With the help of a pair of Jerry Rose birdies on the final two holes Tuesday at Windsong Farm, the twosome of Alexandria’s Rose and Alexandria native Jim Lehman carded a final-round 69 to claim a two-stroke victory over the team of J.T. Johnson and Tom Whaley.
Lehman and Rose shot a 36-hole total of 10-under 132 to win the 46th Minnesota Golf Association Senior Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
Lehman and Rose each earn their first victory at the championship after falling in a two-hole playoff to Tom Heidrick and John Sexton a year ago at Northfield Country Club.
“Winning MGA championships is a really big deal, and at the end of the day if we can look back and say I’ve won ‘X’ number of MGA tournaments, including this tournament, that’s huge,” said Lehman, a five-time MGA Senior Amateur champion, who also won the MGA Senior Players’ Championship in June.
“It’s fun and I love competing. When you’re able to win, you feel fortunate because there are a lot of good players in this state,” Rose said. “Golf’s a hard game and some days it’s pretty easy and there’s a lot of days it isn’t. You’ve just got to hang in there and get a few putts going. You have to play well to finish well and it’s always satisfying to win. It’s a lot of fun playing with Jim and good to finally get a win.”
Carding nine birdies with a lone bogey during the opening round Monday, Lehman and Rose’s round of 63 put them two strokes ahead of Johnson and Whaley entering Tuesday’s final round, but Lehman and Rose’s lead was cut in half after just one hole during the opening round when Lehman and Rose each failed to get up-and-down to save par.
“We got off to a horrible start—I don’t know what it was, it seemed like our timing was off or something, but it was a struggle,” Lehman said Tuesday. “We’ve played a lot of golf with Whaley and Johnson over the years and with only a two-stroke lead, that was pretty insignificant. Getting off to a slow start was a little disconcerting.”
Rose rolled in a 6-footer for birdie on the second hole to recapture a two-stroke margin before the team of James Price and Bob Rolston pulled within one shot of Lehman at Rose at 6-under for the championship with nine holes to play.
Sinking his birdie putt from 25 feet to open the back nine Tuesday, Rose added another birdie at the 12th to help his team to another two-stroke advantage before Johnson sank back-to-back birdies at 10 and 11 to thrust his team back into sole possession of second place.
Johnson drilled his birdie chance from 20 feet at the par-4 14th hole before Lehman and Rose both ran into trouble at the par-3 16th. Lehman lost his tee shot into the water, while Rose was unable to get up-and-down for par as the two teams shared the lead for the first time during the tournament at 8-under.
Rose rolled in another 12-footer to regain the lead at the 17th and after Whaley’s birdie putt rolled wide on the final hole, Rose carded his fourth birdie of the back nine, sinking a 6-footer to secure a two-stroke victory.
“I felt bad because Jim was playing by himself for a lot of the front nine, so I told him that I’m going to settle down and play better on the back,” Rose said. “It was helpful that Jim made a good, long putt on 10 for par, which gave me free run at my putt and he told me where to hit it and it went right in the middle of the cup.”
Lehman’s victory Tuesday marked the first time a player has won on his home course since Gary Johnson and Jon Empanger used home-field advantage at the 2010 championship at Island View Golf Club.
“When you are playing your home course, you know a little bit more than the others about where to hit it, and where to be defensive or where to be a little more aggressive, so that’s definitely an advantage, but there’s additional pressure of knowing that every single hole you’ve made birdies before,” Lehman said. “You want to duplicate those same feelings and sometimes it doesn’t work out.”
In four appearances as teammates at the event, Lehman and Rose have finished no worse than sixth place, while finishing tied for sixth at the MGA Amateur Four-Ball in 2017. Lehman and Rose have finished as Low Senior at the state four-ball in 2014 and 2015.
“We’ve played so much golf together—Jimmy is usually so steady, that it takes a lot of pressure off of me, in fact almost too much pressure off of me because I kind of freewheel it sometimes. He’s usually down the middle and on the green,” Rose said. “We’ve played so much together that we know each other’s games well, and even when things aren’t going well, that we can turn it around and make some birdies.”
A runner-up finish caps off a successful season for both Johnson and Whaley as Johnson tallied three top-5 finishes and earned Low Amateur honors at U.S. Senior Open Sectional Qualifying. Johnson, who is a regular recently at the Resorters Tournament in Alexandria, carded a 2-under 70 in late July to qualify for the U.S. Senior Amateur at Old Chatham Golf Club in Durham, N.C.
“The entire tournament, up until I lost my ball on 18, we were laughing and loving the fact that we were in the middle of it,” Johnson said Tuesday. “At the beginning of the day, I said to Tom that this is going to come down to the 18th hole. We played one guy extremely steady and one guy uber aggressive and it almost worked.”