VALPARAISO | Had there been a giant leader board on the 18th hole at the Valparaiso Country Club, the Porter Amateur might have had a different finish Sunday afternoon.
Jeff Gilbertsen didn’t feel any pressure when he sank his 3-foot putt to finish with a final round of 75, but he also didn’t know that Thomas Newton had five birdies through the first 12 holes and was right on his heels.
Gilbertsen had to sweat out Newton’s final few holes, but the Chesterton native hung on with a total score of 296, just one stroke better than Newton and two ahead of third-place finisher Chris Schultz.
“I would’ve been going crazy had I known (Newton) was that close,” Gilbertsen said. “I just went through my process and made the putt.”
Gilbertsen’s victory tops his previous best finish of fourth place. Gilbertsen didn’t lead through the first three rounds of the tournament and entered Sunday one stroke behind Bob Jacobs.
“I’ve always had to come from behind to be in contention,” Gilbertsen said. “I played four steady rounds this year.
While Gilbertsen did enough to win, it was Newton’s final round of 68 that had everyone talking in the clubhouse after the tournament. The Valparaiso native birdied three of his first four holes and recovered from a tough third round to get in contention by the turn. The 2010 Porter Am winner had Gilbertsen in his sights, he did everything he could to overtake the eventual champion.
“This tournament is different because the leaders start first,” Newton said. “I had an idea that I was close. Once I knew I was in the running, I wanted to know how he was doing. I wanted to stay aggressive.”
Newton came into the day with an expectation that he needed to shoot a 65 in order to topple Jacobs and the rest of the field. Jacobs struggled Sunday with a final round of 84 while Newton came up several strokes short of his goal and the title.
“It was probably an unrealistic expectation, but I had two bad rounds and needed to make up some ground,” Newton said. “I’m proud of Jeff. He’s a great champion and I’m happy to add his name to our trophy.”
Natalie Achten defended her women’s division championship by shooting a final-round 86 and holding off Sandra Teal in an improbable playoff.
Achten and Teal entered the find round tied for the overall lead, but Teal looked to be out of contention when she took a nine on the 10th hole. With a chance to finish out her second straight title, Achten carded a triple and double bogey on back-to-back holes. Once in the playoff, Achten sliced her opening shot into the trees and then landed her second shot in the bunker. Teal’s opening shot was in the middle of the fairway, but her following shots struggled to find the green.
“I wasn’t paying attention to what she did and when I putted in; I said ‘Congratulations,’” Achten said. “They told me that I won and I couldn’t believe it. I was in the trees, in the bunker.”
Achten’s victory comes nearly three years after she was told she would never golf again because of a shoulder injury suffered at work.
“I’m glad to win it again,” she said. “When I came off 18 I thought I’d lost and I was happy to share the wealth. I played competitively in high school and in college. Now golf is fun for me.”