WAYZATA - Johnny Larson may have been a familiar name to the many golfers who compete in and to those who follow the Minnesota Golf Association.
On Wednesday, Larson put himself in the elite class of Minnesota's amateur golfers as he captured his first ever Minnesota Golf Association Players Championship at Woodhill Country Club in Wayzata.
Larson, who won a Class A high school golf championship at Springfield High School, has made a name for himself locally by winning five New Ulm Invitationals, the most ever in the event's history.
But Wednesday's victory, which concluded after winning six matches over the course of three days, was by far the biggest tournament win for him.
The tournament drew the 64 best amateur players in the state. Those golfers all qualified either on points or by winning a regional tournament. Larson won a tournament May 28 in Fairmont to earn his spot in the field of 64.
Larson won two matches on both Monday and Tuesday to qualify for Wednesday's semifinals, where he defeated Jim Lehman 4 and 2 to move into the finals, where he met another familiar face in Trent Peterson of Valleywood Golf Course.
There, Larson trailed by two holes after the 16th hole, meaning his chances to win the event were slowly fading. But Larson surged at the end, winning both the 17th and 18th holes to tie the match, setting up a playoff hole.
Just tying Peterson was a battle in itself. Peterson played professionally for a short time before re-gaining his amateur status a couple years ago.
Larson birdied a hole late and Peterson bogeyed the final hole to even the match.
"Against Trent Peterson, it's pretty hard to get two holes against that guy, he's one of the best amateurs in the state of Minnesota," Larson said. "It was pretty much do-or-die, that's the mindset you've got to have.
"He's a good enough player, where the odds of him making a birdie on one of the last holes is pretty high. If he makes one birdie, the match is over."
The two went to a playoff format, where Larson took charge. He hit probably his best shot of the tournament when he aimed right for the pin. He didn't have a lot of room to spare, but he used a 9-iron on a 140-yard shot and hit it perfectly. The ball ended up 3 feet short of the hole. He tapped in a tough putt for birdie while Peterson's birdie attempt came up short, giving Larson the win.
"It was a little bit of a tricky 3-foot putt if there is such a thing," Larson said. "You've got a lot of emotions going through you, you've got a big run to get there."
The win qualifies Larson to compete in the 111th MGA Amateur Championship on July 21-23 at Golden Valley Golf and Country Club.