HIBBING — The last time Ryan Riihinen won the Mesaba Country Club Men’s Club title was 2017.
He picked a good year to get win No. 2 as he beat Jeff Thune 4-and-3 to win the main-event title during the 100th anniversary of the event Sunday at the Mesaba Country Club.
This win was more special than that first one, according to Riihinen.
“It means a lot,” Riihinen said. “I thought the first one meant a lot to me, but this one feels great. Hats off to all of the grounds crew out here. They’ve done a phenomenal job keeping the course in shape.
“Hats off to all of my competition, too, especially Jeff. I’ve battled with him a lot of times out here. I’ve appreciated every single match we’ve had. This second title feels great.”
Why so long between titles for Riihinen?
“It came down to my putting,” Riihinen said. “That’s why I didn’t get the job done. This year, the putter was working well for me.”
It worked especially well against his semifinal opponent, Ben Abrahamson, who he beat 5-and-4.
“He wasn’t playing his greatest golf, but I was making putts,” Riihinen said. “He wasn’t. Everything was working well for me, drives, mid-irons, putting. Everything was spot on. That one went well
“I came into this match trying to carry over the same type of mindset, trying to make pars all day, hitting greens in regulation and try to two-putt.”
Riihinen’s putter stayed hot against Thune as he took a 5-up lead after nine holes.
“It’s intimidating being 5-up at that point in the round because I know that Jeff, in his previous round, didn’t have
a good front nine, but he was lights out on the back nine,” Riihinen said. “I tried to think about it that way, that he’s still going to play competitively and consistently.
“I tried to make pars, and follow him.”
Thune found himself 4-down to his semifinal opponent, Connor Willard, but he battled back to make it into the finals, winning 1-up after two extra holes.
“I had a terrible front nine,” Thune said. “I was fortunate to only be 4-down at that point, realistically. I played in 2-under from 11 through the two extra holes. There’s no doubt that the tournament could have been over in the morning.
“I was happy to be able to pull that one out. Connor played well, and hit some good shots. I was fortunate to sneak out one better.”
Could Thune do it again?
He knew it was going to be tougher in this match.
“I basically had to birdie five of the last eight holes, and still not have a chance,” Thune said. “I didn’t do thatm but you never give up. It’s not over until you shake hands. It was all putting.
“I hit the ball well, but I missed a short birdie putt to halve the first hole, and that continued from there.”
Riihinen played too consistently for Thune to make a run.
It was my putting,” Riihinen said. “I ultimately wanted to avoid three-putting, and try to stick my wedges and mid-iron shots close to the pin, so I could limit my three putting. I tried to make pars all day, and that’s exactly what happened.
“The big thing for me is staying consistent. I have to stay calm as well. When you play someone of that caliber, in Jeff, you’re going to be a little nervous going into it. I feel like I’ve played him enough to know how he plays. I tried to stay focused, and take it one-shot-at-a-time.”
Other than Abrahamson, Riihinen beat Noah Schmelzer and Jake Curtiss to get to the finals.
Thune upended AJ Allison and Eric Riihinen to get to the finals.