Herald JournalHerald Journal, Aug. 11, 2003

Winsted man plays in state amateur golf tourney

By Ryan Gueningsman

Aaron Wiemiller has been golfing since the age of 13, when his buddy Tim Langenfeld asked him to "hit some golf balls."

Hitting those golf balls that afternoon led to a desire to play golf ­ but just for fun. He has never had a lesson, or taken golf as a sport in high school or college.

Wiemiller recently played in his fourth Minnesota State Amateur Tournament July 21-23 at the Minneapolis Golf Club.

In order to get into the state amateur tournament, Wiemiller had to compete in a qualifying round at Tanner's Brook in Forest Lake. There were 85 guys competing for 14 spots in the state tournament.

"He shot a 68 (-3) at Tanner's Brook, which is a course record," said Wiemiller's caddy Dan Kleve, who owns, and also operates the Lake Bowl of Howard Lake during winter months. "Aaron was the low man out of 85 golfers. There were 11 guys playing off for the last two spots ­ there is so much pressure and competition at these qualifying rounds."

Kleve said at lunch following his play, the two were discussing strategy and according to Kleve, Wiemiller "played every hole text book and laid the ball right where it needed to be."

The first two days of the state tournament are also considered a qualifying round. There are 150 golfers playing for 60 spots. You play 36 holes over the course of two days at the Minneapolis Golf Club. On day one, Wiemiller shot even par (72) and was tied for eighth place.

By day two, Wiemiller shot a 75, which is three over par. He was tied for 14th place, which meant he made the cut to play the following day.

On the final day of the tournament, Wiemiller shot a 73, which was one over par. Overall on the tournament, he ended up being four over par, which put him in 13th place, and four shots out of first place.

In preparing for the state tournament, Wiemiller did not have a chance to play a practice round at the Minneapolis Golf Club, which played to 6,983 yards, which is Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tournament caliber.

"I just looked at the course hole-by-hole online, and checked distances in a book that I have," he said.

The conditions at a course like the Minneapolis Golf Club are a lot different than ones around here, Kleve said. "It's pretty awesome that a kid coming from a nine-hole golf course could play and adapt to such severe conditions ­ fast greens and hitting from the farthest back tees possible. It's just amazing."

Kleve's job is to help Wiemiller select the right club to hit in different positions, and also to "crack jokes, remind him to walk around and take deep breaths, and also keep things in mind that he might not always be thinking about, like wind direction and helping read putts."

Kleve and Wiemiller have known each other since Wiemiller was a senior in high school. The two played together a lot in area match play, and Kleve has also played a lot of golf throughout his life.

"When you have children, your life changes, and you may not get to play as much," he said. "Aaron always tells me to get back out there and play more often, and then maybe he will be carrying my bag."

Wiemiller has had the opportunity to play with several golfers who have gone on to play in the Professional Golf Association tour ­ including James McLein, Aaron Barber, Tim Herron, and John Harris.

At the tournament in Minneapolis, Wiemiller was in a threesome with Jim Lehman, professional golfer Tom Lehman's brother.

Because he finished within the top 15 in this year's tournament, Wiemiller is automatically in next year's tournament, which will take place in Duluth at the Northland Country Club.

"People in Winsted should really be proud of this kid," Kleve said. "He's got a God-given talent to hit the golf ball."

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