Thursday, April 24, 2014
   
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Mueller captures first pro tour win

Wild Horse hosts developmental tour’s Midwest Open

Jesse Mueller enjoyed his stay in Gothenburg last week for the GOLFWEEK National Pro Tour’s stop at Wild Horse. He’s hoping that when the tour returns next year that he’ll have other plans.

That, in fact, is the goal of all the players on the developmental tour. They want to advance to the Nationwide Tour or, perhaps, the PGA tour.

Mueller, who played three steady rounds of excellent golf while posting a one-stroke victory at the $150,000 Midwest Open with a 14-under-par 274, hopes to qualify for the PGA tour at the Q school in October.

The Arizona State graduate was in a two-way tie on the top of the leaderboard following the first day of play Tuesday with a six-under 66. He didn’t get discouraged after a 75 on the second day.

“I was really steady the three days,” he said. “That one day kind of got away from me.”

Mueller bounced back with a 66 on Thursday and led by two going into the final round. He withstood a charge by Ryan Dillon, who fired a seven-under 65—the best round of the tournament—to finish within one stroke.

The 29-year-old former Sun Devil said he looked forward to coming to Wild Horse.

“A few of my friends have played here and said that everything had been awesome,” Mueller said. “They said the course was great.”

The wind—which caused problems for golfers, particularly on Thursday—didn’t seem to bother Mueller.

“I was hitting the ball well enough that wind didn’t affect it too much,” he said. “I was able to keep it out of the hay for the most part. That helps, definitely. It’s hard to find your ball in there.”

Ironically, it was the shortest hole on the course that gave him the most trouble. At only 126 yards, the par three No. 11 proved to be tough for the tourney champ.

“I may have hit the green once. I ended up playing one-over, but I had to make par putts nearly every time. It’s a short, little one but a pretty difficult hole.”

The wind added to the challenge of the course, according to tour commissioner Larry Lunsford.

“This is a great course,” he said. “The guys at this level, without wind, would go really well. The wind is its greatest ally.”

The greens became so fast on Thursday that tournament officials suspended play for a time to water the putting surfaces.

Club pro Don Graham said the tour wanted the greens to rate an 11 on a stimpmeter, a device that measures the speed of the surface.

For golf course superintendent Josh Mahar, that’s no problem, Graham said. But the dry and windy conditions, particularly on Thursday, pushed balls off the greens after they had been marked.

Lunsford had nothing but praise for the course.

“It was one of the best courses we’ve played,” he said. “It ranked up there with any course we’ve played this year.”

Beyond that, though, what helps to keep the tour returning is the reception officials and players received from community residents.

“Everybody was so friendly here,” Lunsford said. “The players loved it. And quite honestly they deserve to be treated like that. You don’t really get that when you are in the bigger cities.”

Lincoln native Steve Friesen was helpful in the decision to come to Wild Horse. He played on the inaugural developmental tour last year and encouraged tour officials to make Wild Horse a stop this season.

GOLFWEEK Magazine’s sponsorship of the tour this year could have aided the Gothenburg cause, too.

“That’s probably why we got together because we’re so highly rated in that magazine,” Graham said.

The Midwest Open will return in 2013 with tentative dates of June 4-7.

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