Schultz wins Cloquet Invitational by 5 strokes
CLOQUET -- Before Thursday's practice round, Cory Schultz never had played at Cloquet Country Club.
After putting an exclamation point on the 80th annual Cloquet Invitational with a final-round, 1-under-par 71 Sunday, the 42-year-old print shop worker from Dodge Center, Minn., said it won't take much to bring him back.
"If my schedule allows, I will be back for sure," said Schultz, who shot a 2-over 215 total to win by five strokes. "It won't take much of an arm twist to get me back up here."
Schultz, the first-round co-leader, was a stroke behind Shane Johnson entering Sunday's final 18 holes. He and Johnson were tied at 5-over for the tournament while playing No. 9. That's when Schultz hit a 3-iron about 50 feet from the pin at the 543-yard, par-5 hole, and then drained the ensuing eagle putt from the front left edge of the green.
"It was such a fast putt that the only thing I was trying to do was get it down there where I'd have a chance at making birdie," he said of the putt that broke 6 to 7 feet. "It was such a long putt that I walked halfway to the hole before it went in. That was a huge bonus."
Schultz, who had bogeyed Nos. 3 and 4, threw his arms in the air and made the turn two shots ahead of Johnson.
"I just needed something to happen; I really wanted to make birdie there, at worst," he said. "When that eagle went in and Shane ended up making (par), that really pumped me up.
"But more of a confidence boost was when I made a 10-foot putt for par on the 10th. If I had missed that and given one of those shots back, you might get a different frame of mind going. But I was relieved and pumped up when I made that par putt. I felt in control on the back side."
John Sheff, playing in his 30th Cloquet Invitational, shot par 71 to finish second for an amazing 12th time without a victory on his home course. He said Schultz didn't make any errors on the back nine to allow anyone to make a run.
"Seven through 12, I had a couple good birdie opportunities," Sheff said. "One I three-putted, then he made eagle (on the ninth). He was under par after that stretch of holes -- and looked like he easily could have played it a couple over -- and I went the other way. I never could catch him after that."
Johnson of Duluth faded to third with a 78 to finish seven shots behind. Steve Gault's tournament-best 69 allowed him to catapault to fourth. NHL veteran Jamie Langenbrunner, the 2009 champion, tied for sixth with a 228.
Schultz, who plays out of Owatonna Country Club, graduated from Owatonna High School and attended Texas Lutheran in Seguin, Texas, on a golf scholarship. After graduating college, he said he attempted to play professionally on mini-tours, "but I never was quite good enough. When you are a fringe player, it's such an expensive thing to do."
He regained his amateur status about a decade ago and has won more than a dozen tournaments since. He knew immediately Cloquet Country Club fit his game.
"I generally hit it straight, and that's one thing you have to do here. I like courses that are framed by pine trees," he said. "I felt at home right off the bat."
At Cloquet Country Club, par-71
Sunday's Final Results
1. Cory Schultz 70-215; 2. John Sheff 71-220; 3. Shane Johnson 78-222; 4. Steve Gault 69-224; 5. Ross Fremont 70-225; 6. (tie) Scott Anderson 76-228 and Jamie Langenbrunner 77-228; 8. (tie) Brent Lexvold 76-229, Rich Mertz 74-229 and Tom Cox 73-229.