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Clutch eagle, strong finish net Kucera a Minnesota Am title
Clay Kucera (MGA photo)
Clay Kucera (MGA photo)

A second-round, tournament-low 66 put Clay Kucera in position to win the Minnesota Amateur, but he still had work to do in the final round at Somerby Golf Club in Byron, Minn. Kucera, who plays college golf at Iowa Western Community College, needed a late eagle and a pair of key up-and-downs to save par and finish off a one-shot victory over Andrew Israelson and defending champ Van Holmgren.

After overcoming a rocky start to the final round, Kucera dropped his eagle chance from 30 feet at the par-3 15th and scrambled to save par at the Nos. 16 and 17, extending his lead to two strokes before a par on the final hole made him the first player since Eric Deutsch in 2004 to win the championship after making the field as an alternate.

“This is big for confidence,” Kucera said of his win. “I’ve played well in some tournaments, but haven’t found myself on top of the leaderboard at the end of the day. To win in a field like this, which is full of great competition, proves that I can do that against the best players in the state.

“My swing has been close and my short game has been getting better over the last couple of weeks. It all clicked this week and the course fit my eye when I came out for the practice rounds.”

Kucera’s win Wednesday is the best finish at a state championship since he placed fourth individually at the Class AAA championship in 2016 as a junior at Chaska High School.

Information from the Minnesota Golf Association used in this report

ROUND TWO RECAP

With the low round of the day at Somerby Golf Club in Byron, Minn., Clay Kucera moved into the lead at the Minnesota Amateur. The Iowa Western Community College player, who hails from Chaska, Minn., will take a three-shot cushion into the final round thanks to his second-round 66.

Kucera was impressive on the back nine on Tuesday. He strung together four consecutive birdies from Nos. 10-13, then added three more from Nos. 15-18 for a back-nine 29. Kucera, however, had started on the back. After he turned, the front nine seemed to be going well enough with a birdie at No. 1 followed by seven consecutive pars.

Then he reached No. 9.

Flirting with the course record of 64 and the tournament record of 63, Kucera found himself in trouble for the first time over his last 22 holes. He closed with a double-bogey.

“When I made the turn [in 7-under 29] and then birdied my tenth to get to 8-under, that’s when I got into some territory I’ve never been in before,” Kucera said of the ferocious start to his second round. “That was a little new to me, but I was trying to enjoy it while I could.

“[I was] firing on all cylinders. I think I hit 17 greens other than the last, so off the tee was smooth, I wasn’t thinking much and then got out there, got my number and hit it pretty well.”

Still, Kucera is now at 7 under, and leads Andrew Israelson and Van Holmgren, the defending champ, at 3 under.

ROUNE ONE RECAP

Van Holmgren had an edge as soon as the day started at Somerby Golf Club in Byron, Minn. Holmgren, the rising North Dakota State junior who plays out of Baker National Golf Course, birdied his first two holes out of the gate on Monday at the Minnesota Amateur Championship. It’s tough to keep up with that.

As it turns out, no one else could. By the end of the day, Baker was at 4-under 68 at two shots ahead of the next-closest player.

Holmgren, who is working on a title defense at this championship, was named Summit League Newcomer of the Year a year after joining the Bison team and Second Team All-Summit League. He played the past two seasons alongside his older brother Will, who just completed his eligibility.

Will Holmgren is also in the field at Somerby, and opened with a 3-over 75 to land in a tie for 17th.

In between the two brothers, the leaderboard is tight. Jesse Larson had just three birdies and a bogey in a 2-under 70 that left him solo second, the closest chaser.

Four men are tied for third at 1 under, including Andrew Israelson, Clay Kucera, Joe Conzemius and Ian Simonich.

Results: Minnesota Amateur
1MNClay KuceraChaska, MN20071-66-72=209
T2MNAndrew IsraelsonStaples, MN10071-69-70=210
T2MNVan HolmgrenPlymouth, MN10068-72-70=210
T4MNBen SigelDeephaven, MN5076-72-66=214
T4MNNoah RasinskiCredit River, MN5073-74-67=214

View full results for Minnesota Amateur

ABOUT THE Minnesota Amateur

In 1901, the first Amateur Championship concluded the MGA's inaugural meeting at the Meadow Brook Club in Winona. Thus, the MGA began a tradition that has carried into the present day. The MGA Amateur is now one of the largest golfing events in the state. Nearly 900 people enter the championship every year. It takes more than a dozen qualifying sites around the state to accommodate the competitors. 54 hole stroke play championship.

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