Jacob Pedersen was late to the golf game, quitting baseball in high school, picking up golf full-time. The decision proved to be a birdie as the Shorewood native was part of the 2017 Minnetonka state championship team.
The Skippers were team runner-up to Wayzata in 2018.
It has been over the last three years at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter where Pedersen has blossomed on the course.
Pedersen garnered PING Division III All-American honors following an impressive eighth-place finish at the NCAA Championships where he shot a a four-round score of 291, eight-over par, including a pair of scores of 71, to finish seventh in the nation.
Pedersen had a 72.8 stroke average with four top-five finishes, including one medalist honor in five events, this past spring. Pedersen has earned All-Region and All-Conference honors in three consecutive years after placing fifth at the MIAC Championships.
Pedersen will return to the national stage, playing next month at the U.S. Amateur Championships at Oakmont Country Club in Plum, Pennsylvania, after taking second overall at a qualifier event at Dacotah Ridge in Morton on July 12.
Pedersen was six-under par through 18 holes, posting a one-under score of 71 to finish with a total score of 137. Wayzata graduate Van Holmgren and Blake School graduate Derek Hitcher, fresh off a Trans Mississippi championship win the week before, also qualified.
"I'm super excited for it. It's going to be a great learning experience. I'm super pumped," Pedersen said.
Pedersen said the toll of 36 holes began to wear on him in the second round. Two bogeys over a four-hole stretch to start the final nine holes didn't derail his day, allowing him to qualify to play at the U.S. Amateur along with former Minnetonka High School teammate Gunnar Broin.
"I played the first 27 super solid and then just really tired. He just try and get in the clubhouse as quick as possible at that point," Pedersen said.
Lincoln Johnson of Chaska High School, heading into his senior season at the University of Minnesota, was in the hunt at the same U.S. Amateur qualifier.
Johnson birdied four of the first nine holes, finishing with 18-hole scores of 69 and 70 to finish one stroke back of Hitchner and Holmgren. As first alternate, he hopes to get an at-large spot into the U.S. Amateur tournament.
"I'm hoping so. It's going to be close. I guess we'll find out late July, early August," Johnson said.
Johnson was a mainstay in the Gophers' line-up this past spring, which included schedule stops in Florida, Georgia, California, Indiana, and Nebraska. He tied for the team lead with two top-10 finishes and was second in rounds under par (3), birdies (46), tournaments leading the team (1) and top-20 finishes (2).
"It was a lot different for everybody. We tested like three-to-four days a week with school. It was a lot of hanging out with teammates, getting to know them more. On the road it was getting food, bringing back, eating in the room. Each year is a new opportunity to learn, and each of my three years I feel like I've learned and grown as a golfer," said Johnson, who will play two more years for the Gophers.
Former Minnetonka state champion Ben Sigel and Chanhassen High School graduate Ben Hicks were also in the top-12 at the U.S. Amateur qualifier. Hicks played the final 18 holes at three-under par with a 69 to finish with a score of 143.
He was one of eight players to record better scores in the second round.
"I went 41 my first nine, so it only got better after that. I just settled down a little bit. I knew it was going to be a long day. I'm not used to playing 36 holes, but it's something I knew I could do. I just had to think positively, not let a hole beat me. I know I've played good golf before, and so I went in with that mindset," Hicks said.
Hicks competed in six events and 18 rounds on the season at the University of South Dakota, and was one of 12 golfers named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District Men's Team for District 6. He shot a low 54-hole score of 220 at the Summit League Championship, tying for seventh at the Summit League Championships.
"I had played three-to-five competitive rounds before our first tournament, which was also 36 holes, so that was a tough start. But our coach did a great job having us play qualifier rounds to keep our competitive spirits up in between our tournaments," said Hicks, who has two years of eligibility remaining.
MINNESOTA STATE OPEN
All three players reached the final day at the 104th annual Minnesota State Open July 13-15 at Chaska Town Course. Johnson put together one of the best rounds of the tournament, a six-under par 66, finishing 12th overall with a 54-hole score of 209.
Johnson chipped in from off the green for birdie on the 18th hole in the third round. Johnson had eight birdies on the back-nine over the three days.
Hicks started the tournament with a score of 67, just one stroke back of a trio of first-day leaders. A tough final nine holes was salvaged with an eagle on hole No. 18, sticking a second shot just feet from the cup.
Hicks ended up 28th overall with a 54-hole score of 213.
Like Hicks, Pedersen was in the hunt through two rounds, scores of 71 and 67. His second-day score included six birdies in the first eight holes, a triple bogey on 17 negating a potential low score for the tournament.
Pedersen tied for 28th place with a 54-hole score of 213.
"The days kind of blend together," said Hicks of the summer tournament schedule. "You're practicing a bunch and then you try and turn it up for tournaments."
Pedersen said it's easier when a player is going well.
"It's tough when you're not playing your best and you have a four-round tournament. You're there trying to figure your game out, put together a low score. It's definitely a grind right now," Hicks said.
Other local golfers in the field included former state champion Jon DuToit of Chaska (sixth place, 207), Broin (sixth, 207), Chaska alumni Jack Johnson (20th, 211), Chaska Town Course instructor Eric Chiles (36th, 215), and Chaska's Dawson Wills (48th, 218).
Jack Johnson, who played as a freshman at North Dakota State University this past season, finished with eagle-birdie-eagle over the final three holes, No. 7-9.
"I had like 190 left out of the rough. I had a fly lie. I stepped on an (8-iron). The three holes leading up to nine I stuck irons right at the flag stick, so I was pretty confident to go for it," said Johnson, who landed his final approach on the final hole just five feet from the hole.
After missing his senior year at Chaska High School, having a partial collegiate season and a full slate of summer golf, feels like a strong consolation this year.
"It was tough at first having to accept my high school career was over. I was feeling good. I was ready to make a run at it, probably with Gunnar Broin. I think I played pretty well last summer, got some confidence heading into college. We came up a bit short this year, but I'm looking forward to next year. We should have a really good team," Johnson said.
Caddie choices included former teammates Clay Kucera for Lincoln Johnson, Noah Frobom for Wills, and Nick Kauffman for Hicks. Erik Johnson took the bag all three days for his son, Jack.
DuToit had fiancee, Kaitlin, walking 54 holes with him. Rain or shine.
"Even when it was raining hard Wednesday, she was like, 'Isn't this fun?'" Jon said.
The couple, set to be married in January, met through a mutual friend.
"My advice was usually 'hit a good shot.' I gave no golf advice," Kaitlin said.
"I asked her a few times what she though," Jon said.
"And I answered, 'sounds good,'" Kaitlin laughed.
DuToit wasn't even planning to play in the State Open until he found out the tournament was at the Town Course.
"I didn't have high expectations. I told Kaitlin 'let's just go out and have fun with it.' I've been playing well, but I never expected to do as well as I did. I guess (Kaitlin) was my lucky charm," DuToit said.