Pat Smith uses late birdie to edge defending champion Johnny Larson by two strokes

Burying a 20-foot birdie putt with two holes remaining, veteran Pat Smith held off four-time defending champion Johnny Larson by two shots Sunday afternoon in the conclusion of the 77th annual Palmer Kise Invitational held at the Redwood Falls Golf Club.

It was the third overall title for the Redwood Falls native who also captured back-to-back championships in 2004 and 2005.

After 43 holes of play, Smith and Larson were tied for the lead at two-over par with two holes to go. Both players were in good position off the tee on the par-4 eighth hole, but Larson’s second shot would sail long and ended up in the back bunker.  Smith landed his approach to within 20-feet of the hole. Larson couldn’t get up and down out of the sand and would suffer a bogey, and Smith’s birdie, meanwhile, gave him a two-shot cushion heading into the par-5 ninth.

Both players would be in good position off the tee on nine, and Smith would nestle his third shot in tight for a legit birdie shot, essentially ensuring a par and forcing Larson to make eagle. The six-time champion had a long eagle putt from the back fringe and would give it a chance, but it slipped past the hole and he would go on to make par.

Smith then followed with an easy two-putt for a par and the win. His 176 total for the 45 holes was two better than Larson (178) and three better than third place finisher Danny Anderson (179).

In year’s past, the duo would’ve ended the final 18-holes tied at one-over par and a playoff would’ve ensued. This year however, an extra nine (27 holes total) was added for the 13 players who made the championship cut. Smith opened the tournament with a one-under 69 followed by a second round 72, while Larson fired rounds of 71-70.

The tournament was fortunate to have past champion Andy Jacobson (2008, 2009) of Willmar as a late add to the field Friday, and he was in contention with a first round 69. He would struggle to a 76, however, Sunday and entered the final nine holes trailing Smith and Larson by four shots.

Fellow Willmar player Matt Gorans fired a one-under 69 Sunday, and coupled with his opening round 74 was right in the mix just two shots back with nine holes to play.

Larson would take the lead early in the final nine following a Smith bogey on the par-4 second. Larson would give the shot back on the par-4 sixth, however, to make it an even match with three holes to go.

Gorans meanwhile – needing to make up ground – suffered two straight bogies on the second and third holes and couldn’t recover. Smith and Larson would both par the difficult par-3 seventh before

Smith applied the dagger with the birdie putt on the eighth.

Anderson had a solid tournament to finish in third, firing rounds of 73-72 and then going one-under 34 on the final nine to finish three shots back of Smith.

Jacobson would entertain the gallery with an eagle on the final hole to finish fourth, and Gorans would finish in fifth.

Veteran Mike Smith – a six-time champion – struggled to a 78 on day one but would answer back Sunday in Smith-like fashion, firing a 69 on day two to capture the President’s Flight. Adam Hengel carded a one-over 71 Sunday to finish second at 151, and Tim Smith would finish third with a two-day total of 153.

The Captain’s Flight had a tie for first at 162 with Taylor Hengel and Matt Koster. Brent Ford would finish in third with a 163.

The Master’s Flight (55-and-over) featured a tight battle between David Kokesh and three-time champion Ron Kise of Oklahoma as Kokesh edged Kise 148-149. Jeff Evenson, Dan McGregor and Steve Suedbeck tied for third with 153s.

The First Flight was won by four strokes by TJ Kieley with a 166, as he held off Dale Todnem (170) and Joe Stangby (171). In the Second Flight, Duane Meagher shot a two-day total of 160 to edge Mike McNeil by three shots. Greg Gentling would finish in third place with a 167. The third flight was won by Gil Schmitz, as he fired a second day 81 to finish at 171, six shots better than Thomas Dibble (177) and Bryan Meagher (177). The CLR Flight went to Redwood native Erik Scholl who fired a 168 to hold off Dan Larson (169) and Jammey Cumming (175).

Complete results from the tournament can be found in the print edition of the Gazette.