Write-Up provided by: Rick Pledl
Harrison Ott won a memorable eight-hole sudden-death playoff over Thomas Longbella at the 2018 Wisconsin State Amateur Championship, but his victory in the Wisconsin State Open Wednesday – over Longbella and others – was even more impressive. And much, much quicker.
Ott, a 21-year-old Brookfield resident who is heading into his senior year at Vanderbilt University this fall, won the Wisconsin State Open, presented by the Suter Ward Group at Morgan Stanley, going away Wednesday afternoon. He won by six strokes and dominated the storyline for the final nine holes of the day.
In the process, Ott became the first amateur to win the title since Jordan Niebrugge in 2011. In fact, five of the top eight finishers at this year’s State Open were amateurs.
“It’s pretty cool,” Ott said afterward. “I really wanted to win this tournament as an amateur, because I knew Jordan Niebrugge did it. And it was also one of my goals growing up.”
Ott finished the 72-hole event at Blue Mound G&CC at 10-under-par 270 (67-67-68-68), six strokes clear of Christopher Colla, who barged his way into a tie for second place by leapfrogging dozens of players the last three rounds, and Dan Woltman, the two-time defending champion who put up a gallant defense.
Woltman, who won the State Open twice as an amateur, added his third and fourth State Open titles the last two seasons at North Shore GC in 2018 and Geneva National GC last year.
Woltman admitted he hasn’t played well this season on the Korn Ferry Tour, but his game came around for the Wisconsin State Open, like it always seems to do. Woltman finished the State Open with rounds of 66-71-67-72-276.
“Finishing first, first, second in this tournament (the last three years), obviously I’m happy with that, especially the way I’ve been playing this year,” Woltman said.
Colla, of Fond du Lac, jumped into contention with a tournament-low round of 64 in Tuesday’s second round. He shot 71-67 on the 36-hole final day Wednesday to also get a share of second place at 276.
Professional Kaylor Steger of Mount Pleasant got off to a fast start in the tournament, shooting twin rounds of 66 on Monday and Tuesday. There was plenty of jockeying in Wednesday morning’s third round, including by Steger, who made three quick birdies on this first five holes. But he went 6 over from there to fall out of the final threesome of the afternoon round.
Steger finished with a 76 Wednesday afternoon to fall into a tie for sixth place.
That allowed Woltman to move into the final threesome Wednesday, where he was paired with Ott and Longbella. Ott entered the final round at 8 under par, leading Longbella by one and Woltman by two. But it didn’t take those players long to realize they were playing for second behind Ott.
Ott’s accuracy off the tee proved to be a difference maker, and he kept giving himself good looks at birdie, sometimes making them and sometimes lagging to tap-in range.
“I tried to give myself as many good looks as I could,” Ott said.
Adding to their struggles, Woltman and Longbella both suffered painful lip-out putts over the final 18. But even if a few of them had gone in, it might not have mattered.
“If he’s going to make pars and hit fairways and greens like that, he’s going to be tough to beat,” Woltman said. “(Blue Mound) was a grind. It was set up very difficult this week, and he played the best.”
Longbella had his own problems.
“My driver wasn’t cooperating, and then I started putting bad,” Longbella said of his final round.
Ott made three bogeys on the front nine, offset by two birdies, but he went bogey-free down the stretch, when it mattered most. After a bogey on the par-4 sixth hole Wednesday afternoon, Ott went 3-under-par the rest of the way.
“I thought I needed to shoot 5 under over the two rounds to have a chance to win,” Ott said when asked about his game plan for the 36-hole final day. “I shot 2 under this morning, so my game plan was that I had to shoot 3 under this afternoon.”
Ott was so focused on his plan that he realized he needed to make his seemingly meaningless birdie putt on the 18th hole in the final round to achieve it, which he did.
“So I really wanted to make that last putt at the end to reach my goal,” Ott said.
That goal also helped him tie the second lowest 72 hole total, which was shot last year by Woltman at Geneva National GC.
Ott said prepping for the State Open at the U.S. Amateur at Bandon Dunes – where he advanced to the round of 16 – made him more focused, although he admitted he probably would not have played the State Open at Blue Mound had he advanced farther in the national championship.
“I think if anything, (the U.S. Amateur) showed me that I had to putt better this week, and I think secondly just in my ball control,” Ott said. “It was windy (at the Amateur), and you have to control your ball going into these greens (at Blue Mound).
Amateur Samuel Anderson of Stoughton finished fourth with scores of 72-71-67-67-277. Longbella shot 67-68-68-75-278 for the week to finish alone in fifth.
The Wisconsin PGA would like to express its gratitude to the Suter Ward Group at Morgan Stanley for their terrific support of the Wisconsin State Open. With the help of the financial advisory group the event was able to offer a $70,000 purse this year. It was the fourth straight year that the Wisconsin PGA was fortunate to have them on board as at the title sponsor.
The WPGA would also like to thank longtime State Open sponsor, TaylorMade Golf. 2020 marked the 18th straight year that they have partnered with the Wisconsin PGA on the State Open. In addition to their financial support, company representatives Steve Ploch and Hunter Mahler was onsite throughout the event to lend a helping hand.
A big thank you also goes out to the staff and membership at Blue Mound G&CC. The club fully embraced their hosting role, and provided a terrific playing field for the 100th playing of the event. The golf course was in absolutely pristine shape. On the operations side the clubhouse and golf logistics staff provided all the support that was needed to help the championship run smoothly.
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