Hitchner goes wire-to-wire at 118th MGA Amateur
Four Pine to Palm notables finish in the top 10.
The last time Derek Hitchner claimed victory at a state championship in Minnesota, he broke the Class AA scoring record to win medalist honors by shooting 10-under 134 in 2016 at Ridges at Sand Creek to cap off his sophomore season at the Blake School.
Fast forward five years and Hitchner can call himself a state champion for a second time, breaking a pair of Minnesota Golf Association Amateur Championship records by shooting 15-under par 201 at Rush Creek Golf Club to continue his blistering 2021 season.
“Winning this tournament has always been a goal of mine because I’ve played with so many of these players and I’ve played in it four or five times before,” Hitchner said following his round Wednesday. “It means the world to me to be able to get this done. I knew it would be tough, but I’m thankful to come out on top.”
The Pepperdine University golfer placed inside the top-20 at the Sunnehanna Amateur last month in Pennsylvania before carding a 7-under 281 to win the 117th Trans-Mississippi Amateur Championship at Windsong Farm July 9.
A few days later Hitchner qualified for his third U.S. Amateur Championship by tallying a 36-hole score of 6-under 138, and followed it with a runner-up finish at the Minnesota State Open last week at Chaska Town Course, shooting 12-under 132.
Including his win Wednesday, Hitchner has shot even par or better in 16 of his last 18 competitive rounds, with 12 consecutive rounds under par. Hitchner has played his last 327 holes in a combined 38-under par.
“This month has been pretty surreal,” Hitchner said. “Golf is so unpredictable. Going into the Trans-Miss, I was playing pretty badly—I had just finished [tied for 84th at Pinehurst]. I wasn’t feeling great, but felt like if I kept working hard that I could break through. Thankfully that’s happened and I’ve been able to sustain it. I’m trying to take it day-by-day, but it’s been a pretty cool stretch.”
Hitchner's 15-under 201 tally Wednesday marks a new low in relation to par, topping Frankie Capan's 12-under finish at last year's championship at Edina Country Club, as well as James McLean's 54-hole aggregate score of 203 set in 1998 at Rochester Golf and Country Club.
Caleb VanArragon trailed by two strokes on the last hole and finished as the runner-up, one stroke off the lead. A pair of Pine to Palmers tied for third place.
The 2019 Pine to Palm champion Andrew Israelson carded a 7-under 65 to finish as runner-up last season at Edina Country Club. Wednesday, he fired a final-round 67 at Rush Creek to earn a share of third with Lucas Johnson at 9-under 207.
Johnson was the medalist at Detroit Country Club in 2020.
Nate Adams, the runner-up to Israelson in 2019, was a stroke back at 8-under 208.
Chris Swenson, the 2017 Pine to Palm champion, finished in a tie for eighth place at 5-under 211.
The 119th MGA Amateur Championship will be held at Olympic Hills Golf Club in Eden Prairie.