By Nick Hunter
“The way that Caleb won the [state amateur] and state open this year was already amazing, so to add on top of that is incredible, and adds a really special element to this win today,” said VanArragon, who will begin her freshman season at the University of St. Thomas in three weeks.
“This is also our home course for St. Thomas, so to win at a place that already feels like home for me and my teammates is very special, too.”
Entering Tuesday’s final round three strokes back of the lead after her opening-round 74 Monday, VanArragon quickly erased the deficit with a birdie on the opening hole before holing out for eagle from 50 yards at the par-5 second.
“Obviously, it’s great to get off to a good start, but you’ve got your whole round ahead of you. It’s an interesting place to be,” said VanArragon. “It’s important to not let that get into your head.”
VanArragon took the outright lead with a tap-in birdie at the fourth to move to 2-under for the tournament.
A double-bogey at the par-5 11th was one of few missteps during her final round Tuesday as VanArragon bounced back with a second hole-out of the round at the par-4 13th to move back to 2-under.
VanArragon traded two birdies with two bogeys over her final four holes to post a final-round 68 and claim her second Minnesota State Open crown at 2-under 142.
VanArragon entered the record books when she became the youngest player to win the Class AAA individual title as a seventh-grader in 2018.
The following season, she became the youngest to win the MGA Women’s Amateur a month after her 14th birthday, and then became the youngest to win the Minnesota Women’s State Open at 15.
Since 2018, VanArragon has never won more than two events in a season. Her win at StoneRidge Tuesday is the fourth victory this year for the three-time MGA Junior Girls’ Player of the Year, and she now has the potential to become the first player in state history to win MGA Women’s Player of the Year and MGA Junior Girls’ Player of the Year honors during the same season.
She began the year with her third straight victory at the Minnesota Junior Girls’ PGA Championship before joining forces with her older brother to win the MGA Mixed Amateur Team Championship, the fifth brother-sister combo to do so.
VanArragon earned a one-stroke victory over Emma Welch at the MGA Women’s Amateur at Baker National Golf Course last month for her second win at the event in five seasons.
“I feel like I learned a lot this summer, even when I wasn’t playing well,” she said. “Even when I scored well, I wasn’t necessarily playing well. The last few weeks I’ve gotten a lot better at simplifying my game, which has really been helpful. I tend to overthink the whole process more than I need to.”
Kelly, who became the championship’s first back-to-back winner, opened the championship with a 1-over 73 Monday and entered Tuesday’s final round two shots off the lead.
Starting strong with a birdie on the opening hole, Kelly’s round was derailed by a bogey at the second and a double-bogey at the fourth.
Kelly played her final 14 holes in 1-under to post a round of 73 for the second consecutive round, finishing as low professional in second at 146.
“I lost it on the par-5s—I was six or 7-over the last two days,” Kelly said following her final round Tuesday. “Normally the par-5s are birdie holes. I lost focus yesterday at the end of the round and today, clearly, I need to work on my course management.
“Congrats to Kathryn—she won the tournament, but I wanted this so bad. Born and raised in Minnesota, this is my favorite tournament to play in. I feel like my game is solid, I just need to tighten it up.”
The day’s biggest move up the leaderboard Tuesday belonged to Xavier University’s Emma Welch, who carded a career-low 5-under 67 to climb 29 spots into third place at 3-over 147.
University of Wisconsin golfer and first-round leader Camille Kuznik carded a final-round 79 Tuesday to finish tied for fourth with North Dakota State University’s Madi Hicks, and Tommie teammates Nicole Reineke and Emma Davies at 6-over 150.
THE 23RD MINNESOTA WOMEN’S STATE OPEN
STONERIDGE GOLF CLUB
6,052 YARDS, PAR 72
TUESDAY’S FINAL ROUND RESULTS
1. Kathryn VanArragon, Bunker Hills GC, 74-68—142
2. Betsy Kelley (p), TPC Twin Cities, 73-73—146
3. Emma Welch, Brackett’s Crossing CC, 80-67—147
T4. Madi Hicks, Chaska TC, 76-74—150
T4. Nicole Reineke, Chaska TC, 75-75—150
T4. Camille Kuznik, Pioneer Creek GC, 71-79—150
T4. Emma Davies, Olympic Hills GC, 73-77—150
T8. Alexandra Schilling (p), Legends Club, 76-75—151
T8. Olivia Salonek, Keller GC, 74-77—151
T8. Amelia Morton, Bunker Hills GC, 73-78—151
For complete tournament results go to: https://mnpga.bluegolf.