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First round of match play runs into Friday

T.L. Solien peeks out from under his umbrella to watch the tee shot of John Stromstad during senior championship match play Thursday afternoon. Soaking rains delayed play in all divisions all day long.1 / 6
Mason Kennedy rolls a putt during Thursday's Pine to Palm match play.2 / 6
Defending Pine to Palm champion Tom Hoge eyes his drive on the par five first hole Thursday afternoon.3 / 6
Pat Deitz of Fargo lines up a putt during his Thursday match against Jon Miller.4 / 6
Mike Holm, looks to the ground as his putt on the par five first hole came up just short of the hole during his Thursday match against Logan Palmer.5 / 6
Clinton Boutelle, blasts out of a greenside bunker on the 10th hole at the Pine to Palm Thursday afternoon.6 / 6

There was a big carrot at the end of a stick for the Pine to Palm match play Championship qualifiers to beat their opponents Thursday, besides the obvious reward of advancing in the bracket.

It was a chance to sleep in, while the others had to toil in the early-morning hours to finish off their matches.

After a bevy of storm delays throughout the first day of bracket play at the Detroit Country Club, the Championship field wasn't able to start until around 4:30 p.m.

The golfers had to use a shotgun start, with groups of four starting on every hole and all starting at once.

It was decided by Pine to Palm Committee Chairman Bob Gorden as dusk drew near, that the unfinished matches would resume where they left off Friday at 6:30 a.m.

So, in essence, it will be an early riser for the Championship field -- all except for four golfers, that is.

Each of defending champion Tom Hoge, Pat Deitz, Todd Hillier and Mason Kennedy finished their opponents off in dominating fashion and more importantly, before the siren went off signifying the end of play for Thursday.

"It's nice, now I'll be able to get a little sleep when the others are playing," Hoge said of the advantage of winning Thursday.

Hoge remained on his torrid pace in first round of action, as he finished off Philip Haug 6 and 5.

Nothing was normal about Thursday's schedule, as Championship flight golfers had to wait around for about five hours for the string of storm cells to pass through.

But even a long layoff couldn't curb Hoge's momentum, as he promptly sunk two birdies on the two starting holes and went from there.

"Those two birdies really set the pace," Hoge said. "I played pretty well, despite getting here at the golf course at 11 a.m. and waiting five hours to start."

Deitz was also anxious to build an early lead and hopefully win before the night was called.

"I heard from a few guys that the matches were possibly going to resume early the next morning, so I was hoping to get the match over quickly," Deitz said. "Now, I can sleep in."

Deitz held true to his goal of a quick start, too, by winning the first four holes on Miller, then kept the pressure on by playing aggressive to the pin.

The Concordia College golfer chipped in on 12 to halve the hole, despite Miller sinking a 20-foot eagle putt, to keep the pressure fully on.

Hillier's patience paid off with a first-round win, but he said it was a challenge to keep your focus sitting around waiting for the first tee.

"It was difficult, everyone wanted to get out and play, but you had to tell yourself, sit and be patient," said Hillier, who is from Hoople, N.D.

Hillier's game resembled the usual winning formula during match play, with accurate shots off the tee and consistent putting, which resulted in him shooting five-under par and no bogeys.

"My first drive was in the trees, but I was able to punch out and save par on a 12-foot putt, so that really set the tone," Hillier said.

He won hole two, then went on a five-hole win streak on five through nine to put the match to bed.

"I'm fortunate that I will have a normal day and not have to get here early," Hillier said of tomorrow morning's early tee times.

The majority of matches have four or five holes remaining, with the second round slated to start at 1:19 p.m.

The inclement weather started early in the morning, with the first delay at 7:41 a.m.

The Mid-Am, Senior and Super Senior Division championship play all started in the morning, but eventually had two weather delays.

That led to Gorden prematurely ending all those matches after over an hour after the second delay, with whoever was leading at the time, declared the winner.

In the end, time just ran out.

"I know there was some disappointment in that those divisions couldn't finish their matches, but we had to do it because we also have to look at the rest of the players and field," Gorden said of the decision to end those matches early.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN. 
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