By Nick Hunter
STILLWATER, Minn. – Back-to-back birdies at the 17th and 18th holes Tuesday at Stillwater Country Club boosted Dean Zahn into a share of the lead with Eric Chiles, prevailing in a three-hole playoff to claim the 48th Minnesota Senior PGA Professional Championship.
“This is huge because I don’t get to play a lot of golf and I don’t play in too many events,” Zahn said. Tuesday. “I came in here and thought if I could play fairly well, I could get into the top-5.
“But to win it is pretty special. I wish my dad was here—he always caddied for me in these events and passed away in the fall. He was a PGA pro and he would have loved this. He was probably there a little bit today.”
Zahn, 55, the head professional at Moccasin Creek Country Club in Aberdeen, S.D., since 1996, advances to his second Senior PGA Professional Championship in five seasons.
He will be joined by Chiles, Jeff Kringen, Don Berry and defending champion Thomas Vizina at the national championship Oct. 11-13 at Twin Warriors and Santa Ana Golf Clubs in Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M.
Zahn entered the final round one shot off the lead after his 3-under 69 Monday, and mustered a lone birdie at the par-4 seventh to turn in 4-under for the tournament.
Sinking a long birdie chance on No. 11 after a poor chip, Zahn moved within two shots of the lead, but took a step back with a bogey at the 15th.
Needing a birdie-birdie finish, Zahn did just that to post a second straight round of 69 to finish tied atop the leaderboard with Chiles at 6-under 138.
“I knew I had to birdie 17 and 18, so it was pretty cool to be able to do that,” Zahn said.
Both Chiles and Zahn made par on the first two playoff holes before Chile would take a three-putt bogey. Zahn was able to get up-and-down from just off the green for par to claim his first section event.
“I thought if I could be consistent and not make any big mistakes—hopefully I wouldn’t be too far back,” he said. “I had some good chances, but nothing was really happening. I made a lot of easy pars, which is pretty easy on the nerves.
“I stuck with the same game plan and hit the same clubs in the playoff. Figured don’t change what got you there.”
Zahn’s previous best finish at the championship came in during his first appearance at the 50-and-over event in 2017, placing sixth at Forest Hills Golf Club.
Chiles, who places second for the second consecutive season, entered the final round tied for second with Zahn and would also post a second straight round of 69.
Quickly moving up the leaderboard by carding three birdies during his front nine Tuesday, Chiles would turn in 6-under for the championship.
Seemingly in control of the final round, Chiles moved to 8-under after back-to-back birdies at the 11th and 12th holes.
But a double-bogey at the 15th followed by a bogey at the 16th proved costly for the 51-year-old Chiles, getting one stroke back with a birdie at the par-3 17th to finish deadlocked with Zahn.
Kringen, head professional at Spring Hill Golf Club, held the 18-hole lead following his 4-under 68 during the opening round Monday, and posted a 1-under 71 during Tuesday’s final round to finish third at 139.
Shooting the low round of the tournament with his 5-under 67 Tuesday, the four-time champion Berry placed fourth at 141.
THE 48TH MN SENIOR PGA PROFESSIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
STILLWATER COUNTRY CLUB
6,800 YARDS, PAR 72
TUESDAY’S FINAL RESULTS
1. Dean Zahn, Moccasin Creek CC, 69-69—138 (won third playoff hole)
2. Eric Chiles, Chaska TC, 69-69—138
3. Jeff Kringen, Spring Hill GC, 68-71—139
4. Don Berry, Edinburgh USA, 74-67—141
5. Thomas Vizina, Havana Hills GC, 72-70—142
T6. Bill Israelson, Vintage at Staples, 73-72—145
T6. Derek Stendahl, Rush Creek GC, 71-74—145
T8. Mike Barge, Hazeltine Nat’l GC, 76-70—146
T8. Mark Clouse, North Links GC, 72-74—146
T10. Larry Norland, Greenhaven CC, 72-75—147
T10. Erik Toftner, Hiawatha GC, 71-76—147
For complete tournament results go to: https://mnpga.bluegolf.com/