Van Galder's steady play brings him sixth city golf title

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Eric Schmoldt
Sunday, July 31, 2016

JANESVILLE—Sam Van Galder had a gut feeling the 2016 Janesville Men's City Tournament might come down to the final seven holes.

Nos. 12-18 at Glen Erin Golf Club mostly feature tight fairways lined with tree trouble on each side, along with a pair of tough par 3s. To win, Van Galder said Saturday, a player would likely need to shoot even par through that stretch.

The defending champion knew what he was talking about.

Van Galder played those seven holes at even par Sunday to turn a tie atop the leaderboard through 11 holes into a four-shot victory. Ten days shy of his 30th birthday, Van Galder shot a 1-under-par 70 at Glen Erin to follow up a 1-over 73 at the Janesville Country Club and a 2-under 70 at Riverside, capturing the men's city title for the second straight year and sixth time overall.

Three-time champ Brad Bohlman was four shots back with a 217 total. Andrew Morrison was third at 219, while Bobby Kennedy—the leader through the first two rounds and tied with Van Galder heading to No. 12—and Michael Oellerich were another shot back at 219.

“Today was probably the most solid I played this weekend, especially the first 15 holes,” Van Galder said. “The last three holes, I kind of just steered it home and tried not to make a big number.

“Twelve through 18, I played those even par. Usually if you can do that, you'll get through it pretty easily, because that's where all the trouble is out here.”

Van Galder, Morrison, Kennedy and Oellerich—playing together in the final group—were all within three strokes of each other turning home for the final nine holes. Thanks to a birdie on the par-5 eighth, Van Galder held a two-shot lead on Morrison and Kennedy.

But Kennedy birdied Nos. 10 and 11 to tie Van Galder at 2 under for the tournament with seven holes to play. Each of them played it safe off the tee at the narrow 424-yard par-4 12th hole. But Kennedy tugged his approach shot left and got an unlucky break when it caromed off a cart path into the trees.

“That's how you play it, you lay back to about 200 yards out and it's a hard approach shot,” Van Galder said. “Bobby had just birdied 10 and 11, and he went first and just pulled it and hit the cart path. If he misses the path, he's right there and makes no worse than 5.”

Instead, Van Galder parred and Kennedy finished with a double bogey.

“That was huge, and it was unfortunate,” Van Galder said.

Still holding a two-shot cushion, Van Galder then provided the dagger at the par-3 14th. He stuck his tee shot on the 207-yard hole to two feet and tapped in the birdie putt.

Despite a bogey at No. 16, Van Galder was never threatened again.

In the second-to-last group, however, Bohlman birdied three of his final five holes, a solid stretch that got him to a second-place finish.

While Kennedy wound up tied for fourth, Van Galder said he enjoyed the duel with his longtime friend and former teammate at Janesville Craig High.

“I've known Bob forever,” Van Galder said. “He grew up down the street from me and is a little younger, so I used to drive him around. I was rooting pretty hard for him.”

Van Galder also won the city title in 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2013. Jan Hoffman holds the city record with nine career titles between 1961 and 1975. Gregg Clatworthy and Chris Pastore each won seven times, and Harold Kotwitz is a six-time champion.

The three-day competition was flighted after the first two rounds were complete.

Efren Blanca shot a 2-over 73 at Glen Erin for a 238 total that captured the First Flight by one stroke. Randy Krueger's final-round 73 was enough to win the Second Flight by six shots. And John Bauer won the third flight by three shots after firing a final-round 79.

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