By Nick Hunter
HOPKINS, Minn. – Winless in his last nine state championship starts since 2015, former University of Minnesota golfer Jon DuToit fired a 5-under 65 Monday at Oak Ridge Country Club to take the opening-round lead of the 106th Minnesota State Open presented by Yamaha Golf and Utility.
DuToit, winner of the 2013 championship at Edinburgh USA, will take a one-stroke lead over North Dakota State University’s Ian Simonich to Tuesday’s second round.
“It’s been a while since I’ve competed and played. I was even nervous and a little jittery on the first hole,” DuToit said Monday. “It’s easy to come out and press a little more than you should because your expectations can get a little high, but I just want to have fun, enjoy it, and focus on hitting one shot at a time.
“Today was a grind. It took a while to get used to the green speeds—I was a little tentative. Overall, the course was tough, but I drove the ball really well and put myself in position.”
A former professional, DuToit turned in 1-under Monday, two-putting the par-5 fifth for his first birdie of the round before quickly carding his second at the 10th.
A three-putt bogey at the 12th dropped DuToit back to 1-under for the round, but he rebounded by sinking three consecutive birdie chances beginning at the 13th.
“I think the bogey kicked me into gear a little bit,” DuToit said. “It was time to stop being timid on the greens and just put some good rolls on it. There were some putts I made that broke about a foot on seven to 8-footers, so it was tricky.”
The 30-year-old former standout at Chaska High School rolled in a 15-footer at the 13th and chipped inside of a foot for a tap-in birdie at the 14th to reach 3-under for the championship.
Taking advantage of the fast and firm conditions Monday, DuToit’s short approach at the 15th stopped eight feet from the cup where he would convert his fifth birdie of the round.
Wedging his approach to eight feet at the last, DuToit curled in one final birdie chance to sit alone on top of the leaderboard after 18 holes of play at 5-under 65.
Since he survived a three-way playoff with Clayton Rask and Sammy Schmitz earn the title in 2013, DuToit has earned a pair of top-10 finishes at the championship, including runner-up to Ben Greve in 2015 at StoneRidge Golf Club.
DuToit’s most recent victory came at the Minnesota Golf Association Amateur Championship at Northland Country Club in 2015.
Climbing the leaderboard with a string of five birdies over a six-hole span Monday, Simonich quickly propelled himself into contention, looking for his first state victory in four seasons with a round of 4-under 66.
“I had a really good round today—I haven’t been playing the best golf as of late,” Simonich said following his round Monday. “Just haven’t played in a lot of tournaments recently.
“Today I gave my self looks on basically every hole and lag putting was good—made a couple longer ones. Controlling wedges was a big thing today. There were a lot of shots from 100 yards that you can rip off the front of the green. I controlled them really well and ended up having 10-footers on a lot of holes.”
Starting his day on the 10th tee Monday, Simonich started the scoring by rolling in his birdie chance at the par-5 14th before carding four consecutive birdies beginning at the 16th.
He got up-and-down from off the green at the par-5 fifth, but gave back two shots with a pair of bogeys over his final four holes to sit one shot off the lead following a 4-under 66.
Professional Trey Fessler carded three birdies through his first eight holes Monday, on his way to a round of 3-under 67. He will begin Tuesday’s second round two shots off the lead.
Fessler has already claimed five Minnesota PGA section wins this season, most recently claiming the Luther Pro Series event at Medina Golf and Country Club.
Don Berry (Edinburgh USA), a two-time champion, and Brady Madsen (Eagle Creek GC), winner in 2019, will begin Tuesday’s second round of play tied for fourth with amateurs Conor Schubring and 2022 runner-up Caleb VanArragon after all four players posted a 2-under 70 during their opening rounds.
Ross Miller (Le Sueur CC), the 2018 Minnesota Golf Champions winner, posted a 1-under 69 Monday to finish the opening round of play tied for eighth with two-time champion Andrew McCain (2015, 2018), and Michael Schmitz (2nd Swing).
Defending Minnesota PGA Professional champion Jonathan Reigstad (Keller GC), carded a round of even par 70 to sit tied for 14th with fellow professionals Jack Hiemenz (Victory Links GC), Derek Holmes (Yamaha Golf Cars), Lucas Johnson (Suite Shots), and University of Minnesota assistant coach Robert Bell.
The 106th Minnesota State Open continues Tuesday when second round tee times begin at 7:30 a.m. at Oak Ridge Country Club.
THE 106TH MINNESOTA STATE OPEN
OAK RIDGE COUNTRY CLUB
6,781 YARDS, PAR 70
MONDAY’S FIRST ROUND RESULTS
1. Jon DuToit, Chaska TC, 34-31-65
2. Ian Simonich, Moorhead CC, 35-31—66
3. Trey Fessler (p), Fox Hollow GC, 33-34—67
T4. Conor Schubring, Bent Creek GC, 36-32—68
T4. Brady Madsen (p), Eagle Creek GC, 33-35—68
T4. Don Berry (p), Edinburgh USA, 34-34—68
T4. Caleb VanArragon, Bunker Hills GC, 35-33—68
T8. Brock Winter, Indian Hills CC, 36-33—69
T8. Ross Miller (p), Le Sueur CC, 35-34—69
T8. Michael Schmitz (p), 2nd Swing, 34-35—69
T8. Brady Arnett, White Bear YC, 35-34—69
T8. Andrew McCain (p), Dellwood CC, 34-35—69
T8. Josh Galvin, Rush Creek GC, 36-33—69
For complete tournament results go to: https://mnpga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/mnpga23/event/mnpga239/contest/9/leaderboard.htm