Portie finishes at 19-under for South Dakota Open victory

Leroy Veronie of San Diego, CA found the bunker during his approach shot to the 18th green at The Bluffs in Vermillion Sunday, but made a successful shot out of the sandtrap to reach the putting surface and finish his round in the South Dakota Open 2011. (Photo by David Lias)

The third round of the South Dakota Open hosted by The Bluffs Golf Course in Vermillion finished Sunday, July 17 with a few surprise endings. The Open is part of the Dakota Tour where professional golfers play with amateurs at some of the best golf courses in the Dakota area.

After tying the course record with a 62 in Saturdays second round, Ben Portie said he felt pretty confident going into the third day.

I felt good, those rounds dont happen very often. I think thats the third one Ive shot in my entire life, so I felt pretty good after shooting that, he said.

Before Portie shot his record-tying score, Benoit Beisser and Tim Ailes were tied for first after the second round. Beisser said he felt much more comfortable being in second for the final round.

I was actually quite relieved, its nicer to chase than it is to be chased, he said. Ive played with (Portie) maybe once or twice and its been a couple years, so I didnt really know how his game was, but obviously with his score he was shooting good and confident.

Despite shooting one of the best scores in his careers, Portie knew that going against Beisser and Ailes for the championship would be tough.

After playing so good, I still only had a one stroke lead going into (Sunday). I still knew I had to play good today and shoot a good number, Portie said. In the heat, I knew it was going to be tough today, but I enjoyed it. I had a good time today, stayed in the moment and really enjoyed it.

Portie was able to keep his head and stay focused through the final 18 holes, shooting a 67 in the final round and finishing the tournament at 19 under, enough for first place.

Although Portie played smart through the final holes, his two competitors struggled as they took some risky shots. On 17, Beisser took a bogey and fell to two strokes behind Portie. Overall, Beisser said he was proud of his finish.

Youve just got to go out there and play this course straightforward, be very direct with all your shots, dont take anything for granted because itll come back and bite you, he said. It bit me on 17, but I stuck to my game plan and was happy with what I did.

Beisser finished second to Portie, shooting a 68 in the final round and finishing 17 under.

Looking to make a comeback on the final hole, Ailes went all out on his tee shot, but it would come back to hurt him. His first tee shot went out of bounds, forcing him to re-hit and take a one-stroke penalty. Ailes second tee shot wasnt any better as it, too, went too far wide and out of bounds. When he finally got his tee shot on the fairway, Ailes was already six strokes into the five-par hole.

Ailes would finish in sixth at 12 under after being the money leader at last years tour.

People talk about this being a minor league golf tour, tour director Dennis Chandler said. Tim Ailes made $75,000 on the tour last year in seven weeks. Thats not so bad. Anyone would be happy to make that in 12 months.

Once again, the heat was a factor on the final day of play, but after two days of playing in it, the golfers were pretty used to it.

Born and raised in Scottsdale so the heat didnt really bother me. Ive been telling everyone around here this heat doesnt bother me, Beisser said. I enjoy being kind of sweaty, I do a lot of yoga, so it reminds me of the yoga room and keeps me relaxed. Its not too bad, if the breeze wasnt up it mightve been bad. Back home, when the breeze comes up it feels like someone putting a hot blow-dryer in your face, so at least its cool and breezy out there.

In the Open and The Bluffs this year were 66 pros. Chandler said its a popular event because the course is so nice.

The Bluffs is one of the best. I dont want to slight any site, but we really choose only the best golf courses in South Dakota to play on, he said. The Bluffs is as good as any, but I cant say its better than any because we only use the best.

The course might be one of the nicest, but its also one of the toughest to play, especially if youve never played it before.

Some of the golfers hate some of the holes, and we know that from years past. They have to use their brains as much as they use their golf swing on hole 13, hole 15, hole 16, Chandler said. It depends on whether they are veterans or rookies, or whether they have realized hole 13 is not a birdie hole. If theyve realized that, they dont get a bogey or double bogey, they shoot a par and move on to the next hole. The ones that stand up on the tee box and think theyve got the hole walk away with their tails between their legs.

The Tour continues Tuesday in Britton for a one-day event. Portie and Beisser said they dont play at all the Dakota Tour events, but they enjoy The Bluffs and plan to play at Fox Run in Yankton July 29-31.

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