There were 110 golfers who took part in the qualifying round for the Francis Hagan Match Play Championship on Saturday at Lake of the Woods Golf Course. David McDonald, Dee Sanders and Scott Sasek led the field with low rounds of even par 71.
The qualifying round cut the field down to 64 for the start of match play competition today. Two rounds are scheduled to narrow the field to 32 with the final rounds set for next weekend.
Each year, the past three champions play together in the qualifying round. This year’s group showcased a variety of experience.
Last year’s champion, Michael Unger, will be a redshirt junior on the Missouri men’s golf teamnext year. The 2003 champion, D.J. Chung, just graduated from Hickman where he was captain of the Kewpies’ boys’ golf team. McDonald, the champion in 2002 and 2000, has played in the Francis Hagan Championship every year since its inception.
“We all know each other and it’s just a lot of fun playing among friends,” said Chung after his round of 72. “When I play with others who also play well, you are seeing good shots all the time and it helps you make good shots, too.”
Chung played in his first Hagan Championship at 14 and made it to the quarterfinals. Two years later his name was etched on the trophy as champion. As a high school athlete he could not accept more than $25 in prize money and was awarded a gift certificate to a grocery store. Chung now has reached amateur status and can claim this year’s $750 first place prize. He said it would be an awesome bonus.
Joe Bellmer, who has been the runner-up the past three years, played in the group ahead of the champions. Bellmer said his nickname has become “Buffalo” after the Buffalo Bills who lost the NFL Super Bowl four straight times from 1991-1994. Bellmer said four second places would be hard to do.
“Even my dad has started calling me Buffalo,” Bellmer said. “But I would feel really bad if I hadn’t have won it already.”
Bellmer won the championship in 1996, when the tournament was called the Columbia Match Play Championship.
“As long as you are in the top 64 anything can happen,” Chung said. This is a great tournament with the best golfers in Columbia, and we all want to beat each other.”