By Nick Hunter
CHASKA, Minn. – Banners of past champions align the driveway to the clubhouse at Chaska Town Course this week, and the first two pictures golfers and spectators see are of Ben Greve hoisting the championship trophy following his wins at the Minnesota State Open in 2016 and 2017.
The former University of Minnesota golfer looks to become the seventh player in the tournament’s 104-year history to claim three wins at the championship after Greve fired a 6-under 66 in cool and wet conditions Wednesday to take a one-stroke lead.
“For some reason, I don’t know why, I like to play well at the State Open,” Greve laughed following his opening-round 67 Tuesday.
Bouncing back from a bogey on his opening hole Wednesday, Greve rolled in three birdies to close out his from nine and would play his final four holes of the day in 4-under to take a one-shot advantage over defending Minnesota Golf Association Amateur champion Frankie Capan and 2020 MGA Players’ champion Cecil Belisle to Thursday’s final round.
“Today was solid, but I need to play better on the front nine, which I think is the easier of the two,” Greve said Wednesday. “The goal is always to have a chance on the back nine in round three.”
Greve admitted he made a “careless mistake” at the first Wednesday, missing an 18-inch putt to take a bogey and fall to 4-under for the championship. He responded with a pair of birdies from inside of three feet at the fourth and fifth to move to 6-under.
After rolling in his birdie chance at the ninth, Greve missed an eagle putt from 12 feet at the 15th and would settle by tapping in for birdie. He then drove the 16th green and dropped his 15-footer for eagle to move to 10-under and he would finish atop the leaderboard at 11-under 133 with a birdie at the 18th with one round to play.
“Playing last week helped—I haven’t played any events, said Greve, who played four rounds at last week’s Trans-Mississippi Amateur Championship at Windsong Farm, finishing tied for 48th at 8-over 292. “I was able to get some competition under me and my game feels good. I’m hitting it very straight and I have good control with it, so if I make putts, it feels good.”
Capan, who earned a two-stroke victory at the MGA Amateur last season, played his first five holes in even par Wednesday before carding three birdies over his final four holes to turn in 8-under for the championship.
Converting his birdie opportunity on his 14th hole, Capan gave back a stroke with a bogey on the ensuing hole, but would finish on a high note with birdies on two of his final three holes to card a 5-under 67 for the second straight day and now sits one shot off the lead at 10-under 134.
“My game has felt good over the past 36 holes but I think it’s started before that,” Capan said Wednesday. “Throughout the summer I’ve been playing well but the scores haven’t necessarily been there, however, I’ve stayed patient this week and am fortunate to put myself in a good position heading into tomorrow.
Carding a pair of mid-round bogeys during the final round at last year’s State Open at The Royal Club proved fatal for Capan, who would go on to finish two shots behind eventual winner Angus Flanagan.
“My focus this entire week has been on hoisting the trophy after tomorrow’s round,” he said. “I believe I’ve done a good job of staying present in each moment and each shot through the first two rounds. I’ve put myself in a good position to achieve my goal but that can’t happen until the 54th hole, so my plan tomorrow is keep doing what I’ve been doing and go have some fun out there.”
Firing a 66 to share the early lead Tuesday, Belisle continued his strong play Wednesday by playing his front nine in 1-under before a birdie at the 10th put Belisle at 8-under for the championship.
After failing to save par at the par-3 12th, Belisle surged to the finish line by carding three birdies over his final six holes to post a second-round 68 for a share of second at 10-under 134.
A 7-under 65 put professional Andrew McCain (from Dellwood CC) in position to claim his third State Open title Wednesday as he sits two shots back in a tie for fourth along with professional Brian Hills (of 2nd Swing) at 9-under 135.
Notable professionals making the 36-hole cut Wednesday include Ross Miller who will begin the final round in a tie for sixth at 136; defending champion and Tapemark Minnesota PGA Pro-Am champion Angus Flanagan, who sits tied for 20th at 140; two-time champion Don Berry, PGA (from Edinburgh USA), who tallied a 36-hole 142 to currently sit tied for 30th; Jeff Sorenson, PGA (The Minikahda Club) is tied for 54th at 146 and Brent Snyder, PGA (Troy Burne GC), who will enter the final round tied for 60th at 147.
The final round of the 104th Minnesota State Open is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Thursday at Chaska Town Course.
THE 104TH MINNESOTA STATE OPEN
CHASKA TOWN COURSE
6,817 YARDS, PAR 72
WEDNESDAY’S SECOND ROUND RESULTS
- Ben Greve, Olympic Hills GC, 67-66—133
T2. Frankie Capan, North Oaks GC, 67-67—134
T2. Cecil Belisle, Red Wing GC, 66-68—134
T4. Andrew McCain (p), Dellwood CC, 70-65—135
T4. Brian Hills (p), 2nd Swing, 70-65—135
T6. Ross Miller (p), Medina G&CC, 66-70—136
T6. Michael Schmitz (p), 2nd Swing, 70-66—136
T6. Gunnar Broin, Chaska TC, 70-66—136
9. Derek Hitchner, The Minikahda Club, 69-68—137
T10. Tristan Nelko, Windsong Farm, 71-67—138
T10. Van Holmgren, Baker Nat’l GC, 70-68—138
T10. Trey Fessler, Albion Ridges GC, 71-67—138
T10. Lucas Feterl, Edinburgh USA, 73-65—138
T10. Lincoln Johnson, Chaska TC, 72-66—138
T10. Jacob Pedersen, Windsong Farm, 71-67—138
For complete tournament results go to: Minnesota State Open Championship – Stroke Play/All Leaderboard | Minnesota PGA (bluegolf.com)