Storm Laker battles wind, elite field in carding two rounds under par
Storm Lake resident Aaron Clausen became the first local golfer to win the Lake Amateur on Sunday, May 29, after carding rounds of 71 and 70 to claim the title by two strokes over former champion J.D. Anderson, of Johnston, in an event completed under gusty conditions at Buena Vista University Golf Course at Lake Creek over the weekend.
The Lake Creek Amateur, which began in 1973 during Lake Creek’s second year, is a points event used by the Iowa Golf Association to help the sport’s state organization determine its Player of the Year.
Clausen, who played in “The Am” as a Storm Lake High School student, worked in the past few years to reclaim his amateur status. He finished in third place one year ago, then got over the hump this weekend to earn the trophy, the only golfer playing both rounds under par.
“The conditions were tough as the wind kept blowing,” Clausen said. “But those are the kinds of conditions that always test golfers here. The greens were rolling, and the pins were fair. Overall, it was a great test.”
Clausen shot a 1-under-par 71 on Saturday to hold the first-round lead with Freddy Bullock, a Dordt University golfer from Sioux Center. Clausen then shot 9-hole scores of 34 and 36 on Sunday for a 2-under-par 70, enough for a two-stroke cushion over Anderson, who had rounds of 73 and 70.
The champion’s opening nine holes on Sunday included five birdies, one bogey, and one double-bogey, which took place on the par-five No. 4. His most important shot, he said, occurred on the first hole of the final nine holes, a 10-foot par save on the 10th.
“Making that putt for par on no. 10 was huge,” Clausen said. “It helped me continue the momentum I had from those birdies on the opening nine holes.”
From that point forward, the former Creighton University golfer used less club on most shots while still swinging aggressively. He parred seven of his final nine holes while earning a birdie after dropping an 18-footer on No. 13. The lone blemish on his card in the final nine holes was the result of a tough three-putt bogey on the challenging No. 15 green.
When Anderson’s par attempt on No. 17 stayed on the lip. Clausen’s title was all but secured.
“The putt stayed there, and people told me to wait a second to see if the wind would push it in,” said the affable Anderson, a two-time Lake Creek Amateur winner, and two-time Iowa Player of the Year. “I could see it wasn’t going to fall, it was one rotation away.”
Anderson and fellow competitors such as Nate McCoy, of Ankeny, the reigning Iowa Golf Association Player of the Year, praised Clausen and the rest of the field for competing on a course and Lake Creek’s signature greens made demanding, but fair, due to winds of up to 40 miles per hour.
“The wind really made it challenging,” said Senior Division champ Bret Taylor, of Booneville. “In this kind of wind, you’ll have a lot of 3- and 4-foot putts for par and bogey. The golf course has always been good and a lot of fun. With the wind you could tell it would dry out. The greens played great.”
Taylor, who hadn’t been in Storm Lake for “The Am” in more than a decade, said he’ll return to play again. Earning the Senior Division title gave him the 57-year-old some measure of satisfaction as he had finished in second place in the Open Division four times previously. Super Senior Division champ Joel Yunek, of Mason City, joined Taylor in saying he’d be happy to return to a course that, in mere weeks, will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Yunek topped Tom Schill, of Gowrie, in a three-hole sudden-death playoff to earn his championship.
For his part, Clausen said he’d savor the title, one that he, in effect, shares with his community, and the staff and grounds crew at BVU Lake Creek, members led by BVU Lake Creek Director of Golf Joe Powell and Superintendent Bob Leinbaugh, locals who worked throughout a cool spring season in readying the 151-acre links layout.
“I’ve been out here playing a long time and figured at some point, someone (locally) would break through and win,” he said. “I’m really happy to win it as I have a lot of pride in this course. I’m equally proud that so many great golfers across Iowa continue to return to our community for the tournament. It’s great to be a point event and in the conversation in helping determine the IGA’s Player of the Year.”
The Lake Creek Amateur just this year returned to official points-event status for the IGA, the organization that honored BVU Lake Creek by naming it Iowa’s 18-Hole Course of the Year in 2021.
The year 2021 was also a game-changer for Clausen and his wife, Kelsey, as they welcomed identical twins into their family in late September. The girls, Rosemary and Lenora, were with their mother at the end of the rounds on Saturday and Sunday. Their dad gave each a kiss following the competition.
“This is their first golf tournament,” Aaron said with a smile. “It was so special seeing them after I putted out on the last hole. It’s a memory I’ll never forget.”