Cronin, Jensen left standing as IGA Match Play Champions

One was left standing.

After a long, intense week, Clive’s Blake Cronin was still there when the dust had settled at the 36th IGA Match Play Championship hosted by Talons Golf in Ankeny.

Cronin (right), the #55 seed, into match play following a 75 (+3), which left him one shot clear of a playoff for the remaining spots in the bracket, worked his way through Cody Weaver (2&1), Alec Fuhs (4&2) Jon Olson (19 holes) and Owen Sawyer (1 up) to reach the final against Des Moines’ Ethan Mechling, who earned the #36 seed.

Mechling’s path to the finals included victories over Hogan Hansen (1 up), Wade Pettitt (3&2), Sam Vertanen (6&4), Grant Smith (5&3), and Trent Lindenman (1 up).

The final match between the two saw a back-and-forth tilt, with either Cronin or Mechling winning 9 of the first 12 holes. But that was the end of anyone gaining ground, as the last nine holes of the match were tied.

With wins on holes 10-11, Cronin grabbed a 2 up lead midway through the match. While Mechling would win the 12th hole with a par, putting him 1 down, that’s as close as he’d get as birdie efforts failed to find the bottom of the cup. Both players would make pars the rest of the way, leaving Cronin with a 1 up victory after 18 holes.

“I tried to stay in it the whole time and not worry about making the big number,” Cronin said. “I tried to make as many birdies out there as possible. With match play, I try not to worry too much, I just imagine I am on the range and hit the best shot possible.”

Cronin, who admitted the putter had been bulky for him lately, found a little magic on the greens during the week, and that was the difference.

“My putting hasn’t been the greatest, but I have been working on it,” Cronin said. “It was nice to see that come through this week. This means a lot for sure (to win this event).”

Talons Golf was a venue Cronin, now the youngest winner (16 years old) in the event’s history, thought he might have some success at after a look at it prior to the stroke play portion of the championship.

“I played a practice round and played pretty well, which gave me some confidence coming in. Ethan would never give up (in our match). He made some nice putts and I tried to keep fighting back and do my best.”

Anna Jensen likes Talons Golf, and it shows.

Jensen, the 2022 IGA Match Play Champion and 2021 Runner-up, added a second career title at the event at this year’s event. Jensen, the #2 seed after posting a stroke play round of 74 (+1), would draw a bye in the opening round of the 13th IGA Women’s Match Play. Following wins over Lindsay Burry (5&4), Addison Berg (2&1), and a dominant effort over Fiona Watson (7&6), Jensen met Amber Henson, the medalist and #1 seed, in the final match.

“I love this course and it’s awesome we are able to play here,” Jensen said. “I like the way it sets up for my game and my strong suit is my putting. If you can putt these greens well, you can score well. That really benefitted me today (putting well).”

The benefits were positive to say the least for Jensen – in the tune of a 5&4 victory over Henson, which saw wins on holes 5-9, to give Jensen a 4 up lead at the turn.

“In the qualifying round, my driver actually broke,”Jensen said. “I was able to get a new one and after that my driver was working well, along with my putting. My wedges were really good in the final match, which helped. I was able to control them. It helped to have a cushion (after a fast start on the front nine). It’s match play, anything can happen. I can always come back and so can my opponent. I am super excited for the 100th Iowa Women’s Amateur and will take this momentum into that tournament. Sunnyside Country Club is a tough test and it’ll be fun.”

With ever-changing weather, she commented that each day was a challenge for Jensen (right).

“The changes in weather throughout the week, for me, was a matter of sticking to my routine and simplifying everything,” Jensen admitted. “Everyone was playing in the same conditions. You just have to accept the results and move on at times. You have to be able to restart your mind if you have a bad hole in match play. Every hole is a new hole, regardless if I am up or down (in the match).”

At the end of the day, Jensen was spent, but she said she’d do it all over again without hesitation.

“The days are long, but I love playing with all these women,” Jensen said. “They are all awesome people. It doesn’t feel like work when you get to play with friends. I can’t thank everyone who supports me out here enough.”

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