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Men's Division: Casey Vangsness keeps a title in the family

Alexandria's Casey Vangsness watched his tee shot off the 11th box during his Men's Division final match against Nick Heinen on Saturday. (Echo Press photo by Al Edenloff)

He mows through five opponents, including his brother

By Al Edenloff

Casey Vangsness of Alexandria bolted out to a big early lead and played near flawless golf to win his first-ever Resorters Golf Tournament title Saturday.

The big hitting lefty defeated the division medalist, 17-year-old Nick Heinen of Edmond, Oklahoma, 5-4, in the final round of the Men's Division Championship. The match-play tournament at the Alexandria Golf Club began with a field of 32 qualifiers.

Vangsness, 21, takes over the title that his 25-year-old brother, Ben, earned the last two years. The two met up in the quarterfinals where Casey won a down-to-the-wire shootout, 2-1.

"I stayed relaxed," Vangsness said after Saturday's big win. "I wasn't nervous at all...It's been fun all week. A lot of family and friends."

Vangsness, who advanced to the final after knocking off former Alexandrian Jeremy Decko of Scottsdale, Arizona 3-2 a few hours earlier, calmly began the match with a trio of birdies before Heinen stopped the damage by tying him on the next four holes.

Vangsness went to 4-up on No. 8 when he just missed a birdie putt, settled for par and Heinen's par putt went awry.

Heinen, who advanced to the finals with a hard-fought 1-up win over Justin Doeden of Prior Lake earlier that morning, showed flashes of his medalist form by sinking a long birdie putt on No. 9 that sliced the lead to three.

Vangsness quickly dampened Heinen's hope for a comeback by winning Nos. 10 and 11 with birdies to go 5-up.

On the par-5 No. 12, Vangsness once again hit a dead-on drive right in the middle of the fairway. He then knocked his second shot on the green and drained the eagle putt to go 6-up.

Vangsness' only miscues happened on No. 13 when he hit trees on his first two shots. He conceded the hole, stopping his second shot with his hand when it bounced back at him, but was still comfortably out front by five.

Vangsness quickly rebounded with a solid drive on the par-5 No. 14, followed by a nice approach that left him about 20 yards from the green. His chip for eagle stopped an inch from the cup, giving him a gimme birdie. Heinen barely missed his eagle try, which ended the match.

Afterward, Vangsness credited some of his success to his friend and teammate Derek Brinker, who served as his caddie. The two will be traveling to the U.S. Amateur Championship on August 12-18 at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Vangsness is entering his senior year at St. John's University in Collegeville, where he is a member of the men's golf team. He was named a first-team All-American among Division III golfers.

While he has earned a lot of distinction on the golf course, the Resorters' win is special, Vangsness said.

"It does feel good," he said. "It's hard to break through, get the job done and win this tournament."

The experience will also serve as a tune-up for next week. After two rounds of stroke play, the format for the U.S. Amateur Championship switches to match play.

Will he be back next summer to defend his Resorters' title? It will depend on whether he stays an amateur after he finishes college or makes the leap to the pros. "We'll see what happens," he said.