couldn't be left of the pin. I had 142 yards; so I eased off a 9-iron. When I did that, I pulled it and wound up in a place that was exactly where I didn't want to be."
Van Rooyen bogeyed the 17th, too, and was 1 over as a result. Yet he now had a two-stroke lead going into the final hole.
The severity of the pin position at the 17th was evident in the stats. Of the top 14 finishers in the tournament, two made pars on 17 Wednesday (Schneider and Buege), and one made a birdie (David Haley Jr.). Eight guys made bogeys, and three made doubles, which worked out to an average of exactly 4.93 strokes per player.
After the carnage at the 17th, Van Rooyen -- who is referred to as "Frederick" only on scoreboards in in the official results; he prefers to be called Erik, or Freddy, which is what most of his friends call him -- was in a position to win simply by making a bogey at the 160-yard, par-3 18th.
His tee shot, a majestic 9-iron with a hang time of about 10 seconds, sealed the deal, landing a few feet onto the green and spinning back to the edge. He wasn't going to make 5 from there. Once again, his putter went above and beyond the call of duty, as he drained a 35-footer for birdie and concluded the tournament right where he started it, at even par.
"This feels great," said Van Rooyen, who posted his second straight top-10 finish in the Big Ten Conference Championships this spring (seventh this year, and fourth last year), and made it to the NCAA regionals for the second year in a row. "I've felt that I was playing pretty well for a long time and not really getting much out of it. That goes all the way back to the college season. Last week, I was at the Trans-Mississippi, and it was the same thing. I missed the cut, and I was pretty hard on myself about that. That's why this is so nice. It shows me that all the work is paying off, and that I'm going in the right direction."
MINNESOTA GOLF ASSOCIATION
State Amateur Championship
At Hastings Country Club
Par 71, 6,730 yards
1. Frederick Van Rooyen 72-68-73--213
T2. Sammy Schmitz 73-72-71--216
T2. David Christensen 71-72-73--216
T2. Matt Schneider 72-71-73--216
T5. Andy Jacobson 79-68-70--217
T5. Colton Buege 75-70-72--217
T5. Jesse Larson 76-69-72--217
T8. David Haley Jr. 78-71-70--219
T8. Beau Hanson 74-69-76--219
T8. Dan Moline 73-70-76--219
11. Jack Holmgren 74-73-73--220
T12. Brian Parkhurst 76-73-73--222
T12. Jesse Polk 76-70-76--222
T12. Alex Robb 76-69-77--222