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Hoge falls short of winning Bobcat North Dakota Open

Tom Hoge watches his shot out of the sand trap on the 10th hole during the North Dakota Bobcat Open golf tournament Sunday, August 30, 2015, at the Fargo Country Club. Dave Wallis / The Forum

FARGO—It's not often that professionals on the Dakota Tours golf circuit get to experience a cheering crowd. But that's what Matt Miller of Bloomington, Ill., had to endure when he won the Bobcat North Dakota Open Sunday at the Fargo Country Club.

The reason for the crowd? Fargo's own Tom Hoge—fresh off his first season on the PGA Tour, including a recent round with Tiger Woods. But Hoge lost on his home course by one stroke when Miller carded two birdies on the final two holes.

"This was by far the biggest following we've had here for this tournament in my 10 years here," said Fargo Country Club professional Mark Johnson.

"That was awesome," Hoge said. "It makes it so much more fun to play. We all enjoyed being in the situation and having a little pressure on us."

And Miller was certainly feeling the pressure when Hoge erased a four-stroke deficit on the back nine. Miller had three straight bogies on holes 12, 13 and 14. When Hoge tapped in a three-foot birdie putt on No. 16 to take a one-stroke lead on Miller, the gallery cheered.

"I did underestimate the kind of energy, the swings with the momentum and with how the crowd can play a role in all of this," Miller said. "All of a sudden you are picking yourself up off the ground. Then you just have to dig deep and make something happen and maybe something will work out."

It certainly worked out for Miller on the par-four No. 17 after his tee shot sailed left of the green. He was facing about a 40-yard, uphill shot that had to go under a tree and over the green's high bank. This time, the gallery couldn't help but applaud for Miller when his shot ended up close enough for him to sink a birdie putt that would even it up with Hoge at 12-under.

"I was just trying to get it on the green," Miller said. "That kind of stemmed the tide a little bit."

It all came down to the last two shots for Miller and Hoge.

Hoge's second shot from 150 yards out on the par-4 No. 18 ended up and the backside fringe, leaving him a tough 30-foot downhill putt that broke hard to the left. Miller's second shot from 113 yards out in the rough ended up five feet from the hole.

"I was trying to hit it on the front because that green is super firm," said Miller, who used a 55-degree wedge on the shot. "It came out perfect. I didn't know where it was until I got up to the hill. I was thrilled to see where the ball was."

Hoge left his challenging putt six feet short of the hole. He sank his par putt to put some pressure on Miller, who needed to sink his five-footer to avoid a tie and a playoff. He sank it in the right edge of the cup.

"I holed a nice putt for par and Matt just stepped up and made a nice putt on top of me," Hoge said. "Obviously, I'm disappointed that I didn't pull it out. At the same time, that's golf. I played well down the stretch and Matt played just a little bit better."

Hoge, with rounds of 69, 66 and 69, ended up with a three-day total of 204 and a check for $6,600. Miller, with rounds of 67, 67 and 69, ended up at 203 and a check for $10,000 and a $4,500 payment for PGA qualifying school.

Hoge will now take a week off before he will play four straight events in the Web.com playoffs. If he finishes in the Top 25, he will maintain full status for his PGA Tour card.

"A win here would've given me more confidence, but for the most part, I thought I played pretty well this week," Hoge said. "That's why I came here. I just wanted to stay sharp."

And enjoy a little hometown cheering.

Kevin Schnepf
Kevin Schnepf is the sports editor for The Forum. He has been working at The Forum since 1986.
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