Hoge tears through Pine to Palm for title
Tom Hoge started the 77th Pine to Palm Golf Tournament as the best golfer in the field and he ended it as the top one, as well.
Hoge began the tournament by carding a one-day qualifying record of nine-under par 62, earned co-medalist laurels along with Wyoming's Clinton Boutelle, tore through match play championship competition, then ended the it like he started -- on top.
Hoge toppled the University of Minnesota's Thomas Campbell 3 and 1 to claim the Pine to Palm championship Sunday at the Detroit Country Club.
It's only the sixth time since 1980 that a player won both medalist honors and the championship the same year.
Winning has been the only thing Hoge has been doing on the links and in actuality, it was Monday's performance in his U.S. Amateur qualifying rounds at the Fargo Country Club which ignited his historical run through the Pine to Palm.
"Monday set the tone for me after winning the U.S. Amateur qualifier, I came in with a lot of confidence after that," Hoge said. "I hit a few big shots, but I got a little lucky I didn't run into anyone who shot eight or nine under par."
There was plenty of new Pine to Palm history which was written, as well, along with Hoge's 62 qualifying score.
Oxbow 17-year-old Amy Anderson became the first female to qualify for the Championship match play with her qualifying score of 71-73 -- 144.
But Anderson wasn't finished there, as she won her next four matches to earn a berth in the final four, where she ran up against Hoge Sunday morning, losing 7 and 6.
Hoge -- who also earned NCAA Division I All-American honors after finishing third in the National Tournament playing for Texas Christian University -- didn't play from behind much after trailing only two holes early in the match and took his first lead after seven to eventually build a 3-up advantage after taking each of nine and 10 on a pair of Campbell bogeys.
Hoge won the championship on hole 17 after Campbell won 15 on par and 16 with a nice 10-foot birdie putt.
But a sand shot by Campbell on the par 3 17th hole all but closed the door on any remarkable comeback.
"I was pressing a little (after falling down three) and just wasn't executing," Campbell said. "I was hitting the ball well for most of the week, but my putting was a bit sloppy."
Hoge won the match despite not hitting the majority of his fairways and not making any long putts -- because he didn't have to.
His short game and irons were as solid as could be and he keyed his win by making most of his greens in regulation -- despite hitting out of the rough after his tee shots.
"I didn't have many long putts through the week, actually, because I had a lot of close chips," Hoge said. "But I wasn't in trouble much and I had a good short game so I could play the green free."
After draining about a five-foot birdie putt on seven to take a 1-up lead, Campbell's putter came up short twice on nine and 10.
The TCU golfer made a nice chip from behind the green on his third shot on nine to put the ball within 10 feet of the cup.
Campbell's sand blast went left of the stick, giving him a 14-foot par attempt.
Hoge sunk his after the Gopher's par putt came up about a foot short to take a 2-up advantage.
On 10, Hoge did find the fairway, while Campbell's tee shot landed in the right rough.
On the approach, Hoge was safely on the green, while Campbell's punch bounced off the green.
Hoge put his 20-foot birdie putt in tap-in distance, while Campbell missed his seven-foot par putt.
"I had a bad tee off of nine and had a poor putt and 10 I just came up short again," Campbell included.
The par 4 hole 13 put Hoge in firm control after he sunk his biggest and longest putt of the match from 30 feet away.
Campbell tried to lay his 25-foot birdie putt on top of Hoge's, but the ball stalled about two feet short, again.
After building his 3-up and 4-up leads, Hoge said he didn't take his foot off the gas, instead just kept playing at his pace.
"I didn't let up at all, Hoge said. "He made a good birdie on 15, but I forced him to make birdies (after 15). I just wanted to hit my greens in regulation after the 3-up lead."
Hoge said he did feel a target on his back the entire week after he won medalist laurels with his 62-70 for a 10-under par 132, along with Boutelle.
Hoge's path to the championship included wins over 2003 Pine to Palm champion Greg Melhus (3 and 2), A.J. Olson (3 and 2), Max Hosking (1-up), 1995 champion Mark Halverson (4 and 2) and Anderson.
Campbell defeated his U of M teammate Cameron White in the semifinals 3 and 2. He also downed defending champion Ben Freeman's quest to repeat in the third round 4 and 3 and two-time Pine to Palm champion Rick Kuhn in the quarterfinals 4 and 2.
"I had a great time, this is a great place to play and a well run tournament," Campbell said.
Hoge will earn a free ride to Championship play next year and the automatic No. 1 seed. He will not have to play through qualifying.
"It will be cool to have my name up on the board with guys I have looked up to like Bill Israelson, Kane Hanson and Andy Doeden," Hoge said after winning the title. "It was pretty comfortable playing close to home."
Pine to Palm notes
Another young golfer introduced himself to the Pine to Palm Tournament in Frazee's 16-year-old Beau Hanson.
This was Hanson's first year of eligibility after he earned a free Pine to Palm entry by winning the DCC Men's League championship.
Hanson qualified for the field of 64 with a six-over par 148, but played well through match play by making it to the quarterfinals, before losing to White 7 and 6.
There were only two short rain delays during the week, as the golfers had gorgeous weather for qualifying, but had to play through monsoon-like conditions Saturday afternoon.
There was about a 50-minute rain delay Sunday morning during the Championship semifinals.
The total number of golfers was 429 for the week.
Marty Fiala of Fargo, was the Flight medalist with a one-over par 72.
Championship consolation runner-up was Nick Olsgaard of Moorhead and consolation champion was Dustin Steiner of Fargo.
Name flight champions were: Tony Vincelli (Pine), Brandon Hartzell (Palm), Nic Wagner (Sallie), Tony Meierhofer (Melissa 1) and Brian Kibler (Melissa 2).