Late Birdies Propel Aldrich to Victory at MGA Senior Amateur

September 27, 2023 | 5 min.
By Nick Hunter

  WAYZATA, Minn. – Helped by the combination of a home-course advantage and a hot putter this week at the 102nd Minnesota Golf Association Senior Amateur Championship, Mark Aldrich played his final seven holes in 4-under Wednesday at Wayzata Country Club to claim a four-stroke victory over former champion John Brellenthin for his first win in 10 seasons.

Making his first start at the senior championship since turning 55-years-old in April, Aldrich’s final-round 69 lifted him to the sixth state victory of his career.

“To win here, where I taught myself how to play golf, was really fun,” said Aldrich, who grew up near the third hole at Wayzata Country Club before working on the grounds crew for six seasons. “For it to come full circle is pretty huge because this is a special, special place for me.

“I was really calm all three days because I know the course so well. Playing another course, nerves might’ve come into play, but I’m so comfortable here.”

Firing a tournament-low 68 during Tuesday’s second round, Aldrich carried a slim, one-stroke advantage over 2021 champion John Brellenthin to the final round Wednesday.

Steady early on, Aldrich curled in a 20-footer to save par at the fifth, but would card his only bogey of the round at the par-4 seventh to turn in 4-under with a one-shot advantage.

After Brellenthin pulled even with a birdie at the 11th, Aldrich countered by rolling in a 6-footer for birdie at the 12th to recapture the outright lead at 5-under.

Finding his stride on the putting surface, Aldrich dropped a 30-footer for birdie at the 13th to extend his lead before converting his birdie chance from 25 feet at the 16th, moving to 7-under for the tournament.

Leading by three strokes on the final hole, Aldrich’s approach stopped inside of four feet, where he’d sink one final birdie chance to claim a four-stroke victory at 8-under 208.

“A little slow for the first eight or 10 holes today—no birdies, but luckily on 12 and 13 I got it going a little bit,” Aldrich said. “It took a while for the round to develop. I didn’t drive the ball great today, so I was in the rough a fair amount.

“Getting there and staying there was the biggest key for me this week. Sometimes I get a little defensive out there and I told myself to put my foot on the gas and stay there. I was never in any trouble necessarily. All three days I was never struggling for par.”

Aldrich’s first state victory came in 2002 when he was a member of the winning team along with Joe Stansberry, Don Howe and James Wahl at the MGA Amateur Team Championship at The Classic at Madden’s.

In 2007, Aldrich teamed up with sister, Betsy, to claim the MGA Mixed Amateur Team Championship at Forest Hills Golf Club.

He then claimed two MGA Amateur Four-Ball Championship victories with partner Erik Christopherson in 2009 and 2011, before his most recent victory at the final MGA Amateur Team Championship with Christopherson, J.T. Johnson and Trent Peterson at TPC Twin Cities in 2013.

Making his first start at senior amateur events earlier this season, Aldrich advanced to the final round of the MGA Senior Players’ Championship at Alexandria Golf Club, falling to eventual winner Jerry Rose, 6 and 4.

In July, Aldrich opened the Minnesota Public Golf Association Senior Public Links Championship with a 1-over 73 at Keller Golf Course, following it with a 75 during the final round to notch a second consecutive top-5 finish.

“I really haven’t played a lot of competitive golf over the last 20 years,” Aldrich said. “Jumping back into tournament golf as a senior this year, it’s gone pretty well.”

Claiming his fourth state win two weeks ago with partner Tim Peterson at the MGA Senior Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Eagle Creek Golf Club, John Brellenthin wasted little time erasing Aldrich’s one-stroke lead early in the final round Wednesday.

Brellenthin rolled in a short birdie chance at the second to pull even with Aldrich at 5-under for the championship, but he would close out his opening nine with a pair of bogeys to turn one shot back of Aldrich at 3-under.

The defending MGA Senior Player of the Year found his footing by sinking a 4-footer for birdie at the 11th, but it was all the closer he would get as Aldrich pulled away with four birdies over his final seven holes.

Brellenthin posted a 4-under 212 to claim his third consecutive top-4 finish at the championship.

David Haslerud, winner of the 2017 championship at Island View Golf Club, carded a 1-under 71 during his second round Tuesday to pull within four shots of the lead ahead of Wednesday’s final round.

Haslerud stumbled early with a bogey on his opening hole, but battled back with three consecutive birdies beginning at the par-4 fifth to move within a shot of Aldrich and Brellenthin at 3-under for the championship.

But a late bogey to close out his outward nine dampened Haslerud’s chances, closing out his round with another bogey at the 17th to post a final-round 72 to place third at 1-under 215 for his best performance since he claimed a runner-up finish in 2019 at StoneRidge Golf Club.

Tim Peterson, the 2021 MGA Senior Men’s Player of the Year, began his final round four shots off the lead and posted a 3-over 75 on the final day to finish in a tie for fourth place with 1999 MGA Players’ champion J.B. Lloyd at 2-over 218.

 

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 11th 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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