Logan Blondell raids Gasparilla pitch and sets goalscoring record

Logan Blondell raids Gasparilla pitch and sets goalscoring record

Logan Blondell wins the 2022 Gasparilla (Photo: Gasparilla)

Logan Blondell won the 67th Gasparilla Invitational in record fashion with a final score of ten under par, breaking Mike Finster’s record eight under from 2019. Blondell was in control throughout the three days, sleeping in the lead Thursday and Friday evening en route to a victory in five strokes. Blondell is no stranger to Palma Ceia Country. He grew up playing in junior events and the tight tee shots and fast greens remind him of his home golf course Cleveland Heights Golf Course in Lakeland, Florida.

“There were dozens of times this week where I referenced shots I played in Cleveland Heights,” Blondell said. “I would remember hitting that shot since I was 12.”

Blondell admitted he hasn’t played much golf lately. A former professional, he returned to the amateur ranks in 2018. Work and settling into a new life left him with no time to play enough golf to compete.

Most Gasparilla players are invited to participate in the event, however, a few spots are left open for the Monday qualifier. Blondell showed up Monday hoping for a berth; he won one with his worst run of the week. A 73 in cold conditions was the opposite of the sunny skies that greeted the players Thursday through Saturday. It was the only round of the 70s for Blondell all week.

Over the three rounds, Blondell only made three bogeys. His thirteen birdies were the third best of the lot. Marc Dull made 15 and Jonathan Bale made 14. However, they couldn’t avoid the big numbers either. As Bale made two double bogeys and Dull made a triple bogey. These big numbers are still lurking in Palma Ceia CC due to the winds, tight fairways and a plethora of out of bounds.

“I love this kind of golf,” Blondell said. “And I was playing well, so it was the perfect combination.”

The final result is not representative of the number of players who made runs at Blondell in the final round. A slew of players posted the leaderboard on Saturday, but it seemed the energy it took to try to catch Blondell had worn down each challenger before they could get to the top of the mountain. Palma Ceia’s challenging greens and final round layout mean taking risks can lead to big numbers.

Devin Hernandez was the first to fire a shot through Blondell’s arc. Starting thirty minutes before Blondell, Hernandez birdied four straight on holes 3-6, taking him to seven under par. Unfortunately, Hernandez’s birdies dried up and he played the last ten holes in six.

Another player who made a run for the lead was Dull. He started his day two shots behind Blondell at five under par. Unlike Hernandez, he was able to keep tabs on Blondell throughout the round, as he and Keith Guest were paired with the leader. Dull birdied the first two holes to tie Blondell, but Blondell retaliated with a birdie on the fourth hole to regain the lead. Dull bogeyed on the sixth and seventh holes and couldn’t find another birdie until the eighteenth hole, when the tournament’s fate was all but sealed. Dull found himself tied for second place at five under with Bobby Leopold, Bale and Joe Deraney.

Deraney, pushed his score to six under par after a birdie on the eleventh hole, but clinched it with six straight pars and a bogey on the 18th. Similarly, Bale birdied on the twelfth hole to reach six under par. It was as close to Blondell as you could get.

Among the runners-up, Bale had the most stable day. He never got to six under, but played great golf all week with scores of 70-66-69.

The last player to reach six under and threaten Blondell was Nick Maccario, who closed the second round with three birdies to get into the running. He battled his way to six under par, but one out of ten bogeys and one out of eleven double bogeys knocked him off the pace.

One look at Blondell’s third-round scoreboard would make anyone think it was pretty stress-free. However, Blondell had a few moments where things got a little hairy.

As Blondell’s group made the turn, it was clear they were behind the times. After playing the eleventh hole, the group was put on the clock. This made the twelfth hole a bit more stressful for Blondell. A bad tee shot left him in a precarious position. His approach did not help his cause and his third shot went over the rim of the Donald Ross green, just as he had designed it. A deft six-inch chip helped Blondell escape with a bogey, his first of the day. A 30-by-12-foot birdie putt, with a fist pump included, calmed his nerves.

However, the Time Lords were still watching Blondell’s group. They received a warning after the fifteenth hole, and another shaky tee shot left Blondell under a tree with a five iron in hand. His ball carried a bunker on the green side and rolled ten feet. One putt later and Blondell was ready to set sail for the clubhouse.

Throughout the day, as usual, Blondell did not look at a leaderboard.

“My goal is to play the best golf possible. However, it shakes, that’s how it goes.”

He said a few cheers from the spectators on the 18th fairway gave him the feeling he was probably in very good shape.

The birdie Blondell brought home from about fifteen feet was cheered on by a crowd of onlookers. La Gasparilla is known for supporting the members, and Blondell acknowledged their support and what it means to him and the other contestants.

“You don’t often get that feeling. It was pretty cool.”

As he reflected on the week, Blondell couldn’t help but mention some of the people he played with. His first-round partner Scott Saterbo was encouraging Logan’s birdies, pumping his fist and giving off positive energy.

“It was very fun.”

His second-round partner Blanton Farmer was also his partner in Monday’s qualifying; he was another player Blondell enjoyed playing with and commented on his talent and easy-going nature. And finally, his third-round partner Marc Dull is an old friend and adversary from high school.

Mid-amateurs kept their eyes peeled for Logan Blondell. He’s going to be a little more present, which means we could find his name at the top of the charts again in the years to come. He is Gasparilla’s champion and a record holder.

In the senior division, Jack Hall, 65, was the only senior to finish under par. He rode a flurry of four birdies on holes 3, 5, 7 and 8 to build enough buffer for a closing 36 to earn him a three-shot win over Rusty Strawn. Mike Finster finished in third place at two over par, four strokes behind Hall.

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