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Golf: Inaugural CRMC Championship receives high praise

The CRMC Championship presented by Gertens helped raise $50,000 for the CRMC Foundation.

Golfers putt in on the final hole Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022, during the PGA Tour Canada’s CRMC Championship presented by Gertens at Cragun’s Legacy Courses.
Golfers putt in on the final hole Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022, during the PGA Tour Canada’s CRMC Championship presented by Gertens at Cragun’s Legacy Courses.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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EAST GULL LAKE — The players were torn.

On one hand, the goal for the PGA Tour Canada players is to get off that tour and advance to the Korn Ferry Tour, the next step to making the PGA Tour. On the other hand, many of them said they wouldn’t mind having to come back to Cragun’s Legacy Courses next season for another shot at winning the CRMC Championship.

The praise was plentiful concerning the course conditions for the Aug. 25-28 tournament at the Legacy. Cragun’s golf course superintendent Matt McKinnon and his staff had the Legacy greens “rolling like pool tables” was how many of the players described it. A monumental feat considering all the renovations and new course construction happening on the property

For an inaugural event, the tournament, the course and the volunteers exceeded the players’ expectations.

Scott Stevens is one of those players vying for a spot on the Korn Ferry Tour. He’s currently fifth in the Fortinet Cup standings which would advance him to the next level.

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The Birmingham, Alabama, native called the course one of the best on the tour.

“As a whole, the golf course, the hospitality and how the tournament was run was honestly very impressive because this was the first year they had the tournament here,” Stevens said. “Everything was run really smoothly. The area is great to be in. I went fishing on Monday so that was fun.

“As far as the golf course goes, it was in awesome shape. The scores were super low this week. We got some rain earlier in the week so it softened it up a lot which made it quite a bit easier, but overall it’s been a great experience and one of my favorites so far.”

Stevens said he came into the tournament with no expectations. He expected there to be issues for a first-time tournament, but didn’t experience anything negative.

“All the volunteers were great,” Stevens said. “The fans came out (Sunday). Every day on 18 there were a bunch of people around the green. That makes it a lot of fun for us because usually not a ton of people. Didn’t really have any expectations coming in and if I did they would have been exceeded.”

Stevens had to keep reminding himself he was back on U.S. soil. The CRMC was the first PGA Tour Canada event to be played in America. That wasn’t a problem for Canadian Wil Bateman, who finished second in the tournament and leads the Fortinet Cup standings.

“Honestly, I thought golf course-wise, resort-wise, just the vibe here has been awesome,” Bateman said. “I told the commissioner of the Tour that this was the best week we’ve had this year just as a whole. Hopefully, I’m not coming back here, but if I do it would be a pleasure because the course was a good setup. I love the way the course set up for me because I hit a lot of fades and there are a lot of fade holes. Everything was great this week.”

Alexander Herrmann was the first- and second-round leader. The German was hoping to make a move in Sunday’s final round, but couldn’t get low enough. But after his round, he was happy to praise the Legacy.

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“Everything was perfect top to bottom,” Herrmann said. “The crowds that we had were wonderful. I think that the hospitality area behind 18 made it such a good finishing hole. They got the course ready for us with newly sodded fairways and greens. It was just incredible. The people overall were super friendly and super respectful. Very fair spectators. They acknowledged good shots. I had a blast. Thanks for having me.”

Stevens said the fan tournament was impressive. He said at other tour stops fans will be milling around the course and then on the weekend the numbers will grow, but it was impressed by the tournament at Cragun’s.

Bateman said it was great to have a good gallery following him on the last nine holes of Sunday as he was making his charge up the leaderboard.

“This area has a bunch of courses and even this course, there are so many golf holes here, you can tell they’ve dumped a bunch of money into this course. It’s in perfect shape. The greens were rolling perfectly. You can definitely tell that golf is a big deal here and it shows and it was nice being here.”

Californian Jake Knapp was the tournament winner with a 26-under-par score. He shot rounds of 61 and 64 on the weekend to gain the lead and then hold off Bateman in the end. Knapp was very pleased with the Paul Bunyan Ax trophy awarded to the winner.

“I think anytime it’s a first-time event you wonder and you also worry about the support it’s going to get,” Knapp said. “You’re not sure how many people know about it or how big the country club is. You’re never really sure going in. Nobody has really been here before. Everyone was just like we’ll see what happens when we get there.

“When we got here and played the back nine I knew it was going to be a great test. It was really fast and firm to start out with and it was kind of a bummer we got so much rain because it changed the course, but it took a low number to win.”

Knapp moved from ninth to second in the Fortinet Cup standings with the win and collected $36,000 of the $200,000 prize money. More important to the lakes area, The CRMC Foundation, which was the fundraising entity for the tournament received a $50,000 donation. Just as important was the way the Cragun’s Legacy Courses staff and its volunteers showcased Brainerd lakes area golf.

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“All the courses on the tour are very good, but this was one of my favorites,” Herrmann said. “Just the lake and everything was pretty to look at. There are a lot of great holes.

“I think the people got what they wanted, too. It was a very interesting tournament with some low scores. I think everybody had a good time.”

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

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