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Tom Hoge watches his approach shot to the par five 12th hole in 2009. He was the 2009 Pine to Palm co-medalist.

Hoge and Boutelle earn co-medalist honors

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Hoge and Boutelle earn co-medalist honors
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Entering the Pine to Palm at the Detroit Country Club, Tom Hoge and Clinton Boutelle had one thing in common -- they were the only two playing in the tournament as U.S. Amateur qualifiers.

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After Wednesday, they had another thing in common -- sharing Pine to Palm medalist honors after each finished with a 10-under par 132.

Hoge's record-breaking nine-under par 62 first round qualifying score was a tough act to follow up on, as his one-under 70 proved.

But even after shooting an extra eight shots for his second round of qualifying, Hoge still earned co-medalist laurels.

"I guess I just wasn't there mentally (Wednesday)," Hoge said. "It was hard to stay focused, it just felt I was out of my routine."

For his fellow co-medalist Clinton Boutelle of Cody, Wyo., his highly-competitive nature didn't allow Hoge out of his sights, despite trailing him by five strokes entering Wednesday's qualifying round.

Boutelle fired a four-under par 67 Tuesday, then buckled down and made a push for the lead with a hard-charging start and finished with a seven-under par 65 to finish tied with Hoge.

"I set out a goal to catch him," Boutelle said. "It's just the way I play, I like playing for first. He left the door open and I was able to capitalize on it."

The day started off more than fine for the University of Wyoming golfer, after starting with an eagle and putting in a couple of birdies after that.

It set a good tone for Boutelle -- who was the Class 3A state champion in Wyoming in 2007.

"I was putting very well, having 29 putts the first day and I was hitting more greens in regulation (Wednesday)," Boutelle said.

Hoge -- who is also this year's Minnesota State Am champion --  fell into trouble on hole six, where he hit two out of bounds.

"Even through 10, I was still making mistakes," Hoge said. "But I was able to regroup on 11 and used a lot of wedges and some good putting."

Hoge still used his putter to key his day after having only 23 putts on the day, along with his seven birdies.

"My short game was still good, my main problem was my course management," Hoge added. "I'm happy (being co-medalist) because there are a lot of good players here.

"Tomorrow, I can start over (in match play)."

Hoge had a familiar player in his group Wednesday, as well, in defending Pine to Palm champion Ben Freeman, who was prepping in his last practice round.

The duo were teammates at Fargo South, where they won multiple state championships. Hoge is also coming off an All-American season at TCU this past year.

"It was a relaxing day playing in the same group as Ben, but maybe it was a little too relaxing," Hoge said.

Freeman said he is more than ready to defend his title after playing two practice rounds Tuesday and Wednesday.

"I just wanted to get out and hit a few balls and get a feel for the course again," Freeman said. "It was fun playing with Tom again, we don't get to play together a lot anymore.

"I'm just treating this like another year. After winning it last year, I know I can do it, but I just have to forget about last year."

Hoge's co-medalist position didn't do him any favors, since he opens against the 2003 Pine to Palm champion and last year's semifinalist Greg Melhus, who finished with a qualifying score of six-over 148.

Boutelle will face one of the two playoff survivors in Aaron Clausen for a 12:15 p.m. tee time. There were 13 golfers who had to vie for two spots in the playoff round after qualifying was finished.

Freeman will get the other playoff winner in Tanner Jones, who also finished second and third in the Long Drive Contest, which was held Tuesday evening.

Clausen and Jones each made it out of the 13 player scrum after both birdied the first hole and took par on number two.

Another golfer who stormed out of nowhere Wednesday was Moorhead's Nick Olsgaard, who fired a four-under par 67 to finish five-under 137 and tied for second along with Jon Delzer of Bismarck, Wade Walters of St. Paul, Cameron White of Plymouth and Jeff Lamp of Fargo.

Olsgaard's 26 putts on the day, along with playing fairway golf led to his 33-34 -- 67.

He is also is familiar with Hoge's game, after finishing second to him in Monday's U.S. Amateur qualifier at the Fargo Country Club by nine strokes.

"My putting and wedges were key (Wednesday)," Olsgaard said.

The highest finisher out of the six former Pine to Palm champions was Rick Kuhn of Bismarck, who claimed titles in 1991 and 2005.

Kuhn finished with a three-under par 139.

"My first day was rough," Kuhn said. "I struggled off the tee. Surprisingly enough, I was much better off the tee (Wednesday), but struggled with my putting, despite shooting a 67."

Returning from a three-year hiatus was 2004 Pine to Palm champion Chris Braaten, who became the first Detroit Lakes native to win the prestigious tournament.

Braaten qualified with a score of three-over 145.

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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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