Ebner In Front Early at Minnesota Senior Open

May 30, 2023 | 5 min.
By Nick Hunter

  MAPLEWOOD, Minn. – Nearly 20 years removed from his last state victory, former University of Minnesota golfer Phil Ebner carded a 4-under 68 Tuesday at Keller Golf Club to take the first-round lead at the 39th Minnesota Senior Open.

When the championship resumes Wednesday, Ebner will take a one-stroke lead over 2021 Minnesota Golf Association Senior Men’s Player of the Year Tim Peterson and defending champion Derek Stendahl into the final round.

“I haven’t played much competitive golf over the last 10 years—it’s good to get back,” said Ebner, who posted a final-round 72 to finish tied for 27th last season. “If you’ve done it before, you kind of feel again after a while, but there’s no doubt that I was getting nervous.

“Honestly, I was pretty solid all the way around—the driver didn’t get me into trouble, I birdied the holes I needed to birdie and only made two or three putts outside of six feet for par.”

Ebner began his opening round with a pair of birdies over his first nine holes to turn in 2-under before reaching the par-5 10th in two, leading to his third birdie of the round.

Missing a 4-footer for par at the 13th resulted in Ebner’s only bogey of his first round Tuesday, but he answered by converting a 12-footer for birdie at the 15th to get back to 3-under.

Ebner wedged his approach inside of six feet at the 17th and capitalized on his birdie opportunity to take the outright lead at 4-under. He nearly holed his birdie putt from 40 feet at the last, tapping in for par to post an opening-round 68.

“Tomorrow I’m going to come in and enjoy it because it’s been a while. My goal coming in was to start playing more competitively so when I’m 55, I can start playing in more [senior amateur] stuff and get back to the way I used to be.”

Ebner, who played for the Gophers from 1992 to 1994, won the 2004 MGA Amateur Four-Ball Championship with partner Ryan Paulson. Since 1999, Ebner has collected more than 15 top-10 finishes, including three top-10s at the MGA Amateur Championship.

“You retire from coaching and then you can actually play some golf,” said the former Edina High School boys golf coach.

Peterson, who notched his first state victory at the MGA Senior Amateur Four-Ball Championship with partner John Brellenthin last season, had an up-and-down front nine to turn in 2-under before settling into his round.

His lone birdie during his back nine came at the 16th when he stuck his approach inside of two feet, going on to finish one back of the lead with a 3-under 69.

“I had a nice start with birdies at three of the first four holes and ran into a little trouble on seven and eight,” Peterson said. “I was pretty steady and it was about what I should’ve shot. I putted a little better than I usually do—that’s normally not a strength of my game.

“I kept it in front of me today and didn’t get in too much trouble, except the two I bogeyed where I got out of position. [Tomorrow] I’m hoping to do the same thing.”

Looking to become the first back-to-back winner of the championship since Don Berry successfully repeated in 2019 and 2020, Derek Stendahl’s 3-under 69 put him one off the lead following Tuesday’s first round.

“It was an awful day with my driver and that’s usually my bread and butter,” Stendahl said Tuesday. “I was just not in great positions, but knocked it around and made some good birdies.

“I got lucky on a couple of bad drives and still had shots into greens. I probably hit about 14 greens, but just wasn’t in great position. When I was in the fairway, I didn’t capitalize.”

Turning in 2-under Tuesday, Stendahl was over the 10th green with his second, but would get up-and-down for birdie to share the lead at 3-under.

From 90 yards at the 16th, Stendahl’s wedge stopped 10 feet from the cup, and he would convert his birdie chance to join Ebner at 4-under, but he gave back a stroke with a bogey at the 17th to post a 3-under 69 and earn a share of second.

“It’ll be fun again to be in the last group,” said Stendahl, who earned a two-stroke victory with a final-round 70 last season. “I can’t count on bad drives ending in good spots because out here, a bad drive can get you in big trouble. I need to capitalize on a few more wedges and give myself better looks.”

Stendahl entered the championship Tuesday fresh off his appearance at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in Texas last week, where he shot 76-72 to miss the cut by two strokes.

“It’s worked out pretty well because I’ve been playing for seven days now,” he said. “It’s completely different type of grass and greens, so it doesn’t really translate, but you’re swinging and playing and getting the feel.”

A second victory for Stendahl Wednesday would make him the fifth player with multiple wins at the championship since its inception in 1985.

Mark Aldrich and Rick Frieburg each posted rounds of 2-under Tuesday and will begin the final round tied for fourth, two shots off the lead.

Tee times for the final round of the 39th Minnesota Senior Open begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday at Keller Golf Club.

6,677 YARDS, PAR 72


1. Phil Ebner, Windsong Farm, 33-35—68
T2. Tim Peterson, Forest Hills GC, 33-36—69
T2. Derek Stendahl (p), Rush Creek GC, 33-36—69
T4. Mark Aldrich, Interlachen CC, 36-34—70
T4. Rick Frieburg, Monticello CC, 32-38—70
T6. Joel B. Johnson, Links at Northfork, 35-36—71
T6. Chris Borgen (p), Lost Spur GC, 35-36—71
8. Troy Johnson, Edinburgh USA, 35-37—72
T9. Mikkel Reese (p), unattached, 34-39—73
T9. John Spreiter, Litchfield GC, 37-36—73
T9. Jerry Rose, Alexandria GC, 35-38—73
T9. Paul Schubring, Bent Creek GC, 35-38—73
T9. Don Berry (p), Edinburgh USA, 34-39—73
T9. George Smith (p), StoneRidge GC, 33-40—73
T9. Jason Sudenga (p), Bakker Crossing GC, 35-38—73
T9. Bill Israelson (p), Bemidji T&C, 34-39—73

For complete tournament results go to:   https://mnpga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/mnpga23/event/mnpga2316/contest/13/leaderboard.htm


Nick Hunter

Nick Hunter got his start covering sports for the Mankato Free Press while attending Minnesota State University, Mankato. 

He then contributed to several online outlets, including Bleacher Report, prior to turning his focus to golf.

Hunter enters his 12th season covering golf in Minnesota as news editor for the MGA website. He resides in New Prague with his wife and two sons.

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