Pine to Palm: Down to four in Mid-Am
A year ago at this time, four Pine to Palm Mid-Am golfers may have already been done playing in the tournament, due to the dominating Championship play by the younger competitors having an extra step or two on the 40-plus year old participants.
But with the introduction of the Mid-Am Division, each of Otis Hesteness, Jay Olafson, Thomas Solien and Kent Fronk are still alive and battling for Pine to Palm silver.
The four advanced out of the quarterfinals and one theme dominated the wins -- consistent play.
For Jay Olafson, it was consistent play and a resilient game which outlasted Todd Schaefer 1-up in 20 holes.
Olafson didn't make the mistake on the second playoff hole, as his drive on 11 went down the middle of the fairway, while Schaefer's veered into the rough.
The match was sealed for Olafson on a curling 12-foot par putt.
"I was consistent on the back nine after falling down three at the turn," Olafson said. "I made pars when he made bogeys."
Olafson is a long-time competitor of the Pine to Palm -- playing the last 10 years -- and is happy with the addition of the Mid-Am Division.
"I hope there will be more numbers in the future, it has been a good time in the Mid-Am," he added.
Olafson will face medalist Otis Hesteness of Audubon, who got the best of Aaron Burnside of Detroit Lakes 3 and 2.
Burnside started off well by making three birdies and a bogey, but Hesteness survived the storm by pulling even at nine.
The first-ever Mid-Am medalist then made nine pars on the back nine -- including a nice sand shot to save par on 10 -- while Burnside had two bogeys to tip the scales to Hesteness.
"I was hitting the mid-fairways and mid-greens," Hesteness said. "So far my game has been consistent and I have made some good putt saves."
In the bottom bracket, Thomas Solien downed Scott McNealy 2 and 1 and Kent Fronk out-dueled Jim Davidson 1-up.
Fronk said the two started the match out well, but both fell into a slump midway through.
A pair of pars on 13 and 14 gave Fronk a 1-up lead, but Davidson responded by tipping in a birdie on 17 to even it going into 18.
Fronk was able to drain his putt on 18, while Davidson's long uphill putt came up just short.
"It feels great making it to the semifinals, now I just need to be more consistent," Fronk added.
Solien was able to extend a 3-up lead after 15 after they were even after 10.
"I made a good par on 11 with a long two-putt, while he ended up three-putting," Solien said. "I won bothf 14 and 15 with good pars, as well."
Solien didn't find much trouble in the rough, adding the to theme that consistency is a main ingredient to success.
So far, the Mid-Am has been a success for all who have competed in it and that goes for Solien -- who's brother T.L. Solien also made the semifinals in Senior's play.
"It was perfect for me," Thomas Solien said. "I have a four-handicap and to even make championship qualifying, I would have to shoot at or under my handicap. This gives a good opportunity to play guys my own age, who are still good players."
Hesteness and Olafson will tee-off Saturday at 2:13 p.m., while Solien and Fronk at 2:21 p.m.