Sudden-death birdie secures Lake Creek Amateur title

Jack Evans, of Brainerd, Minn., pumps his fist as his winning putt falls into the cup, giving the University of Sioux Falls junior the title in the 2020 Lake Creek Amateur held at Buena Vista University Golf Course at Lake Creek in Storm Lake over the weekend. Evans birdied the par 4 No. 18 hole to win a sudden death playoff victory over John Spellerberg, of Nebraska, and Jonny Douglas, of England. (photo courtesy of Tim Gallagher)

Storm Lake – Jack Evans sank a 13-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to claim the 2020 Lake Creek Amateur title played at Buena Vista University Golf Creek at Lake Creek on Sunday. Evans, who returned to the 18th tee after finishing the 2-day tournament at even par and knotted in a tie with competitors John Spellerberg and Jonny Douglas, drove a 4-iron to the center of the fairway. He then knocked a 50-degree wedge to the middle of the green from 167 yards out, setting up a winning putt he read with his caddie for the day, Steve Berry.

“I think I knew the putt was in about halfway to the cup,” said Evans, who will be a junior this fall at the University of Sioux Falls. “We had read the putt one cup out to the right. I knew I didn’t have to hit it real hard because it was downwind.”

The wind was the story of the day for “The Am,” a decades-old golf tradition in Northwest Iowa that returned after a 7-year hiatus, welcoming 97 golfers from a host of Midwest states and England. Gusts from the southeast around 25 miles per hour proved to be tricky for most of the field and contributed to scores that, according to BVU Golf Course at Lake Creek Manager Joe Powell climbed five or so strokes on average from Saturday to Sunday.

“THIS is Lake Creek,” said Andrew Zinn, the assistant men’s golf coach at Buena Vista University as he surveyed gusts whipping across the No. 7 tee box.

Evans entered the day tied for the lead after posting a 3-under par 69 in benign conditions on Saturday. Spellerberg, a former Creighton University linkster from Bennington, Neb., shared the first-day lead. Douglas, a native of England who plays for Morningside College, was one stroke back to start the day.

The event would, for all intents and purposes, remain a three-way race throughout the final round. All three golfers had their issues down the stretch, the threesome combining to play the Par 5 No. 16 in four-over-par. Spellerberg had the misfortune of getting caught in some long grass at the end of the greenside bunker. He would take a double-bogey on the hole. Douglas, meantime, three-putted, while Evans’ approach sailed long and left.

“It was a lot of fun,” Spellerberg said. “We had a great, friendly competition today and Jack made a great putt at the end.”

Evans, whose highest finish during his sophomore season at Sioux Falls, was a tie for third place, said he hopes the Lake Creek Amateur title provides a springboard for his competitive season.

“Finishing rounds hasn’t been my strong suit,” said Evans, who hails from Brainerd, Minn. “Today, I tried to keep composed and it paid off. I couldn’t be happier.”

Evans joined Spellerberg in heaping praise on Powell and officials and volunteers at Buena Vista University Golf Course at Lake Creek who worked to resurrect “The Amateur” and plant the event on the radar for golfers across the Midwest and beyond. When the tournament idea was hatched in late March, Powell envisioned welcoming an abbreviated field of 40 or so golfers. The timing of the event, occurring as Iowa businesses begin to open in the throes of a pandemic, found a sweet spot for golfers seeking to compete while observing social-distancing behavior.

“We’re thrilled we could bring back ‘The Amateur,’ which has such a long history here in Storm Lake,” said Powell, who doubles as men’s golf coach at Buena Vista University. “The staff put everything in place, Mother Nature cooperated, and we had nearly 100 golfers and probably that many fans who got to enjoy a weekend of being out on the course and competing. We’re thankful for all the golfers who came back to ‘The Amateur’ and we can’t wait to start making plans for the tournament in 2021.”

Place-winners were as follows in each flight:
– First flight: Steve Campbell, 78-74—152; Chase Hough, 80-73—153; Ryan Feauto, 76-78—154.
– Second flight: Ken Slater, 81-79—160; Tom James, 83-78—161; Shane Hess, 81-81—162.
– Third flight: Adam Mickelson, 85-81—166; Matt Stauter, 86-84—170; Mark Eddie, 88-87—175.
– Seniors: Mark Gambaiana, 80-78—158; Tom Bohnenkamp, 81-80—161; Mark Henningsen, 76-86—162.

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