By Nick Hunter
ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. – Isabella McCauley began the 2021 golf season by becoming the youngest player in the state of Minnesota to ever qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. McCauley penned yet another chapter in the record books by firing a 6-under 66 at Minneapolis Golf Club Friday to become the first female to lead the Minnesota Golf Champions in its 47-year history.
McCauley bookended her opening round by chipping in for eagle at the first and concluded with a 30-footer for birdie at the last to close out her day one shot clear of professionals Trey Fessler and Thomas Campbell heading into Saturday’s second round.
“It was a good day,” McCauley said. “An eagle on [No. 1] was a good way to start. I was hitting the ball solidly—I think I missed one green in regulation, so I was really happy with that. I had two great putts coming in on 17 and 18, which felt good.
“My wedges were really solid and I think I missed one fairway, so I was really consistent there.”
Quickly moving into red figures with an eagle at the first, McCauley was in control of her iron play early, nearly holing out from the tee at the par-3 sixth, sinking her birdie chance to move to 3-under before a three-putt bogey at the eighth.
She would rebound by carding a pair of birdies from inside of six feet at both the 11th and 14th holes to move to 4-under for the round before dropping her birdie opportunity from 20 feet at the 17th and finished at 6-under with a sizeable birdie putt at the last.
“I went in today without any expectations and not really nervous, and that’s the goal again for tomorrow; to not put a number down and take it shot-by-shot and see what happens,” she said.
McCauley, a senior at Simley High School, started her memorable season by firing a 1-under 143 at Somerset Country Club in May to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open at the storied Olympic Club in San Francisco a month later, carding a 10-over 150 to miss the weekend cut by two strokes.
Following her appearance at the U.S. Women’s Open, McCauley made her second appearance at the U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur in July, advancing to the Round of 32 at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md.
During her only state appearance during the 2021 season, McCauley placed fifth at the Minnesota Women’s State Open at Minnesota Valley Country Club.
Fessler, a recently-turned professional, who now lives in Florida, carded four birdies against one bogey during his opening nine Friday to move to 4-under for the championship before back-to-back three-putt bogeys to begin his inward nine dropped him to 1-under.
Answering with birdies at the 12th and 13th holes, Fessler quickly moved back into contention with his eagle from the bunker at the par-5 15th to get to 6-under. Taking a step back with a bogey at the 16th, Fessler finished his round with a birdie from 20 feet at the 18th to post a 5-under 67.
“I didn’t really miss any tee shots today, and if I did miss a tee shot, I missed in the right spots. I was never really out of position,” Fessler said following his opening round Friday. “My game felt pretty good.
“I love Minnesota golf. I’ve travelled a lot to play golf and I always seem to play well in Minnesota.”
Fessler, a 21-year-old native of Hanover, Minn., said he intends to play in multiple Outlaw Tour events in Arizona this year before returning to Florida later this winter to prepare for PGA Tour Qualifying School next spring.
Campbell, who enters this week’s championship coming off a runner-up finish at the Minnesota PGA Match Play Championship Wednesday at Mendakota Country Club, falling to Don Berry, 2 and 1, carded four birdies over his final 10 holes Friday to climb into a share of second with Fessler at 67.
The former University of Minnesota golfer picked up a pair of birdies at the first and third holes Friday, but would give a stroke back with a bogey at the fifth. Turning in 2-under following his birdie at the par-4 ninth, Campbell added three more birdies to his card during his final nine to post a 5-under 67.
Clayton Rask, a five-time champion at the event, fired a 3-under 69 Friday to sit in a share of fourth place with fellow professional Lucas Johnson and Colorado State University golfer Gunnar Broin.
The 47th Minnesota Golf Champions continues Saturday when the second round gets underway at 11 a.m. at Minneapolis Golf Club.
THE 47TH MINNESOTA GOLF CHAMPIONS
MINNEAPOLIS GOLF CLUB
ST. LOUIS PARK, MINN.
7,024 YARDS, PAR 72 (MEN)
5,804 YARDS, PAR 72 (WOMEN)
FRIDAY’S FIRST ROUND RESULTS
1. Isabella McCauley, Southview CC, 34-32—66
T2. Trey Fessler (p), Albion Ridges GC, 33-34—67
T2. Thomas Campbell (p), 2nd Swing, 34-33—67
T4. Clayton Rask (p), Hyland Greens GC, 35-34—69
T4. Lucas Johnson (p), The Meadows GC, 35-34—69
T4. Gunnar Broin, Chaska TC, 32-37—69
T7. Derek Holmes (p), PXG Minneapolis, 34-36—70
T7. Joel B. Johnson, Links at Northfork, 36-34—70
T7. Brent Snyder (p), Troy Burne GC, 35-35—70
T7. Max Tylke, Legends Club, 33-37—70
T7. Kathryn VanArragon, Bunker Hills GC, 33-37—70
T7. Michael Schmitz (p), 2nd Swing, 33-37—70
For complete tournament results go to: https://mnpga.bluegolf.com/