By Nick Hunter
HOPKINS, Minn. – Valparaiso University golfer Caleb VanArragon entered the final round of the 2022 Minnesota State Open one shot off the lead, going back-and-forth with eventual winner Van Holmgren, shooting a 6-under 66 on his home course at Bunker Hills Golf Club to come up one shot short.
Helped by a pair of eagles Tuesday at Oak Ridge Country Club, VanArragon posted a 5-under 65, and once again finds himself in a similar position, this time sharing the 36-hole lead at 7-under 133 with former University of Minnesota Jon DuToit at the 106th Minnesota State Open presented by Yamaha Golf and Utility.
Asked if there’s extra motivation ahead of Wednesday’s final round, VanArragon shrugged, “A little bit, but it’s also a reminder that I could go out and shoot 62, and [DuToit] could shoot 61. There’s nothing in my power to win the tournament tomorrow, I just have to do what I can to shoot a good score and the results will follow.”
When the tournament resumes Wednesday, VanArragon and DuToit will both be chased by professionals Trey Fessler and Ross Miller, who finished Tuesday’s second round tied for third at 5-under 135.
Beginning his day on the 10th tee Tuesday, VanArragon played his first three holes in even par before an errant tee shot led to his only bogey of the second round.
“I started off pretty slow, but I thought I only hit one bad shot over the first four holes. I got a lot of lucky breaks today, but the thing I’m most happy about is having a good attitude,” VanArragon said. “After a bogey on [No. 13] I was able to stay calm and I was confident that I was going to be able to turn it around.
“I wasn’t expecting to turn it around that quickly, but I had a good enough attitude to give myself the opportunity to bounce back from it.”
VanArragon eagled the par-5 14th and followed it with a birdie at the 16th, turning in 4-under for the championship.
Wedging his approach inside of six feet at the par-4 fourth, VanArragon capitalized on his birdie chance before reaching the par-5 fifth in two, thanks to a “slice 9-iron” to set up a second eagle chance from 10 feet.
Burying his eagle putt put the former Blaine High School star at 7-under for the championship, earning a share of the lead with his round of 5-under 65.
“There were definitely tough pins on the back nine, but I thought they were fair and I was able to do a good job staying below them,” said VanArragon. “I know what worked for me today—being relaxed and not overthinking—is what I’m going to take into tomorrow. It’s just golf.”
Owner of three state titles since 2017, VanArragon has also claimed his fair share of close calls in recent years.
He finished runner-up to Derek Hitchner at the 2021 Minnesota Golf Association Amateur Championship at Rush Creek.
After falling at last year’s State Open, VanArragon finished one shot back of Max Tylke at the Minnesota Public Golf Association Public Links Championship at Hastings Golf Club.
VanArragon earned his fourth state title last month, teaming with sister, Kathryn, to win the MGA Mixed Amateur Team Championship at Brackett’s Crossing Country Club.
In search of his first state victory since winning the 2015 MGA Amateur at Northland Country Club, DuToit fired a 2-under 68 Tuesday to sit tied atop the leaderboard with 18 holes to play.
“I didn’t play as well today, but I kept the ball in the right spots and below the pin for the most part,” DuToit said Tuesday. “I had a couple spots where I was above the hole, and you’re just trying to hang on at that point.
“I didn’t feel as great with the driver or the full swing. I made a couple of 10-footers and the next thing you know I was three under.”
Starting his second round on the 10th tee Tuesday, DuToit rolled in a trio of birdies over his first six holes to reach 8-under for the championship, but began his back nine with his second bogey of the week at the par-4 first.
He bounced back by sticking his approach to four feet at the second, carding his fourth birdie of the day.
Hitting a low hook to avoid tree trouble at the fifth, DuToit’s second rolled five feet above the hole, and two-putted for birdie to reach 9-under.
Stumbling down the stretch, DuToit carded bogey at the par-3 seventh and then failed to get up-and-down at the last after spinning his approach off the front edge, finishing with a 2-under 68 for a share of the lead.
“I don’t really know what to expect tomorrow—I haven’t been in this position and played in something like this for a while,” he said. “I’m going to go have fun, be nervous, feel the jitters and try to enjoy it.”
Ian Simonich, who carded a 4-under 66 to open the championship Monday, tallied an even par 70 during his second round, and he will begin the final round in fifth place at 4-under 136.
Boston College golfer and former St. Thomas Academy standout Muzzy Donohue was the big mover of the second round Tuesday, firing a 7-under 63 to climb 44 spots on the leaderboard and into a share of eighth place, five shots back of the lead.
Southview Country Club professional Christopher Meyer moved up 22 spots on the leaderboard Tuesday, firing a 4-under 66 and into a share of eighth place.
Brady Madsen, winner in 2019, carded a 1-over 71 Tuesday and he will begin Wednesday’s final round tied for 11th with University of Minnesota assistant coach Robert Bell, Michael Schmitz (2nd Swing) and Lucas Johnson (Suite Shots).
The final round of the 106th Minnesota State Open is slated to begin at 8 a.m. Wednesday at Oak Ridge Country Club.
THE 106TH MINNESOTA STATE OPEN
OAK RIDGE COUNTRY CLUB
6,781 YARDS, PAR 70
TUESDAY’S SECOND ROUND RESULTS
T1. Jon DuToit, Chaska TC, 65-68—133
T1. Caleb VanArragon, Bunker Hills GC, 68-65—133
T3. Trey Fessler (p), Fox Hollow GC, 67-68—135
T3. Ross Miller (p), Le Sueur CC, 69-66—135
5. Ian Simonich, Moorhead CC, 66-70—136
T6. Josh Galvin, Rush Creek GC, 69-68—137
T6. Conor Schubring, Bent Creek GC, 68-69—137
T8. Christopher Meyer (p), Southview CC, 72-66—138
T8. Brock Winter, Indian Hills GC, 69-69—138
T8. Muzzy Donohue, North Oaks GC, 75-63—138
For complete tournament results go to: https://mnpga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/mnpga23/event/mnpga239/contest/9/leaderboard.htm