Pine to Palm champ strikes for 2nd State Am banner
Not much has been able to slow down Tom Hoge on the golf course the last two summers, but something finally happened which the Fargo golfing wonder couldn't overcome -- mono.
Hoge missed six weeks of playing golf after being laid up from mono through the months of May and June.
But in the end, even one of Mother Nature's most-potent sicknesses couldn't stop Hoge.
The soon-to-be Texas Christian University senior golfer captured his second-straight Minnesota Golf Association State Amateur championship Wednesday, after outlasting the hard-charging Donald Constable by one shot in the three-day tournament held at Dacotah Ridge Golf Club in Morton.
Hoge carded a pair of five-under par 67's Monday and Tuesday and wrapped up his would-be historic tournament shooting a one-under 71.
His 11-under 205 also broke the Minnesota Am record low, set by Tim Herron -- a 15-year PGA veteran -- in 1992 at Golden Valley.
"It just feels great (repeating)," Hoge said. "It's special because with how many great Minnesota golfers there have been like Tom Lehman, Chris Perry and Bill Israelson who have played in it (they did) not repeat."
Hoge is also the first golfer to repeat as Minnesota Am champion since Dave Nordeen did it in 1985-86, while future PGA Tour player Chris Perry did it in 1982-83.
The MGA Am became a two-horse race quickly, as Hoge and Constable each stroked 67's Monday, after playing in the same group.
Hoge -- who hit 15 greens the first day -- kept his momentum rolling right into Tuesday, where he repeated his five-under score, while Constable finished one out with a 68.
"Even though I shot those 67's, I left a lot of shots out on the course," Hoge said of his first two days. "I felt the course was playing pretty easy, because there wasn't much of a wind. But shooting that 67 the first day set the tone."
Constable came into the Minnesota Am wielding a strong club, after winning three big events, while Hoge was still finding his footing after the six-week layoff from mono.
"The way Donald was playing coming into the State Am, I knew I was going to have to have a strong round to finish it off," Hoge said of Wednesday's final go-around. "I just was really focused and didn't feel a whole lot of pressure because I was playing so well."
Hoge did have a few hiccups in his final round, like missing a short eagle putt on No. 13, while Constable held a one-stroke lead heading into 16.
But Hoge remained sharp and accurate and regained a one-stroke lead, as he and Constable each shot a 71.
This summer, though, repeating as a State Am champion wasn't Hoge's biggest challenge.
Being forced off the course for six weeks total because of mono, trying to rehab and rebound from it came next.
"That's a long time to be out of the game," Hoge said. "But sitting on the couch for those six weeks, made me have a better appreciation of the game and gave me renewed excitement to get back out there and play."
Hoge lost 15 pounds during his sickness, so plenty of yards were shaven off his driver.
Rehab included time in the weight room and more time back on the course.
"There's no way to make up for lost time on the course, so it was a long process," Hoge said of his recovery. "It's tough, because I didn't know what to expect entering the State Am."
Much like last year, when Hoge won the State Am, along with several other big events, he will have lots of momentum to end his summer schedule -- in which there are plenty of events.
Hoge will be playing in the Porter Cup in Niagara Falls, N.Y., a tournament which attracts the top amateurs in the country.
The TCU product will also try and qualify for the U.S. Amateur at the Fargo Country Club Aug. 2.
Hoge is looking to repeat as the Pine to Palm defending champion as well.
The Pine to Palm Golf Tournament will be held Aug. 9-15 at the Detroit Country Club.
Hoge defeated University of Minnesota golfer Thomas Campbell for the 2009 championship, after mowing through the competition and capturing co-medalist honors, along with Clinton Boutelle.
"Hopefully I can keep my momentum up through the Porter Cup and U.S. Amateur qualifier, then come into the Pine to Palm and have some fun," Hoge said.
If last year was any indication what a head of steam does for Hoge entering the Pine to Palm Tournament, there could be lots of fun heading his way at the DCC.
State Am Pine to Palm notables
There are a bevy of golfers who have made noise in the Pine to Palm doing well in this year's State Am.
The 2007 Pine to Palm medalist and co-record holder with a 12-under 130 (along with Jeff Lamp in 2003) Cameron White, finished tied for fifth with a one-under par 215.
He was tied with 2003 Pine to Palm champion and 2001 runner-up Greg Melhus, while 2003 runner-up Scott Gustafson was tied for 24th with a plus-eight 224.
The 2006 Pine to Palm runner-up Johnny Larson was tied for 29th with a nine-over 225, while 2007 champion Cory Blenkush was tied for 33rd with a 10-over 226.
The 2008 champion, Ben Freeman was 38th at 227 and the golfer he beat in the finals that year, Brandon Hartzell, was 19-over at 235, which tied him for 60th place.
Local product, DL sophomore Karter Smith, competed in his first State Am after finished with a 79-75 -- 154, just one stroke from making the cut.
"I was gunning for a 74 the second day, so I could make the cut, but I did learn how to play on a tough course," Smith said. "I was able to make some putts the second day and got up and down some. It was a nice experience just watching some of the quality competition."