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Sanford’s Robert Lundquist ends Florida State tournament drought

Robert Lundquist watches a shot during the Senior Amateur Match Play Championship on Thursday at The Founders Golf Club.
Robert Lundquist watches a shot during the Senior Amateur Match Play Championship on Thursday at The Founders Golf Club. gjefferies@bradenton.com

The wait is over.

After 41 years, Robert Lundquist secured his first Florida State Golf Association state title. And to triumph, the Sanford resident and former Oviedo High School principal needed to become the one in Larry Vander Bie’s 11-1 match play record in the event.

“I’ve never really knocked on the door to win, but I was fortunate (Thursday),” the 65-year-old Lundquist said.

Lundquist edged Vander Bie in 19 holes to win the super-senior division of the FSGA State Senior Amateur Match Play Championship at The Founders Golf Club on Thursday. Fort Lauderdale’s Peter Wegmann won the senior division with a 4-and-2 victory over Sarasota’s Jerry Rose.

For Lundquist, he entered the championship round as the underdog. Vander Bie, a native of Holland, Mich., won the previous two super-senior division titles and had an 11-0 match play record in the last three years of the tournament. A Brooksville resident, Vander Bie won two match play events in his native Michigan.

On Thursday, he showcased why he’s so tough in match play golf after a three-birdie stretch on the back nine, which included converting two putts of more than 50 feet, to take a 2-up lead with four holes to play.

“I said, ‘You have no control over something like that,’” Lundquist said. “That’s just golf. That’s match play. It’s not something you did wrong, where you hit a bad shot or you missed a putt. Your opponent did something good.”

Lundquist rallied starting on No. 15. Facing an 18-foot birdie putt, while Vander Bie waited with a 10-footer, Lundquist needed it to drop to give himself a chance at knocking off the two-time defending champion. He did, and Vander Bie missed. The two halved the next two holes to take the match to the par-5 18th with Lundquist having to win the hole to force extra holes.

Vander Bie cut a 3-wood around the trees to give himself a greenside bunker shot for his third shot on the hole. He left it in the trap, before spinning his next sand shot to within about 7-feet. Lundquist nearly canned his birdie putt, but settled for par and watched Vander Bie’s potential winning putt slide by the cup.

“It had just rained, so it was wet and I wasn’t expecting it to be that soft,” Vander Bie said. “I hit the wrong club. I switched clubs for the second one, and I didn’t play a club with enough bounce on it and it just dug right in. It was the only mistake I could not make, and I did.”

On the first extra hole, which was played on the par-4 first, Vander Bie’s 8-iron approach from 149 yards at the hole location on the top shelf of the contoured green came up a fraction short, hitting the bank and leaving him short-sided.

“I thought I hit a good chip shot,” Vander Bie said. “But it just never stopped.”

Lundquist said his strategy for his approach shot didn’t change once Vander Bie missed the green in the playoff. Both competitors are retired educators, with Vander Bie teaching math and Lundquist starting as a math teacher before getting into administrative duties for 33 years. Owing to a baseball background where he was a left-handed pitcher at the University of Florida, Lundquist coached baseball at Seminole High School in Sanford and coached future Major League Baseball star Tim Raines during his career.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but he was even a better football player,” said Lundquist about Raines, who was a running back in high school.

Lundquist, despite being left-handed, plays golf right-handed due to his father, a golf professional at the Donald Ross-designed Mayfair Country Club that was once owned by the New York Giants baseball team, teaching him the game with right-handed clubs at an early age.

Now at the age of 65, Lundquist has his first FSGA state championship.

Meanwhile, in the senior division, Wegmann became the first player since Pete Williams in 2014 to win both the FSGA Senior Amateur and Senior Amateur Match Play titles in the same year. Following his semifinal victory, Wegmann said his goal was to get his name on three trophies: the FSGA Senior Amateur, the United States Senior Amateur and the British Senior Amateur. After battling severe wind and rain at Northern Ireland’s Royal County Down left him with a 91 in last year’s trip across the pond, Wegmann said his buddies at Inverrary in Fort Lauderdale joke with him by getting a golf cart that is numbered “91” for their rounds.

But there’s no joking when it came to Wegmann’s game this week: He didn’t need to play the 18th hole during the match play portion of the tournament. The turning point came early when Rose missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the third hole. Wegmann built a 3-up lead after eight holes when Rose failed to get up-and-down on No. 7 and Wegmann birdied No. 8.

“He gave me a lot of holes and you cannot give a guy holes,” Wegmann said.

Rose, a six-time club champion at The Founders, struggled with his short game Thursday.

“I can think of five or six shots where I just gave away right around the greens,” Rose said. “It was frustrating not to get the ball in the hole (Thursday).”

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