Thomas Longbella has had his fair share of heartbreaks and close calls at the Wisconsin State Amateur. Perhaps the toughest to swallow came in 2018, when he fell on the eighth hole of a sudden-death playoff to finish in second at the event for a second time in his career.
There was certainly pressure as he entered the final day of competition this year with a lead, but his large cushion and strong play Thursday meant he rarely had to sweat.
Longbella, a Chippewa Falls native and McDonell graduate, closed out his stellar showing by shooting a 1-under 69 Thursday, more than good enough to claim his first State Amateur title. He finished ten strokes ahead of Tyler Leach, a Spring Valley native, and Nate Thomson, with a tournament total of a 6-under 274.
Eau Claire’s Matt Tolan finished in fourth after shooting a plus-3 73 Thursday. He finished with a plus-6 286 for the tournament.
Longbella, who golfs collegiately at Minnesota, entered the final day of competition already with a healthy six-stroke advantage on Leach and Thomson. He expanded the deficit Thursday thanks to being the only golfer among the top 17 to finish under par in the final round. He was the only golfer in the field to best par in each of his four rounds.
By shooting a 69-67-69-69, Longbella set a State Amateur record for rounds in the 60s according to Wisconsin.golf’s Rob Hernandez. He also came a stroke away from two other tournament bests: lowest score and largest margin of victory.
He shot a 1-under 34 on the front nine Thursday, earning birdies on the par-5 third hole and par-4 fifth hole to make up for a bogey on the par-4 sixth. He cruised in for the hardware by shooting par on the final nine holes, helped by birdies on the par-4 14th and par-5 15th.
Longbella is set to return to the Golden Gophers for a fifth season after his spring senior campaign was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic. He was enjoying the best season of his college career before the spring was canceled, averaging 71.75 strokes per round during the fall.
Leach, Thomson and Tolan all had a steep climb to catch Longbella considering the challenge the Milwaukee Country Club presented players all week. The trio all shot plus-3 for the day, all retaining the position they entered the final round holding.
Isaac Prefontaine, a current golfer at UW-Eau Claire, finished tied for 41st with a plus-22 302 for the tournament. Cole Stark, a former Blugold, finished tied for 63rd with a plus-30 310.