Ledwein Escapes Late Push by Skaar at MGA Women's Match Play

June 23, 2022
By Nick Hunter

  MINNETRISTA, Minn. – Surviving a late charge by North Dakota State University golfer Leah Skaar Thursday at Burl Oaks Golf Club, Taylor Ledwein hit the shot of the tournament from a bunker on the final hole to claim her second Minnesota Golf Association Women’s Amateur Match Play title.

Ledwein built a 4-up lead through 11 holes but needed a critical up-and-down at the 18th to preserve her victory, 1-up, for her first individual title since the 2018 championship.

“This means a lot because I showed myself that I can still compete,” 24-year-old Ledwein said following her win Thursday. “I feel like I’m almost at the top of my game. Because I don’t have as much time as I did, my practices are purposeful now and what I’m doing is getting the job done. It feels great.”

Skaar grabbed the first lead of the match at the par-3 after Ledwein missed a 6-footer for par. Ledwein countered by sinking birdies at both the fourth and fifth holes to go up by one.

Trouble for Skaar began at the par-4 sixth where she would card three bogeys over her next four holes to trail Ledwein by four with nine holes to play.

Skaar began to build momentum by rolling in her birdie putt from 10 feet at the 10th, and though Ledwein would match her with a birdie of her own at the 11th, Skaar played her final nine holes in 1-under par.

A three-putt bogey by Ledwein at the par-4 14th trimmed her lead once again to three before the former Bradley University golfer went out of bounds with her approach at the 16th, conceding the hole to Skaar, who moved within two.

Following a three-putt bogey by Ledwein at the 17th, Skaar dropped her par putt from four feet to pull within one of Ledwein heading to the final hole. After both players found the water off the tee, Ledwein’s third came to rest in a greenside bunker, short of the 18th green, where she would hit out to within two feet and hold on for the victory, 1-up.

“In those circumstances that was one of the best bunker shots I’ve ever hit,” Ledwein said.

“My goal was to hit fairways and greens and force [Skaar] to make birdies to either win or tie the hole. I was always expecting her to make her putts, because that’s what you have to do in match play.”

When her struggles began late during her back nine Wednesday, Ledwein admittedly had flashbacks to the 2020 Minnesota Women’s State Open, where she squandered a seven-stroke lead through 11 holes at The Jewel Golf Club, falling to Kathryn VanArragon by one shot.

“I need to find a better way to relax and just hit the shot when I’m up like that. Be more in the present and know that nothing else matters,” Ledwein said. “As much as you say I’m over it or that it’s not going to happen again—once you’ve done it and start doing it again, it’s hard not to think, ‘Why can’t I finish?’”

Ledwein’s first state win came at the Class AAA state tournament in 2015, claiming medalist honors her junior season at New Prague High School. She added a Twin Cities Junior title to her resume later that summer.

Successfully defending her Class AAA individual title to cap off her high school career in 2016 before winning the Minnesota State Junior Girls’ Championship the same season.

Ledwein’s biggest season came in 2018, winning three times: the MGA Women’s Amateur Match Play Championship at Faribault Golf Club; the MGA Women’s Amateur Championship at White Bear Yacht Club and the first of her three MGA Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship titles with partner Megan Welch.

The twosome of Ledwein and Welch have won the past two Women’s Four-Ball titles and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Maridoe Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas.

Thursday’s finish marks Skaar’s best finish at a state championship since she placed third at the Minnesota State Junior Girls’ Championship in 2019 at Valleywood Golf Course. The 20-year-old Skaar improved on her performance from a year ago where she won two matches before falling during the quarterfinal round at Dellwood Country Club.

“I wanted to keep playing the way I had been and not put too much pressure on myself,” Skaar said after the final match Thursday. “Hoping to compete with someone who has a really good record. I don’t have a lot of match play experience, so I think the work I’ve put in on my chipping and putting really paid off."

“I thought I finished pretty strong and had some birdies after things got a little shaky. I was focusing on hitting good shots and getting looks at birdie. I got up-and-down and made some good par saves. The match could’ve been over at 15 if I didn’t make my par putt.”

A native of Gold Canyon, Ariz., Skaar began her freshman season at North Dakota State by playing six rounds for the Bison, placing 12th during her inaugural event.

Skaar wrapped up her sophomore season this spring with a team-best 76.50 scoring average across 27 rounds, putting her 13th on the program’s single-season ranks.

She claimed four top-10 finishes, including a third-place finish in October. Named to the All-Summit League Second team, the first Bison since 2019, in addition to earning Summit League Academic All-League.


Nick Hunter

Nick Hunter is entering his tenth season covering golf in Minnesota as news editor for the MGA's website. He resides in New Prague with his wife, Amber, and two sons.

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