MANKATO — Joel Johnson had been in this position before at the annual Loren Krugel golf tournament.
Last summer, Johnson was leading by four strokes with three to play, but a birdie on the 17th hole of the final round allowed him to claim a two-stroke victory.
On Sunday, Johnson was up five strokes with five holes remaining when a bogey and double bogey gave his competition a glimmer of hope.
“I never really thought about (last year),” Johnson said. “I just tried to focus on one shot at a time.”
Johnson followed with a calming three-foot birdie on the par-3 16th, and he finished off a three-stroke victory for consecutive victories at the Krugel at the Mankato Golf Club. Johnson’s winning 45-hole total was three-under-par 174, two strokes better than last year, and he’s the only player to be under par in the last two tournaments.
Johnson is the fourth player to win back-to-back Krugel championships in the last 11 years, joining Steve Chesley (2009-10), J.B. Lloyd (2013-2014) and Justin Doeden (2016-17).
“It’s a little bit of a high (playing well in front of a nice-sized gallery),” Johnson said. “It gets the adrenaline going, and you have to control the nerves. It’s not like playing with your buddies at home.”
Johnson, 48, who plays out of the Links at Northfork at Ramsey, started coming to Mankato’s biggest amateur tournament about five years ago, on the advice of buddies.
“They said you have to give this a try,” Johnson said. “I love playing out here because it’s so tight, and you have to shape your shots.”
Johnson, who shot one-under 70 in Saturday’s opening round, was tied with Matt Opsal after Sunday’s first nine holes. Opsal birdied the first hole of the final round to take the lead, but Johnson birdied No. 2 to regain the lead. Johnson birdied Nos. 10, 11, 12 to stretch the lead to five strokes. He finished off a two-under 69 with an 8-foot par putt on the final hole.
Opsal, who was tied for the first-round lead at 69, ended up in a three-way tie for second with John Hanner and Mitch Pfingsten. Jack Michel and Ben Krogen tied for fifth at 179.
The winner of the first non-qualifiers flight was Dan Wenner at 69. Lucas Bigger, Hunter Rebrovich and Josh Blackman tied for first at 72 in the second non-qualifiers flight.
The executive flight winner was John Brellenthin, who shot 154 (78-76), and Dave Knopick (86-90) and Joe Krugel (92-84) tied for first at 176 in the golden flight.
The first flight winner was Trevor Rome at 156 (78-78), while Chip Panahon won the second flight at 162 (83-79). Shawn Hearn shot 157 (78-79) to place first in the third flight, and Bill Rosenstiel posted a 162 (83-79) to win the fourth flight. The fifth flight winner was Adam Chatleain at 165 (77-88). Brandon Prasnicki (97-98) and Jon Willette (102-93) tied for first in the sixth flight at 195.