By Nick Hunter
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – With a two-putt par on the final hole Friday, professional Betsy Kelly carded a final-round 75 to edge defending champion Kathryn VanArragon by one stroke at Minnesota Valley Country Club, claiming the 21st Minnesota Women’s State Open for her first state victory since 2010.
During an up-and-down battle over the final 18 holes that saw seven lead changes, Kelly’s win on the 36th hole marks the first win by a professional at the championship since Lisa Grimes won in 2014 at Town and Country Club.
“I’ve wanted to win this tournament since I was 10,” said Kelly, whose last state championship win came at the Minnesota Girls’ Junior PGA Championship at The Quarry at Giants Ridge. “Born and raised here and playing in this event, this win means so much because I dreamed of it as a kid. It’s good to win again—I haven’t won in a while. It’s nice to see all the work in the last two years has paid off.
“It was a roller coaster, but I just wanted to stick to my game plan. Go in with confidence and commit to every shot. Halfway through the round it felt like I totally lost it. I’ve been working a lot on my mental game and envisioning every shot and [the trophy].
Entering Friday’s final round in a three-way tie with VanArragon and Isabella McCauley, Kelly rolled in her birdie chance at the first to keep pace with McCauley at 1-under for the championship.
Taking the outright lead with a par at the second, Kelly extended her lead to two with a second birdie at the sixth to move to 2-under before three consecutive bogeys beginning at the sixth dropped the 29-year-old into second place at even par.
A pair of bogeys to open her back nine saw Kelly fall three shots behind McCauley before an important up-and-down at the 13th from the left rough to save par prior to a birdie at the 14th to earn a share of the lead with VanArragon.
“I needed that up-and-down [on 13],” Kelly said. “I pounded my drive and thought I’d be up in the fairway and caught it to where I had a tree on the left into the green. And the birdie on 14 was a big turning point.”
Steady down the stretch, Kelly got up-and-down from a bunker short of the 18th green to save par, while VanArragon made bogey to give Kelly a one-stroke victory at 2-over 146.
“The biggest takeaway is that I can play,” Kelly said. “When I was a kid, I’d come out and I was scared. It’s nice to have some confidence back again. It’s just like Kathryn and Bella—people know they’re going to have to beat them when they’re in the field.
“I feel like I’ve got what it takes and I’ve got to keep on my path and what I’m working on. It’s good momentum going into Q-School.”
Kelly, a Forest Lake, Minn., native, who works as a retirement plan consultant, claimed her first state victory at the 2009 Class AAA championship, winning the individual title to close out her junior season at Forest Lake High School.
After a four-year collegiate career at Colorado State University, Kelly turned professional in 2016, seeing limited status on the Symetra Tour.
With restored confidence in her golf game in recent months, Kelly played Cactus Tour events over the winter. Now, with a State Open title under her belt, she will travel to Mission Hills Country Club next week to compete at LPGA Qualifying School.
Kelly led all professionals in the field this week as Savannah Smith (from Crosswoods Golf Club) carded a final-round 80 to finish tied for 14th at 157, while Haley Tollette (Rum River Hills Golf Club) finished tied for 35th at 164.
A bogey on the 36th hole Friday denied VanArragon of the chance to become the first repeat winner in the 21-year history of the event as she carded a final-round 76 to post a 3-over 149.
“I’m encouraged—it wasn’t exactly the outcome I wanted, I hit some solid shots and Betsy played so well,” said VanArragon, a soon-to-be junior at Blaine High School. “There are a lot of positives to take away.
“I hit quite a few greens, not necessarily close to the hole, but, especially with these tough greens, being on the green led to a steady front nine and then to the back. I’m happy with the consistency and confidence—it’s something that I’ve struggled with all summer.”
Finding the same bunker as Kelly at the last, VanArragon had practically the indentical shot, but sent her third to the back edge. She chipped well past the cup and two-putted for bogey to finish one stroke back.
Olivia Herrick, winner in 2011 and 2018, fired a round of even par 73 Friday to finish in a tie for third with Olivia Salonek at 5-over 151, while McCauley and Maggie Veenendall finished tied for fifth at 6-over 152.
The 22nd Minnesota Women’s State Open will be contested at Rush Creek Golf Club.
THE 21ST MINNESOTA WOMEN’S STATE OPEN
MINNESOTA VALLEY COUNTRY CLUB
5,982 YARDS, PAR 73
FRIDAY’S FINAL RESULTS
1. Betsy Kelly (p), TPC Twin Cities, 73-75—148
2. Kathryn VanArragon, Bunker Hills GC, 73-76—149
T3. Olivia Herrick, Dellwood CC, 78-73—151
T3. Olivia Salonek, Cragun’s Legacy Courses, 75-76—151
T5. Maggie Veenendall, New Richmond GC, 75-77—152
T5. Isabella McCauley, Southview CC, 73-79—152
7. Leah Herzog, Mississippi Nat’l GC, 76-77—153
T8. Reese McCauley, Southview CC, 79-75—154
T8. Jasi Acharya, Interlachen CC, 77-77—154
T8. Taylor McCorkle, unattached, 75-79—154
For complete tournament results go to: https://mnpga.bluegolf.