Steinhofer snatches golf championship
All throughout the back nine of Riverside Golf Course in the final round of the Ray Fischer State Medal Play Championship here Sunday, the chatter revolved around Janesville’s Matt Behm, Colgate’s Tom Halla and Antigo’s Kelly Kretz.
“Behm just birdied 13,” one patron dutifully reported.
“Are Halla and Kretz tied now? Or is Kretz still a shot ahead?” some questioned.
“I heard Behm just bogeyed 16,” came yet another report.
With Kretz and Halla playing together in the second-to-last group, and Behm playing in the final one, it seemed the tournament hinged on three men, each of whom came to the 17th hole at 11 under par.
Surely, Behm, Halla or Kretz would win, if not in regulation, then in a playoff that would also include Appleton’s Patrick Duffy, who earlier posted a final-round 68 and was in the clubhouse at 11-under.
Then, just like a slick-handed pick-pocket, 18-year-old Andrew Steinhofer literally snatched the tournament. Steinhofer came to the 17th at 10-under and handily birdied both 17 and 18 to win by a shot in dramatic fashion with a 12-under total of 276.
In seemingly seconds, it went from getting ready for a playoff to “Here’s your trophy, Andrew.”
“He deserved to win,” Halla said. “You gotta hand it to him for hanging in there. Young guy, I wasn’t totally convinced that he was going to be there at the end.”
Steinhofer, who entered Sunday’s 36-hole marathon with a one-shot lead but fell three back with a 73 in the morning 18, seemed a little surprised himself.
“To come out here and win, you have to shoot pretty low, which I know I can do,” said the 2009 Madison La Follette High School graduate. “But, obviously, those guys have done it before. I really haven’t in this tournament.”
Steinhofer’s final-round 69 was good enough to tie him with Charlie Delsman as one Fischer’s youngest winners ever. Delsman was 18 when he won in 2003.
At one point, it looked like Steinhofer was going to shoot himself out of the tournament when he hit a ball out of bounds on No. 13 and played the par-5 14th in sloppy fashion.
“I had actually counted him out,” Behm admitted.
But Steinhofer managed to save bogey with a 10-foot putt on 13 and drained a 15-footer to save par on 14. That set him up for the birdie-birdie finish.
“He had four one-putts on the last six holes, and that’s how you win,” Behm said. “He out-putted us.”
Steinhofer hit a long drive downwind on the 338-yard, par-4 17th and flopped a 58-degree wedge within four feet for a birdie to get to 11 under. After a strong drive on 18, he hit the shot of the tournament, sticking a 52-degree wedge from about 130 yards out to 22 feet.
“I didn’t know it was that good,” Steinhofer said. “I thought it would be (within) 10 feet or so.”
It was closer than that, and Steinhofer tapped in for the win.
Halla, Kretz and Behm, meanwhile, all had their chances.
A 5-under 67 on Sunday’s first 18 had Halla tied for the lead with Germantown’s Michael McDonald, who fired a 65 on Sunday’s first 18 but fell off the pace with a 76 on the second 18.
Halla was at 11 under for the tournament when he stuffed a pitching wedge to about eight feet on the 16th in his final round.
He hit a good birdie putt, but the right-to-left breaker missed just below the hole.
Kretz, a junior-to-be at Marquette University, was as low as 14 under at one point in the difficult windy conditions, but he struggled off the tee down the stretch and bogeyed 15 and 16 to come up short.
Behm, the 2006 Fischer champion, got to 12 under after a birdie on No. 13 but bogeyed the 16th and couldn’t convert on a pair of 20-foot birdie putts on the final two holes.
Duffy, who came from nowhere to get into the title picture, not only fired a 68 in the final round, he matched that score during the morning’s third round. The 68 was the low score of the final round.
Also in the field, Dallas Cowboys quarterback and Burlington native Tony Romo, who entered Sunday four shots off the lead, finished in a tie for 18th at 1-under 287.
Romo, a threat at the midway point, dropped out of contention with a third-round 77.
Sean Sanguansap, a 13-year-old from Milwaukee, finished his impressive weekend in 71st after remarkably making the cut on Saturday.
And Kenosha’s Travis Engle provided the tournament’s lone hole-in-one, acing the 146-yard, par-3 15th on Sunday.
Besides Behm’s second-place showing, Janesville finishers included Sam Van Galder at 287, Mike Hesselman at 288 and Ryan Coffey at 293.
Hesselman opened the tournament with a 4-under 68 and was just three shots off the lead before gradually sliding down the leaderboard in each round.
Van Galder had a 67 in round two, but never really got it going.
Coffey posted a 72 on the first day for his low round of the tournament.