No match for Sundbom: Former Hermantown standout claims Arrowhead Invitational
After riding in a cart for the first few days of the 91st annual Men's Arrowhead Invitational, Taylor Sundbom of Pike Lake decided he and his caddie, Zach McKinnon, would walk the final day of the match-play tournament.
It was a wise move, and not just because Sundbom won his second Arrowhead title in three years on Sunday at Ridgeview Country Club. It was good practice for what lies ahead for Sundbom and McKinnon at the U.S. Amateur Championship on Aug. 14-20 at Riviera Country Club and Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles.
"It just kind of hit me last night," Sundbom said of the decision, which had nothing to do with playing in the U.S Golf Association event in less than two weeks. "I felt like with how slow the play can get out here, that I wanted to just keep moving. It helps when you're not just focusing on your shot all the time. You're not driving up to your ball and sitting there for 5-10 minutes. I wanted to just keep moving, and I think that was the right call."
Sundbom beat Matt Mellin of Duluth in the championship match 5 and 3. It was the second consecutive year Mellin — the 2016 Northland Invitational champion — fell in the championship match, having lost a one-hole playoff to Dan Moline the year before.
Mellin went 1-up after the fourth hole, but Sundbom took control with birdies on Nos. 5, 6 and 8 to go 2-up. Lost tee shots by Mellin on No. 12 and No. 14 led to a four-hole advantage for Sundbom, who was then able to clinch the title with a birdie on No. 15.
"He's a great player. You have to make birdies against him," Mellin said of Sundbom. "His iron play is phenomenal. He doesn't make mistakes. I watched him (twice) on No. 8 today. He hit both of his tee shots inside three feet. It's 216 yards up hill. That's not normal."
Sundbom called this weekend's Arrowhead Invitational a good warm-up for the upcoming U.S. Amateur, which he and McKinnon leave for on Aug. 11. Like the U.S. Amateur, the Arrowhead is a tournament that features stroke play for qualifying, then match play to decide a winner.
Sundbom said he's stronger in stroke play, which is featured in the two tournaments he's already won in the Northland this summer — the Reidar Lund Skyline Memorial at Enger Park Golf Course in Duluth and the Cloquet Invitational at Cloquet Country Club.
"This one especially helps in preparing me for (the U.S. Amateur) because I don't really play any match-play tournaments all year," said Sundbom, who qualified for the U.S. Amateur by finishing third July 10 at Dacotah Ridge Golf Course in Morton, Minn. "It's something I'm not really used to. I'm used to playing stroke play all the time. It takes some getting used to, playing the player and not necessarily the rest of the field."
Sundbom said the U.S. Amateur is something he's wanted to play in for a long time, having tried to qualify each of the previous five years. He doesn't anticipate being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the tournament, nor by the fact that he'll be playing on PGA Tour courses he's watched all his life on television.
It helps that he'll have McKinnon, his best friend and caddy, alongside him.
"I just have to keep him cool and calm, keep him focused when he needs to be focused and just keep his mind in it," McKinnon said. "We make a good combo. I know when to step in and calm him down."
Practice rounds at the U.S. Amateur will take play on Aug. 12-13, followed by stroke play for qualifying Aug. 14-15. Match play — which will be broadcast on Fox and Fox Sports 1 — for those who qualify begins Aug. 16.
91st Annual Men's Arrowhead Invitational
At Ridgeview Country Club
Final — Taylor Sundbom def. Matt Mellin. Semifinals — Sundbom def. Gary Carlson; Mellin def. Andrew Seaver.
Senior Championship Flight
Final — Kevin Noreen def. Bob Seitz. Semifinals — Seitz def. Kent Lund; Noreen def. Tim Smith Sr.