Joe Palmer (pictured above) made history this week at the 33rd IGA Match Play at Talons Golf in Ankeny. Palmer became the first player in IGA history to win an IGA Senior Match Play Championship and an IGA Match Play Championship in the same year. Palmer, 58, also became the oldest IGA Match Play winner and the third player in IGA history to win the IGA Match Play more than once (Palmer won back in 2002).
“It is a great feeling (winning both IGA events); this was a terrific field and I got through some pretty good matches, Palmer said. “I played great and drove the ball terrific and that sets up your game and I took it from there.”
At the start of the event, Palmer came out of the stroke play portion as the No. 30 seed. Palmer, who was on the side of the bracket named after the late Jim Hasley, an Iowa Golf Hall of Fame member who passed away earlier this year, was faced with an uphill battle as he faced off against the No. 35 seed Henry Weresh in round one. His next opponent was not an easy test either, Palmer faced the No. 3 seed and two-time IGA Match Play winner, Jon Olson in round two.
“Match play is different,” Palmer said. “You have to play your competitor instead of the golf course at times and I knew this course was going to yield some birdies, so I tried to score when I could, and I took it one match at a time. If you don’t make a lot of bogeys, which has always been a strong point in my game, you start getting up in matches.”
Palmer’s next two opponents were the No. 14 seed, Dennis Bull, and the No 6 seed J.D. Anderson. The key to Palmer’s success was to limit the mistakes, and that is exactly what he did the entirety of the tournament.
On the final day, Palmer was faced with another grinding match against the red-hot Kelly Brown. Brown, who was the No. 39 seed, caught fire and was winning his matches by margins of three, four and six holes. Brown took Palmer to the 21st hole, where Palmer was able to gain the edge off the tee box and ultimately won hole by concession after Brown was unable to find his tee shot and provisional ball in the deep rough.
As the championship match began, Palmer and Nate Vance, who was on the side of the bracket named after the late Jerry Johnson, also an Iowa Golf Hall of Fame member who passed away recently, knew they would be fighting for the trophy. Palmer knew that Vance was going to be longer off the tee, so he stuck to his game plan and that seemed to be enough to earn the victory.
“Vance uses the ground just like PGA Tour golfer, Justin Thomas,” Palmer said. “Vance can hit in places that many people can’t, and I knew that. I just stuck with my game and limited my mistakes.”
Vance played tremendous golf all week long, knocking off players like Willis Gaer, Scott Hart and Scot Cook. Vance’s morning match on the final day against Gaer finished on the 17th hole where Vance made a clutch up-and-down to seal it and head to the final match.
In the final match, Vance (right) and Palmer continued to knock down the flag. As the match came closer to an end, Palmer started to gain the edge over Vance. Heading to the 17th hole, Palmer drove into the fairway and Vance was forced to punch out after hitting his tee shot to the right.
Vance could not make an up-and-down for par, but it wouldn’t have mattered because Palmer made a clutch birdie putt. Standing on the 18th tee box, Vance knew he needed to make something happen, so he pulled out his driver and hit it inside 50 yards.
After a short pitch onto the green, the birdie opportunity Vance had to tie the match and send it to the 19th hole lipped out and the match was over. Palmer made par after hitting yet another green in regulation and was able to two-putt from there. The two competitors shook hands, and the 58-year-old was crowned champion.
Next up on the schedule will be the 36-hole U.S. Amateur Qualifier at Lake Panorama Golf Course in Panora. This event will take place on Tuesday, July 6th with the IGA Women’s Four-Ball to follow.