NORMAL — Joe Rieger made a shot from 160 yards during Sunday's Bloomington-Normal Two-Man Best Position championship flight final.

However, when it came to sinking the clinching 3-foot par putt on Weibring Golf Club's 16th green, Rieger's effort curled out. He wasn't too concerned.

"He deserved to make the last putt anyway," said Rieger.

Logan Stauffer cleaned up the short putt for his partner to end an unforgetable week for the 25-year-old. Rieger and Stauffer took charge midway through the front nine and rode it out for a 3 and 2 victory over twins Michael and Branden Mounce.

After finishing seventh in the Illinois State Amateur on Thursday at Bloomington Country Club, Stauffer earned his first Two-Man title with some stellar shot-making the last three matches after falling short twice before in the final with different partners.

"It has been a great week of golf for me," said Stauffer. "This game just doesn't come by skill level and talent. You have to work at it. I feel this year I've put in a little more time than I have been."

Rieger, 34, provided plenty of help for Stauffer on Sunday. He belted a 3-wood from 285 yards onto the green at No. 6 and sank the 12-foot eagle putt.

But the shot of the tournament happened on the ninth. With an 8-iron from the middle of the fairway, Rieger's approach landed about 15 feet from the pin and rolled until it found the bottom of the cup that gave him and Stauffer a 3-up advantage at the turn.

"It played like 140 and I put a good swing on it," said Rieger. "I got lucky, but better lucky than good. He talked me through it."

Stauffer wasn't about to share in the credit. "It was a great shot," he said.

The Mounces bounced right back as Branden sank a 5-foot birdie putt on No. 10 to get 2-down. However, Stauffer stuffed an approach shot within 6 feet on the 12th and Rieger sank the putt to go 3-up again.

Another superb Stauffer wedge on the par-5 13th set up a short birdie putt, and the Mounces couldn't get up and down from behind the green. Rieger and Stauffer enjoyed a 4-up lead with five left.

"I figured we would have to be very lucky to have a comeback even if we birdied every hole because they would birdie a couple of them as well," said Michael Mounce, who won last month's Match Play.

The Mounces did birdie No. 14 before Michael drove the green on the 367-yard 15th. However, Stauffer again was at his best, dropping a delicate second shot to a tight pin over the bunker about 3 feet away. Branden Mounce nearly made the 40-foot eagle putt as both teams birdied.

Both teams missed the green on the left on No. 16 before chipping close. That's when Rieger could have ended the match.

"I hit a bad putt and my buddies have it on camera, which makes it even worse," he said, smiling.

Stauffer wasn't about to miss as he and Rieger went 11-under for 16 holes. 

"This is the first tournament I've won since (Bloomington) high school with Brandon Holtz in 2003," said Rieger. "It was pretty cool. I'm glad Logan picked me after a couple people fell out who he was supposed to play with. It all fell together."

The Mounces, who will be seniors on Bradley's golf team this fall, were outdriving Rieger and Stauffer by 20 to 30 yards almost every hole. The same thing happened in Saturday's semifinals against Rob Wuetrich and Conner O'Neil when Rieger and Stauffer pulled out a 1-up victory in a shootout.

"It's just a matter of hitting our second shots solid and getting them somewhat close to give ourselves a chance to make a putt," said Stauffer. "We had a lot of good putts today that fell in and were at the right moment. We kept riding the momentum."

Both teams birdied No. 1 before Michael Mounce sank a 6-foot birdie putt at the second for a 1-up advantage. The Mounces gave that back when they missed a 3-foot par putt at the par-3 No. 4.

"That probably set the mood for the match," said Branden Mounce.

Rieger and Stauffer went 7-under the next five holes, started by Stauffer's great approach and 20-foot birdie putt on No. 5. Rieger took over on the sixth for the eagle and 2-up advantage. Both teams birdied the next two holes before Rieger's dramatic second shot on No. 9.

"They played well. They were professional ham and eggers today," said Michael Mounce. "If one hit a mediocre shot, the other hit it to a foot (from the hole)."

The Mounces pulled off a comeback in Saturday's semifinals, rallying from 3-down with six left to knock off defending champions Tom Kearfott and Mike Cushing. Yet it was apparent early Sunday neither was on top of their game.

"I don't think we both hit good shots on a single shot," said Branden Mounce. 

Beating teams with college golfers the last two days was something many probably would not have given Rieger and Stauffer much of a chance to accomplish.

"It goes to shows you anything can happen in this format and this tournament," said Stauffer. "If you just stick to your game and keep playing and get confidence, you can take it home."

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Contact Jim Benson at (309) 820-3404. Follow him on Twitter: @Pg_Benson



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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