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Golf: Brett Benson wins Labor Day Classic

Brett Benson of Odebolt, Iowa, acknowledges the gallery after holing out to win the 2018 Labor Day Classic golf tournament Monday in Worthington. (Doug Wolter/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Brett Benson started well and never wavered Monday to win the 2018 Labor Day Classic golf tournament at GreatLIFE Worthington.

Drizzling rain, then a hard rain, and then a 45-minute rain delay didn’t ruin his appointment with the championship -- his second LDC crown overall and his first since 2011.

“I hit the ball well,” said Benson, a resident of Odebolt, Iowa, and a 2005 graduate of Jackson County Central High School. “I made a ton of pars. I like to say I parred the crap out of the golf course. … I hit the ball in spots where I could play it well.”

Joining Benson in the Final Four were Tad Leistico of Elkhorn, Neb., Matt Weeks of Norwalk, Iowa, and Tony Brown of Plymouth, Minn. Brown won the tournament four times before, and as recently as 2016. Leistico, a Worthington High School product, won it in 2007.

This was Benson’s year, however, but he needed to be consistent on Monday.

And it wasn’t easy. Less than halfway through the championship round, a light rain fell on the golfers and the sizeable gallery that followed them on carts, and on foot. The rain began to come hard when the competitors were taking on the par-3 10th hole, forcing a 45-minute delay. While golfers and fans gulped burgers and onion rings in the clubhouse, the skies cleared, and golf resumed.

Benson led by a single stroke over Weeks after eight holes. He never surrendered his lead the rest of the way, leading by as much as four strokes after 14, with Leistico at plus-7, Weeks plus-4 and Brown plus-5.

But on 15, Weeks made a 20-foot putt and Brown sunk a 10-footer. The match was tightening.

Up two strokes after 15, Benson missed a 7-foot putt on the par-4 16th and was 1-over par to Weeks’ 2-over par heading to the par-5 17th.

The 17th hole is a tricky one, with trees threatening both on the left and on the right. Benson went right with his tee shot and found himself behind several tall trees standing like angry sentinels. He punched out calmly, however, and managed a par. So did Weeks.

Everyone managed to get onto the 18th green in two strokes, except for Leistico who was on the fringe. By this time, the Worthington native and the 2016 champion were out of the running. Weeks had to sink a 30-foot putt to have a fair chance at forcing a sudden-death hole, but he missed right. Benson needed only to two-putt from about 10 feet to win the tournament. He missed the first, and the second putt curled into the edge of the hole for par.

“These greens seemed a little quicker. Putting has been my weakness this summer. I was glad when that last putt went in,” he said.

Benson finished with an 18-hole Final Four round of 72, 1-over par. Weeks finished plus-3, Brown plus-4 and Leistico plus-7.

Benson knew he’d need to be on top of his game to beat his three outstanding rivals. But he said he’d played with them all before, so he was comfortable. Whatever nerves he had were soothed by getting off to a good start.

Last time I won it, it was with my dad on the bag (as caddy). This year I won it with my wife on the bag. And my 2-year-old daughter (Macy Mae) was here. That makes it special,” Benson said.

Macy Mae won’t remember watching her father win the 2018 Labor Day Classic. But someday she’ll be able to look at the pictures that prove it.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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