Kelly Goes Wire-to-Wire For Second Straight Minnesota Women’s State Open Title
By Nick Hunter
Following her opening-round 68 to begin the 22nd Minnesota Women’s State Open presented by Yamaha Golf and Utility at Rush Creek Golf Club Tuesday, defending champion Betsy Kelly carded a 2-under 70 Wednesday to become the first player to earn back-to-back titles in the 22-year history of the tournament.
Kelly began the day with a four-stroke lead and cruised during her final round to claim a seven-stroke win over Kathryn VanArragon and Emma Carpenter, the largest margin of victory since Lisa Grimes won by eight strokes in 2014 at Town and Country Club.
“Like I said last year, I’ve wanted to win this tournament since I was a little girl,” Kelly said Wednesday. “I grew up in Minnesota and won state in high school—this is one I’ve always wanted to win. To win two years in a row is a dream.
“My ball-striking was so good. I was giving myself so many birdie opportunities, and unfortunately, I didn’t make as many today. When I’ve got wedges into the greens, I feel more comfortable and I’ve got shorter birdie putts. That’s all I needed to do.”
Opening with the biggest 18-hole lead at the event in five years, Kelly did everything in her power to replicate her bogey-free 68 during Tuesday’s opening tilt.
“I tried to relax. I’m pretty superstitious, so I did everything that I did yesterday,” the 30-year-old Kelly said. “Same routine when I woke up and same routine again when I got to the course. Hit a couple of putts, hit on the range and then go back to the green.
“I wanted another 68 and I think I was tracking for a 63 today. I figured I needed something under par to keep it. There are a lot of really good players in the field.”
Beginning the final round on the 10th hole Wednesday, Kelly remained even through five holes despite multiple birdie chances early in the round.
Rolling in a 10-footer at the par-3 15th, Kelly moved to 5-under for the tournament but carded her first, and only, bogey of the championship at the par-5 18th to turn in even par for the round.
Hitting a 6-iron to eight feet at the par-5 second, Kelly curled in her eagle chance to separate herself from the field by taking a six-stroke lead at 6-under for the championship.
She would go bogey-free over her final seven holes Wednesday, posting a final-round 70 to secure her second straight title.
Making two starts on the Epson Tour over the past five seasons, Kelly will travel to Palm Springs, Calif., on Friday to compete in LPGA Q-School, looking for more stability when it comes to her golf schedule.
“This is exactly what I need going into next week,” she said. “This gives me good momentum and good confidence going into Q-School. It’s scary—there’s a lot of pressure. The goal is the play well and get to Stage II to get full status.”
Entering the week following a runner-up finish at the Resorters Golf Tournament, Carpenter notches a second-place finish for the second consecutive event, carding a final-round 72 Wednesday, helped by sinking a 20-foot birdie putt at the last, to tie VanArragon at 145.
“It was definitely an up-and-down round,” Carpenter said Wednesday. “I felt like I could’ve gotten a little more out of it. I had a really bad three-putt [on the back] and let that carry over into the next few holes. I had a four-hole stretch where I had three bogeys.
“All it took was one good shot into the green on eight to get that momentum back. Roller coaster of a day, but happy to finish the way I did.”
Carpenter, who will begin her senior season at the University of Minnesota later this year, carded two birdies against two bogeys during her front nine to turn in even par, five shots off the lead.
Converting her birdie chance at the par-5 second, Carpenter looked to make up ground on leader Kelly, but would record three bogeys over her next five holes to fall to 3-over for the tournament.
The DeKalb, Ill., native answered by sinking her birdie looks on each of her final two holes to post a final-round 72, earning a share of low-amateur honors with VanArragon.
“I feel like it was a good week and I think about how far I’ve come in the last few years,” Carpenter said. “I’m pleased, but I know I can play much better. If I shoot even par and still think I could’ve gotten more out of it, then that’s pretty solid.”
VanArragon, who claimed the 2020 championship at The Jewel Golf Club, posted a 2-over 74 during Tuesday’s opening round and battled back from two bogeys during her front nine Wednesday by carding three birdies over her final nine holes to finish tied for second to Kelly for a second consecutive season.
Madi Hicks, the 2022 Minnesota State Junior Girls’ champion, posted a final-round 71 to finish tied for fourth with professional Marie Allo at 3-over 147.