Final round 69 gives Ullestad Iowa Am title
South Hamilton grad and University of Missouri senior-to-be wins prestigious tourney by two shots
And his most recent win is arguably the biggest of them all.
Three years after he claimed the Class 2A individual prep title as a senior at South Hamilton, Ullestad added the most prestigious amateur event the state offers to his resume last week with a victory at the 115th Iowa Amateur at Cedar Rapids Country Club.
Two shots out of the lead when the third and final round started last Wednesday, Ullestad fired a 3-under par 69 over the final 18 holes on the par-72 track to win by two strokes. He shot 68 and 69 in the first and second rounds for a 54-hole total of 206 (10-under).
It was Ullestad’s first tournament win since the fall of 2015 when he was the medalist at a junior college tournament during his sophomore season at Indian Hills.
“This is the biggest tournament in Iowa in the summer, so to win this one is pretty cool,” Ullestad, who will be a senior member of the University of Missouri men’s golf team in the fall, said. “There are so many good players in Iowa, so to play well and get the job done is a really good feeling. I haven’t been in that situation in a while, so it felt really good to get in contention again and feel the heat.”
Ullestad finished third at the 80th Iowa Masters at Veenker Memorial Golf Course in Ames earlier this month. He said his game has been on an upswing in recent weeks.
“My game has been trending well this summer and now I kind of know what to expect going into my senior year (at Missouri),” Ullestad, who was also recently named a Srixon/Cleveland Golf All-America Scholar, said. “But I’ve just got to try to keep getting better.”
Ullestad was part of a three-man tie at the top of the leaderboard through 14 holes during the final round of the Iowa Amateur. He took the outright lead with a birdie at the 627-yard, par-5 15th hole at the 102-year old Donald Ross designed course, and then upped his lead to two shots with another birdie at the 410-yard, par-4 16th.
Ullestad made par at Nos. 17 and 18, both par-4’s, to earn the two-shot win over Broc Everett of West Des Moines and Dennis Bull of Norwalk. Everett entered the final round with the lead, but limped home with a 74.
Ullestad says he was unaware of where he stood on the leaderboard as he reached the 16th green, but a celebration from his friends and family in the gallery after he sunk his birdie putt gave him a pretty good indication.
“I really didn’t know where I stood, but I knew I had to make a couple birdies coming in to have a chance,” Ullestad, who was the 2014 Daily Freeman-Journal Male Athlete of the Year, said. “I made a good putt on 16 and I had a couple people watching and they clapped, so I figured I was up by a stroke or two.”
His dad and prep coach, Mark Ullestad, was one of those gallery members. He says it was a special moment to watch his son claim the trophy.
“It was exciting for (mom) Julie and me both, and it’s a whole different world when you’re just watching one kid and being a dad,” Mark Ullestad, who still serves as South Hamilton’s head boys’ golf coach, said. “He’s playing at such a high level now and it’s so fun to watch.”
After leading South Hamilton to the 2A team championship in 2014, Ullestad took his game to Indian Hills in Ottumwa and went national. He was a NJCAA All-American and member of the national championship team as a freshman. As a sophomore, he placed third at nationals and claimed the Jimmy Russell Award, which is given to the NJCAA most outstanding student athlete.
“When I got to Indian Hills I really worked hard on my golf swing. Before that, I just did my own thing,” Ullestad said. “My coaches and teammates joked that I looked like an athlete who was just trying to play golf. But I hit the ball a lot farther now and my short game, my putting, has gotten gradually better.”
Ullestad moved to Missouri and the SEC last fall and he admits he suffered through an adjustment period.
“I struggled last year at Missouri,” he said. “Getting adjusted to a different life was kind of a big jump for me.”
Ullestad is expected to be one of the leaders for the Tigers this fall.
“It’s kind of crazy because it was my dream when I was in high school to play Division I golf,” he said. “Now that I’m here, it’s kind of weird. It’s a different feeling.”
As for life after college, Ullestad, who is a geography major, says his dream has now shifted to playing professionally. But he also knows that will be anything but easy.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “That’s my dream now. I’ve gotten to this point and I’ve got a great opportunity to get my name out there. But it’s really expensive to try to be a professional golfer. I need to get better and have some good performances this year.”