EVANSVILLE – Ben Hoagland carried some extra motivation over his final holes Saturday at Fendrich.
Would he play well? Absolutely. With the scores he posted recently, it seemed all but guaranteed. Hoagland also knew he wouldn’t hear the end of it if any two groups ahead of him came in with a lower score.
He had to beat his father in the Romain Cadillac City Tournament qualifier.
Hoagland had to work for it, but came in with a 5-under 65, the low round from the 140 people who played at Fendrich on Saturday. That was just better than the 2-under 68 from Lee Hoagland. Bragging rights secured.
“I would have been a bit mad if I’d been beaten,” Ben said. “We have a friendly rivalry. My mom probably wouldn’t say it’s friendly. We’re both super competitive. I knew he played well on the front nine.”
This was the first year Lee Hoagland attempted to play in the City Tournament. He is usually busy following his son. The trash started immediately when he signed up. It intensified in the last two weeks and became the talk of the house.
Hoagland was up two shots on his son at the turn after three birdies on the back nine. His wife and daughter gave him updates. It was all fun because not many sports allow this option.
“The running joke for at least the last two weeks was that I was going to take him down today,” Lee Hoagland said. “It’s a blast. Now that he’s older, it gives me time to practice. It’s fun to try. I hit the ball well and didn’t really make any big mistakes.”
Ben Hoagland led the field thanks to four birdies plus an eagle on the par-5 seventh. The Memorial High School graduate posted a 5-under 30 on the front to secure his spot on the leaderboard.
He said he has played “the best golf of my life” this summer with a win at the IGA Match Play Championship in June and a runner-up finish at the Indiana Open two weeks ago. Hoagland, who will be a redshirt junior at Michigan this fall, played in eight tournaments last year with a career-low 74.96 scoring average.
“I’m finally starting to see the work I’ve done the last few years really pay off all at once,” he said. “I started hitting the ball better and making putts on the second nine. 65 is good. I definitely didn’t play as well as I have been.”
The most impressive round came from another Memorial grade
Justin Drake learned his lesson. Never finish last in fantasy football.
The Memorial graduate shot an even par 70 at Fendrich. That was more than good enough to qualify for the main event in two weeks. How Drake got there was arguably more impressive than any other player.
In his first year of fantasy football, he finished last in his league. The punishment? Drake was supposed to play in the qualifier, but only got three clubs. At least the other members allowed him to choose which: Driver, pitching wedge and putter.
Drake still had five birdies. That was the second most by anyone on the course.
“You just had to have it in the right spots to still hit a pitching wedge,” Drake joked. “I shot 74 and 75 while practicing. I knew I could get low, but not even par.”
Drake, who runs a lawn care service, was a multiple state finals qualifier in high school and played collegiately. The experience didn’t make his round any easier. He had to be creative on several holes, which also led to a double bogey at the fourth. Drake missed the 200-yard, par three left of the green with his driver.
His caddy, Nick Scheller, finished second last in the fantasy football league and was required to wear a Masters-style white uniform.
Who qualified from Fendrich?
There were 36 places available from 140 players. Here’s who moved on from Fendrich:
Ben Hoagland (65); Clint Keown, Lee Hoagland, Tom Doyle (68); Justin Drake, Nathaniel Caudle, Nolan Schapker (70); Brennan Phillips, Collin Brinker (71); Blake Golden, Drew Shockley, Nicholas Sallee, Gehrig Wynn, Eli Reeves (72); Nathan Dewan, Matthew Heldman, Masson Wassmer, Derek Gallo (73); Matthew Mills, Landen Shipley, Griffin Sohn, Reed Johnson, Ryan Bertram, Zeke Niehaus, Dustin Ross, Luke Richison, Landon Wagner (74); Sam Key, Adam Harpenau, Matt Key, Carson Cook, Tom Gayhart, Tyler Stauth, Mark Murray, Glen Fehr and Alex Oliver (75).
There was an 11-man playoff for nine spots. Stauth got the last ticket on the third playoff hole.
How did Helfrich play three months after the reopening?
What a difference a year made.
It was last July when Helfrich probably reached his lowest point. The combination of a broken hydraulic pump, supply chain issues and a heat wave left most greens in poor condition. The scores in the City qualifier reflected that with 83 earning a place in the play-offs.
After reseeding every green over the winter, Helfrich reopened for normal play in April. All indicators point to a much stronger course three months later. The cut-line for the tournament’s opening round was five shots lower this year.
Kyle Asay (four birdies) and Kevin Higdon (two birdies) had the low rounds at Helfrich with even-par 71s. Hunter Riggs came in with a solid 72. The rising junior at Central High School eagled the 11th and birdied the 12th, but also had a late bogey on 17 when his ball cracked.
“I played my game today,” Riggs said. “That’s all I could really ask for. It was a really good round overall. The greens are getting better and more flush. They trimmed the greens up to City, but it looks a lot nicer than it was before.
Who qualified from Helfrich?
There were 16 available places from 60 players. Here, who is advanced from Helfrich:
Kyle Asay, Kevin Higdon (71); Hunter Riggs (72); Jason Boyle (73); James Doepker (74); Timothy Crowe, Brian Schmidt, Scott Schreiber (76); Jim Zeller, Adam Akin, Ethan Eck, Jacob Eble, Nick Henderson (77); Mason Royalty, Tony Hiatt, Andrew Schmidt (78).
Royalty advanced from a seven-man playoff with a birdie on the first hole. Andrew Schmidt (birdie) and Hiatt (par) claimed the final two spots at the second.
Follow Courier & Press sports reporter Kyle Sokeland on Twitter @kylesokeland.