Holland lands Pine to Palm championship
DETROIT LAKES - The diversity of the Pine to Palm Golf Tournament was on display Sunday at the Detroit Country Club, as 17-year-old Connor Holland of West Fargo claimed the 79th championship.
Holland becomes just the third 17-year-old to win the Pine to Palm title, which is the youngest age to pull off the feat. The other two were Chris Perry in 1979 and Don Carman in 1936.
It was only a year ago Todd Hillier won the Pine to Palm championship, thus becoming the oldest golfer to win it at the age of 51-years-old.
"It's amazing," Holland said of his championship. "This is for sure my biggest win of my life."
Holland controlled the championship match against University of North Dakota's Alex Robb, who struggled after going down early in the match. Robb also is a native of Chanhassen.
At one time, Holland led 5-up after the 12th hole and eventually put Robb away by winning the 16th hole for the 3 and 2 victory.
As was the case throughout the tournament, Holland sprang off to a fast start by winning the first hole with a nine-foot birdie putt.
Robb was able to put the score back to even on the third green after Holland pushed his five-foot par putt, but the pendulum swung right back to the West Fargo golfer when he sunk another nine-foot putt for par on the fourth hole.
"I started poorly and I tried to fix things in my swing during the match and I started to push," Robb said. "I wasn't swinging the club well."
The wheels seemed to loosen on Robb's chances on the seventh fairway, when his chip up to the green rolled off. He plunked another chip short, while Holland set himself up well for birdie.
Hole eight was another win for Holland, after he nailed a 14-foot putt for birdie to go 3-up.
"I was trying to keep the ball in play the entire match and winning that first hole let all my nerves out and put me in a calm state of mind," Holland said.
The eighth-hole birdie also put much more pressure on Robb to play catch up.
"After he birdie eight, I knew I was going to have to start playing better and I started to force the issue," the UND golfer said.
Both missed their par putts on 10, as Holland's advantage was boosted to 4-up on 11, with Robb three-putting the hole.
The match was put firmly in Holland's corner on 13, when Robb blasted a shot out of the right rough, which sailed well over the pin and about 25 yards behind the green.
Holland's second shot laid him in the middle of the fairway and he was able to chip it up close to the hole for par, while Robb settled for double bogey.
Holland had a chance to end the match on 14, but his five-foot par putt was pushed right and Robb made the match more interesting by draining a 25-foot birdie putt on 15.
But Holland's drive on 16 was fairway bound, while Robb's found the right-side bunker.
Holland put his approach shot within five-feet of the cup, while Robb's blast out of the bunker was short of the green and he conceded the hole to wrap up the match.
"I didn't want to go down too easy," said Robb about his two-hole rally. "Obviously I'm not pleased with the outcome, but I had a great time this week."
Holland's most intense match actually wasn't in the championship, but in his semifinal morning match against James Niles of Mesa, Ariz.
For the first time in the tournament, Holland found himself down, as Niles built a 3-up lead by the turn.
But Holland rallied on the back nine, then made his putt of the tournament from about 20-feet away to win the 18th hole and the match with a birdie.
"I learned don't give up and keep sticking with it after being down three holes," Holland said. "That one on the 18th green was the scariest putt of my life. That one really set me in a good state of mind for the championship match.
"The championship was intense, but nothing can beat that semifinal match."
Robb beat Concordia College's Pat Deitz to advance into the title match, as well.
The Mid-Amateur Division was won by Fargo's Jay Olafson, who outlasted Duane Siverson of Moorhead in 19 holes for the win.
Olafson won the Mid-Am in 2009 and was the runner-up in 2010. He has lost only one match in Mid-Am match play in three years.
The Senior's was won by longtime Pine to Palm golfer Rob Harris, who beat Fargo's Tim Rubis.
In the Super-Seniors title match, medalist Chuck Renner of Phoenix, Ariz., rallied back to beat Dr. Rick Render 2-up.