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Sundbom brings back belly putter, wins Cloquet Invitational

Trent Sundbom won the 83rd annual Cloquet Invitational golf tournament on Sunday, July 13, 2014.1 / 3
Dan Moline hits out of a bunker on the 12th hole during Sunday’s Cloquet Invitational at Cloquet Country Club. (Steve Kuchera / / 3
Brian Moores hits a tee shot on the 12th hole on Sunday during the 83rd Cloquet Invitational at Cloquet Country Club. (Steve Kuchera / / 3

CLOQUET — At a time when most golfers are ditching their belly putters, Trent Sundbom returned one to his golf bag.

The reunion worked magic.

The 18-year-old recent Hermantown High School graduate shot a 2-under-par 69 on Sunday, making several key putts along the way, to win the 83rd annual Cloquet Invitational at Cloquet Country Club. Sundbom finished with a 7-over 220 total to edge Brian Moores and Cory Schultz by one stroke.

Though not banning belly putters, per se, the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club — the sport’s governing bodies — voted to ban putting swings in which a club is braced against a golfer’s body and therefore the swing is not free. The ban, which takes effect in a couple years, was aimed directly at belly putters.

Sundbom switched back to a normal putter about a year and a half ago, but he hadn’t felt comfortable on the greens in recent outings so he switched back.

“Since they’re going to be illegal in 2016, I figured I would get used to a short putter again,” he said. “But I wasn’t putting very well this summer, so for this tournament I brought (the belly putter) back out to see how it went. I’ve always been against them banning it. I’ll continue to use it throughout the summer.”

Sundbom trailed second-round leader Dan Moline by five shots entering the final 18 holes and played in a foursome ahead of the final group. He birdied the par-4 first hole and notched back-to-back birdies on the par-5 fifth and sixth holes before giving a shot back at the par-5 ninth.

Moores, meanwhile, vaulted into the lead as Moline soared to a 77. Last week’s Bill Law Nemadji Invitational winner, Moores had an excellent start in the final round.

“I was inside 10 feet for birdie on five of the first six holes, and the one I wasn’t, I made,” said Moores, who sells software for SAP and lives in Rogers, Minn. “Then I tightened up a little bit and hit some bad shots. It was a very up-and-down round.”

Sundbom continued pressuring the leader as he birdied No. 11 and the par-3 13th. But a bogey-6 at No. 16, combined with Moores hitting a second shot at the flag on No. 17 to set up a short birdie putt, gave Moores a one-shot advantage.

Sundbom drove into the left bunker on the 180-yard, par-3 closing hole, but played a delicate shot out of the sand for an up-and-down par save to head into the clubhouse with a tournament-best round and knowing that Moores had to bogey for a playoff to take place.

“I was trying to keep my eye off the scoreboard as much as I could,” Sundbom, who admitted he backed off his short par putt on the 18th due to nerves. “It was really nerve-wracking. I certainly wasn’t rooting against him, but it was all in his hands.”

Conversely, the 33-year-old Moores, the son-in-law of Duluth golfer Kevin Noreen, played the part of scoreboard watcher.

“I knew exactly where he was at all day — I prefer to know,” Moores said. “But I couldn’t quite hold it together. One bad swing too many.”

Moores stood at the 18th tee with a one-shot lead, knowing he needed to just shoot for the middle of the green. Instead, he pushed his shot into the greenside bunker on the right. He took two shots to get out of the sand, leaving himself a lengthy bogey putt to reach a playoff.

“I was a little tight, a little tense, and just didn’t swing through it and left it in the bunker,” he said.

The bogey putt never was on target, handing Sundbom his first local tournament victory. Schultz birdied 18 to share second.

Sundbom, who will attend NCAA Division II Bemidji State and play golf for the Beavers, didn’t qualify for the State Amateur or State Open tournaments this summer. He will play the remaining local invitationals — at Ridgeview and Northland country clubs — and, if he’s not already in college, the Lakeview Medal at Lester Park Golf Course in August.

Cloquet Invitaitonal

At Cloquet Country Club

Sunday’s Final-Round Results

1. Trent Sundbom, 74-77-69—220; 2. (tie) Brian Moores, 73-74-74—221 and Cory Schultz, 77-71-73—221; 4. Dan Moline, 74-72-77—223; 5. Aaron Young, 79-75-72—226; 6. (tie) Brett Morrison, 74-74-80—228; Reed Kolquist, 75-76-77—228 and John Sheff, 79-76-73—228; 9. Taylor Sundbom, 72-79-78—229; 10. (tie) Shane Johnson 76-77-77—230 and Frank Mertz, 75-80-75—230.