By Nick Hunter
COON RAPIDS, Minn. – It has long been said that the game of golf can be cruel. While one good finish can jumpstart a career virtually overnight, another’s is bound to unravel just as quickly.
Life lessons through the game, both good and bad, have come quickly for Van Holmgren, who shortly after advancing to the Round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur last summer at Oakmont Country, decided to make a living by playing golf.
He earned a paycheck of $1,300 with a fifth-place finish at the 2021 Visit Sebring Classic on the Minor League Golf Tour last November.
The following month, he paid his $2,800 entry fee to play in the 2021 Big Money Golf Classic at Orange County National in Winter Gardens, Fla. The tournament featured a $400,000 purse with approximately $100,000 going to the winner. Holmgren finished tied for seventh at the 54-hole event, which netted him a payday of $10,000.
Unfortunately, the money never arrived. The controversy, featured in Golf Digest and on the Golf Channel, has yet to be settled—with over 20 players still owed money.
In February, Holmgren finished tied for 15th at PGA Tour Canada Q-School, missing partial status by one stroke. In two events on the PGA Tour Canada this season, Holmgren missed one cut and finished 59th at the other. A third event was cancelled due to weather.
But this week was different. Back in his home state on a course where he won a high school individual state title in 2017, for a brief 54-hole moment, Holmgren was rewarded.
Firing a 7-under 65 Thursday at Bunker Hills Golf Club, Holmgren edged Valparaiso University golfer Caleb VanArragon by one stroke to win the 105th Minnesota State Open presented by Yamaha Golf and Utility.
“I wanted to earn it today,” said Holmgren, who entered the final round tied for second with VanArragon and Derek Holmes, one shot behind 36-hole leader Eric Rolland. “I think with the level of golf in Minnesota, I knew someone was going to go out and shoot 5-under. I knew I needed to dig deep, which is a fun feeling.”
With his win Thursday, Holmgren earns an exemption into the PGA Tour Canada’s CRMC Championship next month at Cragun’s Resort in Brainerd, Minn.—the first Tour event to be played outside of Canada.
“Ideally, I’d like to show a bigger audience what Minnesota golf is all about now that [I’ve won the Minnesota Golf Association Amateur Championship and the Minnesota State Open],” he said. “I think I’m ready to move on and compete at the next level.
“That’s been my goal and I’m trying my best to get there. Hopefully, I get an opportunity or two. I’m ready to win at home again, so Brainerd is going to be fun.”
Holmgren finished his opening round with six birdies over his final seven holes to earn a share of the lead at 66 before an up-and-down 71 during Wednesday’s second round to sit one back.
“I was proud of that 71 yesterday,” Holmgren said following his win. “I slept like a baby because I worked hard to keep it just under par.”
During the final Thursday, Holmgren again used a flurry of birdies—five in a six-hole span—to move to the top of the leaderboard.
Birdies at the 13th and 14th gave Holmgren a much needed two-stroke cushion because he would card his first bogey in a 25-hole span at the par-4 13th to fall back into a tie with VanArragon.
Holmgren took control of the championship for good by burying his birdie chance from 40 feet at the par-3 17th to post a final-round 65, securing a one-shot victory.
“Today I had more control over the ball. Off the tee, I was in better scenarios and I had three long putts drop, which was nice. I felt comfortable over the ball when I was on the greens,” Holmgren said. “I wasn’t focusing on the score—I was just thinking about how the next shot was the best shot I could hit.”
For his efforts this week, Holmgren earned a payday of $10,000, which will reach his bank account in the coming days.
A bogey-free 66 wasn’t enough for the two-time defending Twin Cities champion VanArragon, who began the week 67-70 to sit one shot off the lead entering Thursday’s final round.
Instead, he finished one shot back at 13-under 303 to claim low-amateur honors and his third top-10 finish at the championship in four seasons.
“There were so many good players in the field this week, I just wanted to play my own game,” VanArragon said Thursday. “I was really happy with how I was able to manage the course. My putting was solid and I was able to focus on my target on every shot and not overthink my technique.
“Van played amazing. Congratulations to him—he deserved it this week. I’ve got a lot to build off of and I’m looking forward to the rest of the summer.”
VanArragon captured the lead early by sinking his birdie chance from six feet at the second. Sinking a pair of 12-footers at the fifth and eighth holes, VanArragon moved to 10-under for the championship.
Over the ninth green in two, VanArragon recaptured his fourth lead of the final round by converting his birdie putt from three feet to move to 11-under.
Trying to keep up with Holmgren’s furious back-nine pace, VanArragon rolled in birdie at the 14th to pull within two of Holmgren and would earn a share of the lead by sinking a 25-footer for birdie at the 16th.
Failing to convert birdie chances on each of his final two holes put VanArragon in the clubhouse in second place at 13-under 203.
Rolland, the men’s and women’s head golf coach at Augsburg College, opened the championship with back-to-back rounds of 68 to take a one-stroke lead after two rounds of play and would card a final-round 72 to finish third at 8-under 208.
A final-round 70 Thursday helped 2020 champion and former University of Minnesota golfer Angus Flanagan earn a fourth-place finish at 7-under 209.
Oak Ridge Country Club, in Hopkins, Minn., will play host to the 106th Minnesota State Open.
The Minnesota PGA would also like to thank supporting sponsors 2nd Swing, Twin Cities Orthopedics, Sterling Cut Glass, Press Premium Alcohol Seltzer and the staff at Bunker Hills Golf Club.
THE 105TH MINNESOTA STATE OPEN
BUNKER HILLS GOLF CLUB
COON RAPIDS, MINN.
7,137 YARDS, PAR 72
THURSDAY’S FINAL RESULTS
1. Van Holmgren (p), Pioneer Creek GC, 66-71-65—202
2. Caleb VanArragon, Bunker Hills GC, 67-70-66—203
3. Eric Rolland (p), Augsburg College, 68-68-72—208
4. Angus Flanagan (p), University GC, 68-71-70—209
T5. Brady Madsen, Olivia GC, 69-71-70—210
T5. Nate Adams, Rush Creek GC, 66-73-71—210
T5. Max Tylke, Legends Club, 69-70-71—210
T5. Derek Holmes (p), PXG Mpls, 69-68-73—210
T9. Trey Fessler (p), Albion Ridges GC, 72-71-68—211
T9. Gunnar Broin, Chaska TC, 70-73-68—211
T9. Cecil Belisle, Red Wing GC, 72-69-70—211
T9. Lincoln Johnson, Chaska TC, 68-73-70—211
T9. Mario Tiziani, unattached, 68-71-72—211
T9. Thomas Campbell (p), 2nd Swing, 71-68-72—211
For complete tournament results go to: https://mnpga.bluegolf.com/