Youth prevails

MU’s Unger wins at Francis Hagan
Monday, June 21, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:54 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

The championship cup held PowerAde again this year. The winner of the Francis Hagan Match Play Championship was not 21.

Michael Unger, 20, overcame a strong round by Joe Bellmer, the runner-up the past two years, to win 1-up in 19 holes Sunday at Lake of the Woods Golf Course.

Last year’s champion, D.J. Chung, 16, broke the Hagan tradition of drinking beer out of the cup after a victory. Chung drank PowerAde last year and Unger did the same Sunday.

Unger, though, said his focus wasn’t all on the trophy.

“It’s always your goal to win, but I wasn’t necessarily focused on coming out and only winning,” Unger said. “I just wanted to play well.”

Still, Unger, who will be a junior on the Missouri men’s golf team next season, didn’t have a perfect round. Leading 1-up, Unger hit a good tee shot on the 15th hole, but his second shot went over the green and landed in bushes.

“I pulled it a little bit,” Unger said. “It just went about eight or 10 yards too far and hit the down slope and after that it was done.”

Unger hit twice after that, finally chipping it onto the green.

Bellmer hit his tee shot on the 15th behind a tree. In an effort to save the hole, Bellmer hit his next shot through the trees and onto the green. Unger missed his putt, allowing Bellmer to tie.

Bellmer made a short putt on the 17th to go 1-up and on the 18th, Unger hit onto the green in two and Bellmer in three. Bellmer missed a long putt to tie the match, taking it into extra holes.

On the 19th, Unger hit his tee shot wide left, but managed to land on the green in two. Bellmer’s second shot took him over the green and Unger two-putted for the victory.

“This was one of the better finals for a few years, because of the extra holes and no one was ever over 1-up,” Andrew Baier, the tournament’s chairman, said.

Unger not only claimed the trophy, he said he also got his swing back. In 2003, Unger had emergency stomach surgery and was confined to bed for three months. At the beginning of the tournament, Unger said he was still struggling to find his form.

“I can trust myself in pressure situations that I can come through,” Unger said.

Despite playing six rounds plus a qualifier in two weekends, Unger said he could still play more.

“It wasn’t stressful at all,” he said. “It was fun the whole way.”

Bellmer said it was a difficult round because Unger wasn’t making mistakes. Bellmer said he also made things difficult for himself by over-clubbing a few times.

“I am not disappointed,” Bellmer said. “I didn’t hit bad shots, I just hit that wedge on the playoff hole and it jumped out of the rough more than I thought it would have.”

In the semifinals earlier in the day, Unger beat Brad Daugherty 5 and 3 and Bellmer beat Douglas Solliday 3 and 1.

“I just got in a hole and couldn’t get out of it,” Daugherty said. “It’s just disappointing. I know I learned something, I’m just not sure what just yet.”

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