The cream rose to the top early in the 2018 South Dakota Golf Association Match Play Tournament and it stayed there.
Throughout the first day as low-round qualifiers and No. 1 seeds, TJ Nolan and Hallie Getz flashed brilliance four days running enroute to claiming the men’s and women’s individual titles at the Golf Club at Red Rock on Sunday.
Nolan, a Rapid City Stevens graduate and currently a rising junior at Grand Canyon University defeated Jacob Otta of Sioux Falls 4 and 3 in the men’s championship match, while Getz notched her second SDGA match play title by cruising to a 7-6 win over former Pierre Riggs teammate and defending champion Katie Bartlett.
After early showers held up play briefly in the morning, Nolan knocked off defending champion Alex Shattuck of Sioux Falls 4 and 3 in their semifinal match, while Jacob Otta of Sioux Falls ousted Tyler Rachetto of Rapid City 3 and 2.
“I came out strong in the morning and got a few birdies,” Nolan said of his semifinal win. “Then Alex came back and was one up after six, but I regained the lead and was 4-up after 10. He won a couple of holes before I was able to close out the match on 15. We were both in trouble on the hole, and I was able to drain a bogey putt and he missed.”
In search of a first ever South Dakota Golf Association title in the championship match, Nolan came out on fire draining birdies on holes 1 and 2 to grab a quick 2-up advantage over Otta, a sophomore at SDSU. Nolan continued the birdie barrage on holes 4, 6, and 7 to build a 4-up advantage through seven holes of play.
“I was feeling really good coming into the match, was feeling it. And there were some people watching the match which got me fired up and helped my confidence,” Nolan said. “After I got 4-up, Otta, who is a great player, got a couple back. Then he bogeyed 10 and I made a nice birdie putt on 12 and was able to close out the match 4 and 3 on No. 15. I hit a lot of greens today and gave myself an opportunity for birdies, and fortunately was able to convert.”
A four-day odyssey, some 120 holes of golf, a bunch of birdies throughout, and quest accomplished.
“It’s a great feeling, that’s for sure,” Nolan confided. “I’ve never played that many holes in that many days. It was a grind at times, but I just looked at it as one hole at a time, hit fairways and greens, and make some putts. That’s all I could do. And so to come out on top against a lot of great players in what was a fun time, is really special.”
Getz's march to a second state match play title — the first came via a win over Bartlett in the championship match in 2016 — came rather easily. The SDSU grad, who carded the low round of the week with a 5-under 67 in Thursday’s qualifying round, jumped out to a quick 1-up lead courtesy of a Bartlett bogey on the first hole of the day.
A Getz birdie on No. 3 boosted the advantage to 2-up, pars on holes 6-8 netted wins, and a birdie by the two-time Class AA state titleist gave Getz a commanding 6-up lead heading to the back nine.
Consistency was the key element to the front nine blitz as Getz fired a 1-under 35, a stretch characterized by solid iron play.
“The best part of my game today was definitely my iron shots,” Getz said. “I was hitting it pretty good off the tee, but my irons were definitely dialed in. And I did a good job of not second guessing myself today. I trusted myself today and I was happy about that. I was hitting greens and giving myself chances for birdies and though I didn’t make them all, I did what you need to do in match play. Adjust your play to what your opponent is doing, and sometimes that means playing it safe and just doing what it takes to win.”
A Bartlett bogey on No. 10 expanded the Getz advantage to 7-up, and then following a Bartlett win on No. 12 — the USD sophomore’s only hole win of the match. Getz closed out the match with a par on No. 13 and a 7-6 victory to earn her second state match play trophy and eighth overall SDGA title.
“I’m really excited about winning this one,” Getz said. “I haven’t competed in a year and I was really nervous going into the qualifying round on Thursday. It means a lot to know that I can still actually do it and play well. After I finished college golf, I was kind of worn out from the daily grind, and I think it helped me to take a year off. This spring I was really excited to get back on the course and play in SDGA events, which I love to play.”
In other matches on Sunday, Hank Eggebraaten defeated Pat Honeycutt of Rapid City 2 and 1 in the men’s consolation final while Sydney Wirebaugh of Aberdeen defeated Jade Burr of Belle Fourche 2 and 1.