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Vizina Pulls Off Impressive Comeback Late to Claim Minnesota Senior Open

June 6, 2016

The conditions were not ideal on the final day of the 2016 Minnesota Senior Open at Minnesota Valley Country Club with heavy rain throughout; but that did not take away from the dramatic finish between Dave Podas of Bel-Air CC in California and Thomas Vizina of Oaks GC.

Podas held a three shot lead to begin the day after his opening round 3-under 70. Vizina, Amateur Tim Laudner of Edinburgh USA, Bob Miller of Minnewaska GC and Ken Gerzsenyi of Eastwood GC were three shots back. Don Berry, the four-time Senior Open Champion, began the day four shots off the lead at 1-over.

Laudner fell out of contention early with a couple of costly double-bogeys on the par 3, 2nd and par 4, 4th including a tee shot off the 2nd that landed out of bounds. He finished the front nine at 6-over, and it didn’t seem to get any easier for him on the back, bogeying five out of the final nine holes for a 10-over 83 and 10-over 156 two-day total.

Vizina set the tone right away with a nice 10-foot birdie on the opening hole to pull within two shots of Podas.

Similar to Vizina, Podas was solid right from the get-go. Podas hit a beatuiful iron from the fairway bunker on the par 5, 5th that ultimately led to a 10-foot birdie putt that hit the bottom of the cup. “I wasn’t trying to do anything in particular today—on this golf course I had to play pretty defensive,” said Podas. “It’s narrow, the greens are very hard; and I just wanted to hit the ball in the fairway and on the green. I was doing that for most of the day.”

Thomas Vizina

Thomas Vizina of Oaks GC is your 2016 Minnesota Senior Open Champion

Vizina ran into some trouble on the par 4, 6th when his tee shot went out of bounds. He hit his provisional right down the middle with about 120 yards to the green.”I just didn’t quit,” Vizina stressed. “That is not my shot, but I took a shot at it because I had a good number.” He pured his iron within 5-feet of the cup and knocked it in for a great bogey save.

The two remained consistent for the remainder of the front nine. Both made the turn at even-par for the day—Podas hanging on to his three shot lead. “I did my very best not to pay attention to what anyone else was doing. I thought if I played at par or better that I’d be just fine,” said Podas.

Podas seemed to be playing his own game, keeping his three stroke lead into the ladder part of the back nine; but Vizina was hanging around and caught his break-through on the par 4, 17th. “He flared one off the tee, and I hit a good drive,” said Vizina. “He pushed his into the bunker, and I thought I am going to throw this one at the back towards the flag; see if I get lucky.” Well, it sure paid off. Vizina stuck it to within 15-feet.

Shortly after, he drilled the 15-footer for birdie; giving him just the lift he needed. To add even more intrigue heading to the 18th, Podas’ bogey putt on the 17th green from a couple feet lipped out, so he setlled for a double bogey.

Miller hung around with Vizina and Podas for most of the day despite two early bogeys on the first two holes. The wheels came off for Miller late in his round with a bogey on the par 5, 15th and a double bogey on the par 4, 17th.

Podas and Vizina were all square headed to the 18th tee. “From there I just wanted to play steady on 18,” said Podas. Clearly, trying to calm himself after a serious blunder on the 17th.

Both were on the green in three shots with lengthy birdie putts. Podas went first and from about 35-feet out, he put his 3-feet right of the hole anticipating some sort of right-to-left movement. “His putt didn’t break at all,” Vizina said still confused. “When his didn’t break I thought, I’m going to aim 3 inches outside and just hit it.”

“When he made that final putt, I thought, I don’t like the looks of that,” Podas said.

Podas may not have liked the look of it, but Vizina did. The 30-footer went dead-center of the cup for birdie and gave Vizina the 2016 Minnesota Senior Open title.

“He made a great putt. He had a great finish, and when you finish birdie-birdie to win a championship, God bless you,” Podas added.

“If I could get to the back nine with a chance, that was all I could ask for,” said Vizina with a smirk. “I haven’t played a lot lately so to be in the hunt and eventually win it, it was a lot of fun.”

Podas doesn’t consider his trip home to be a complete letdown or disappointment, “It was fun to come up and see everybody and compete. I’m from here and we’re all getting older so it was a lot of fun,” emphasized Podas. “This week I did a lot of good things and hit a lot of good shots.”

Rick Frieburg of Monticello CC was the low-amateur with a final round 3-under 70 and 1-over 147 two-day total. Don Berry finished alongside Frieburg at 1-over 147 for the tournament.

Special thanks to the host course and staff of Minnesota Valley Country Club and our supporting sponsor, Golf Life Navigators!

The Minnesota Section PGA consists of PGA Professionals who are experts in the game and business of golf. Our mission is to promote the enjoyment and involvement of the game of golf and to contribute to its growth by providing services to golf professionals, the golf industry, people who play golf or would like to start playing golf. PGA Section Offices oversee the 41 geographic regions throughout the United States and provide the grass-roots network for the nation’s 25 million amateur golfers and with the PGA’s 27,000 members.

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