Pine to Palm provides a wild Saturday
It was a classic showdown between two Detroit Country Club regulars during the Pine to Palm quarterfinals Saturday and the ending of it could propel it to becoming one of the legendary matches of the tournament.
It was a match which ended up being as even as could be, with crucial putts deciding each hole.
But in the end, it was an eagle chip-in which decided the victor.
Frazee's Beau Hanson qualified for his first Pine to Palm final four, after he made an eagle chip-in on the first playoff hole against 2010 champion Todd Hillier.
The match featured plenty of remarkable shots and Hanson's chip in for eagle just ended up being the last one.
"Honestly, I was trying to chip it in, or at least get it as close as I could," Hanson said of the decisive shot. "I read it well and it got on line and luckily, it dropped in."
The recent Frazee graduate had to endure a manic-like putting clinic Hillier put on the front nine, as the match never saw more than a 1-up lead for either golfer.
Hanson stayed on Hillier's heels on the front nine, despite the latter sinking four straight putts of 25-feet or longer.
"He was making some crazy putts and I just had to keep going and not let it get into my head," Hanson said. "I think not letting that affect me, came from my experience from playing (in the Pine to Palm)."
Hillier's putts included a 25-footer on hole two, a 30-footer on three, a 30-35 footer on four and a birdie putt of 30 feet on five for the win.
But all those long putts only led to an even match after five.
"I was hoping he couldn't sustain making those kind of putts on the back nine," Hanson said.
With Hanson winning hole six, Hillier gained his first lead by taking each of seven and eight. The turn was even with a Hanson victory on nine.
The two exchanged holes on 11 through 13, while Hanson took 15 to even up the match.
Hillier made another impressive birdie putt on 17 to take the 1-up advantage, with hole 18 being Hanson's last chance to save grace.
"I ripped my tee shot down the middle to within 90 yards and Todd was right down the middle, too," Hanson said. "He was short on his approach shot, which gave me my opening.
"But I still needed a good shot to put it on the green."
That's what Hanson did, but he ended up missing a 12-foot putt, giving Hillier his chance to end the match.
But Hillier couldn't pull off one of his patented clutch putts, as his 10-foot attempt cruised just left of the hole.
Hanson closed it out with a tap in, to force the extra hole and the superb finish.
With many of the holes coming down to high-pressure putts, Hanson decided to bypass that and end it with his chip.
"I was definitely relieved I didn't have to try another putt," Hanson said.
Hanson knows how to finish off big tournaments, after he won the Class 1A state his sophomore year as a Frazee Hornet.
But after graduating this past spring, the Pine to Palm championship is a larger carrot than what he accomplished in high school.
"Winning the Pine to Palm, or even getting this far, is a bigger deal than winning state because the competition is so much better," Hanson said. "Making the final four is huge."
His Sunday morning opponent also knows a thing or two about playing well in state tournaments.
Eden Prairie senior graduate Max Rosenthal finished fourth in the Class 3A state meet this past spring.
Rosenthal beat Fargo's Philip Haug 4 and 2 in the quarterfinals, after surviving a 22-hole marathon against Parker Dire in the morning's Sweet 16 round.
"I was certainly tired and mentally drained after those 22 holes," Rosenthal said. "But after winning that match, I was very confident that there was no way I was going to lose again."
Rosenthal lost only one hole to Haug, while building a comfortable lead on the front nine, including making eagle on the opening hole and was five-under by the turn.
"I wasn't going to let up on the back nine, either," Rosenthal added.
The Eden Prairie graduate knows pressure, too.
Rosenthal was in heavy contention of landing a scholarship to play for Ohio State, which depended on his performance at the state meet.
He shot a five-over par 77 for his first round.
"I was pretty bummed, because I didn't think I was going to college after that," Rosenthal said.
But he had an amazing turnaround the next day by tying a new state record five-under par 67, thus shaving 10 strokes off his first-day score and finish fourth overall.
"I just got into a zone and ended up tying the state record," Rosenthal said. "I received an offer from Ohio State soon after."
Another quarterfinal showdown happened between two University of Minnesota senior teammates, as David Haley Jr. made a comeback against Robert Bell to win 1-up in 20 holes.
Haley trailed by three holes on the front nine, but won holes 8, 10 and 11 to pull even.
"I made a birdie on hole 10 and that really turned the match around," Haley said. "The back nine was back and forth from then on out."
The Gopher duo both made birdie on the first playoff hole, but Haley clinched the win with another birdie on the second to end the match.
"It was bittersweet, because we've been roommates for the last four years, too, besides being teammates," Haley said. "We both were pulling for each other and it ended well, instead of one of us missing an easy putt or something."
Haley's semifinal opponent will be Fargo's Lukas Davison, who is a junior on the South Dakota State University men's golf team.
Davison eliminated one of Haley's Gopher teammates in senior Shang Zhi 4 and 3.
Davison's win was a perfect example of not making the mistakes to give holes away, while taking advantage of his opponent's miscues.
"I kept my ball in play and didn't give anything away," Davison said.
The Jackrabbit golfer was 1-up at the turn, after Zhi lost his ball in a pine tree in one of the roughs down the ninth fairway.
After that, Davison remained consistently on target, made par and stayed out of trouble.
"I hit my fairways and greens, something which I've been doing all week," Davison said. "I haven't had to scramble much this week."
The winners of the semifinal matches will have to gear up for the championship match in the afternoon, which starts at 2:45 p.m.
(Follow Brian Wierima on Twitter at DLSportsGuy.)