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Third time's a charm for Roller

In her first two tries at the Birchmont golf tournament, Rachel Roller was knocked out in the first round of the women's championship division.

Not this time.

Roller used steady play to capture the 2009 crown, defeating Jenna Cannon 2 and 1 in Saturday's final.

The North Dakota High School Class A individual state champion in 2007, Roller completed her first collegiate season at North Dakota State this spring. She made the team and played in every meet, although her performance was little more than "OK," the soft-spoken Roller said.

This summer Roller has concentrated on honing her game while working at King's Walk Golf Course in Grand Forks. "I've have played just about every day," she said, "but this is my first tournament."

Roller qualified for the Birchmont championship match play with a score of 82 as she struggled with her putter. "I struck the ball well, but just couldn't get it rolling on the green," she said. "I used a long putter the first two days, then switched to a regular putter the rest of the way."

Roller opened up the Birchmont with a 5-and-4 win over Bemidji's Shelby Sauer and followed up with a 3-and-2 win over future NDSU teammate Cydney Hasselberg of Staples. Roller then advanced to the final against Cannon with a 2-and-1 win over Birchmont tournament regular Anne Fraser of Lynn, Mass.

The final featured a backand-forth match where neither competitor was playing all that well, Roller said. "That front nine wasn't pretty," she said.

Cannon took an early lead with a par on the first hole, but Roller birdied the fourth hole to even the match. Another birdie on No. 7 put Roller 1 up and a par on the eighth hole was good for a 2-up lead. That's the way the match stayed at the turn as the players halved the ninth hole bogeys.

Cannon made a move to get back in the match with a birdie on 10 to make it 1 up. But Roller returned the favor on the par-3 11th with a birdie to regain the 2-up lead.

The eventual champion extended her lead to 3 up with a par on 12.

But Cannon wasn't about to give in. She got one back with a birdie on 13 and cut the match to a one-hole margin with a par on 14.

The turning point of the match came at the par-5 15th. Roller played it very well and made birdie to go back to 2 up. Cannon would not recover.

The players then halved the next two holes with pars as Roller claimed her first Birchmont title.

"A win like this really gives me confidence heading into the fall season at NDSU," Roller reported with a smile. "I don't know - I wasn't going to play any more tournaments this summer, but maybe I'll head to the Pine to Palm (in Detroit Lakes) after this."

This was the second Birchmont final for Cannon, who know lives in Bemidji. She also advanced to the 2006 final where she was defeated by Alyssa Williamson.