Pexa Pounds the Par 5's, Wins Krugel by 2
July 12, 2021
MANKATO -- It's a different year, but it was a familar story in the Krugel Invitational. Jack Pexa faced a substantial deficit early in the final round, but then he went to work on the five par 5's at Mankato Golf Club. And just as he did last year on his way to victory, he birdied them all on Sunday afternoon. He added two birdies on non-par 5's and emerged as the winner for the second year in a row.
The 26-year-old former hockey player from New Prague closed with a 4-under-par 67 and finished 45 holes with a 174 total (3 under). J.B. Lloyd, 51, the winner of a record six Krugel titles, shot 70 and claimed second place with a 176. Joe Abdo, a senior-to-be at St. John's, was another two back in third at 178, after a final-round 71.
Joel Johnson, who won consecutive Krugels in 2018 and '19, had a 71, as well, and he tied the 27-hole leader, Zach Christianson, at 179. Ben Laffen, who began the day at the top of the leaderboard, after a Saturday 68, shot a 3-over 38 for the first nine holes (the back nine) on Sunday and followed that with a 74 in the afternoon to finish alone in sixth at 180.
The Krugel Invitational is named after longtime MGC pro Loren Krugel (winner of the 1953 Minnesota State Open), and Sunday at the Krugel always begins with the Championship Flight playing the back nine. Then comes a full 18 to the finish.
Pexa was cruising through the back nine Sunday morning, 2 under par. But he bogeyed the 386-yard, par-4 17th hole and then hit his tee shot into a tree at the 440-yard, par-4 18th, and it was never found, which resulted in a double bogey and a 1-over 36. That put him into a four-way tie for sixth at 107, five behind Christianson.
Facing a similar deficit a year ago, Pexa said he wasn't all that worried because there were a lot of par 5's still to play. He had the same attitude this year, and got a similar result.
The long-hitting left-hander -- he averages about 310 yards off the tee -- had to make his first two birdies the hard way, with a wedge and putter, after hitting his drives into the trees. Mostly, it was the wedge, which he hit to 2 feet at the fourth hole (483 yards), he hit it close again at the fifth (540). At the 488-yard seventh, he launched a drive of just over 300 yards and then hit an 8-iron from 175 yards to 12 feet, and two-putted from there for his birdie.
Unlike most 20-something bombers, Pexa doesn't appear to swing that hard. It's an effortless power, as he demonstrated at the 506-yard, par-5 10th hole. He needed 190 yards to carry the ditch that guards the green, and it was 205 yards to the pin. His swing was so fluid and so languid that he almost appeared to be laying up, but he flew his 7 iron shot to the back of the green and two-putted for his third birdie of the round. Another 7 iron from just over 200 yards at the 514-yard 11th produced another birdie, although he just missed the green and had to make a 6-foot putt.
Meanwhile, Christianson, who is even longer off the tee than Pexa, was struggling to find the fairways and greens, and he would go on to shoot 77. The tournament was settling into a three-player race, with Pexa holding a slim lead (it kept changing) over Lloyd and Abdo. Pexa clinched the deal by making a 12-footer for birdie at the short, par-4 15th (297 yards) and the par-3 16th (141).
Pexa doesn't have many more tournaments on his schedule this year.
"I have kids and a job, and that doesn't leave a lot of time to practice," he noted. "Basically, I just go to the course and play every so often, and try to figure out what will work. I plan to play in the State Amateur and State Open in the next couple of years, but there just wasn't going to be any time this year. So that will have to wait."
MINNESOTA AMATEUR GOLF
At Mankato Golf Club
1. Jack Pexa 71-36-67--174
2. J.B. Lloyd 70-36-70--176
3. Joey Abdo 70-37-71--178
T4. Zach Christianson 69-33-77--179
T4. Joel Johnson 72-36-71--179
6. Ben Laffen 68-38-74--180