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Pine to Palm expands with Super Seniors

Who says growth stops with age?

The Pine to Palm Golf Tournament at the Detroit Country Club turns 78 years old, but it is still growing.

For the second consecutive year, the Pine to Palm has added a new player's division, with the Super Senior Division starting its inaugural year as play starts Aug. 9 and runs through Aug. 15.

Last year, the Mid-Amateur Division was a success, with 22 players taking part and this year, almost double will be competing in the Mid-Am.

It's based off the Mid-Am success, that the Pine to Palm Committee decided to add the Super Senior circuit, which is for golfers 65 and older.

"It's been very positive, so far, and it will be a competitive tournament," said Pine to Palm Committee Chair Bob Gorden.

To add the Super Senior division, the usual Senior flights of Cormorant and Pearl have been taken away.

The Super Seniors will have an 18-hole qualifier and the top eight will make the Championship match-play tournament, while the next eight will playoff in a name flight.

"Now those guys can play against players their own age," Gorden said.

The Mid-Am division will have one more flight added, as well, with Championship match play still being a bracket of 16 and the next eight qualifying scores playing off in an "Executive Flight".

With good reviews coming off of last year's Mid-Am tournament, Gorden is estimating up to 40 players in this year's Mid-Am.

Rick Linnerooth, a regular Championship Flighter, is moving to Mid-Am competition, after being a regular match play qualifier over many years of Pine to Palm competition.

Last year's Mid-Am champion, Jay Olafson, will be back.

Olafson enjoyed the first-ever Pine to Palm Mid-Am tournament and believed it will be a strong one for years to come.

"The Mid-Am was lots of fun this week and I think it will only be bigger next year with some bigger names," Olafson said last year after clinching the title.

The Senior division will lose some quality golfers to the Super Seniors, such as Detroit Lakes' Ted Hatlan, Bill Blake (last year's Senior's runner-up) and Rick Render.

But the Seniors will be adding a former Championship player in Rob Harris, who made the cut on more than several occasions when he played.

T.L. Solien will also be back to defend his 2009 Senior's title, after he defeated Blake 2 and 1.

Although the Pine to Palm Golf Tournament will be turning 78, Championship play seems to be getting younger and younger.

At the ripe old age of 16, Frazee's Beau Hanson played to the round of 16 last year, before falling to the University of Minnesota's Cameron White 7 and 6.

It's been a trend the last few years of having more than several high school golfers make the cut, then make some noise in match play.

The last time a high school golfer won the tournament was in 1979, when eventual PGA Tour competitor Chris Perry did it in 1979.

The other 17 or 18 year olds who won Pine to Palm gold included Don Carman (17) in 1936, Pat Sawyer (18) in 1931 and Dave Hanten (18) in 1964.

"The only difference for high school golfers is that they lack match play experience," said Gorden, who is also the Detroit Lakes head boys' golf coach. "They are good, solid players and can qualify. But they don't always match up well against the more savvy veterans of match play.

"If they make mistakes against a veteran, they will probably lose that hole."

There will be seven players from the Laker team playing in the Pine to Palm this year, including 2010 seniors Nate Ginnaty and Ross Mickelson, juniors Tanner Lane and Connor Hedstrom, along with under classmen Rick Hutchinson, Tyler Baukol and Nate Bausman.

The Laker boys' finished fifth in the Class 2A state tournament.

But there will also be a strong contention of veterans back, including former Pine to Palm champions Greg Melhus (2003), Russ Newman (1992 and 1994), Ben Freeman (2008), Cory Blenkush (2007), Rick Kuhn (1991 and 2005), Jim Strandemo (1983, 1987 and 1989) and defending champ Tom Hoge.

The defending champion is once again coming off winning the MGA State Amateur championship, the same feat he did last year before the Pine to Palm.

Hoge broke the State Am record after shooting an 11-under par 205 after three rounds of play, beating Donald Constable by one stroke.

Hoge, who is entering his final year at Texas Christian University, tore through the Pine to Palm last year after clinching co-medalist honors and cruising through match play -- winning by scores of 3 and 2, 3 and 2, 4 and 2 and taking the finals over U of M golfer Thomas Campbell 3 and 1.

With a total of 32 flights, with an estimated 450 golfers playing over the course of Aug. 9-15, the DCC golf course is in pristine condition.

From tee box to green, golfers will be greeted by perfect playing conditions.

"Everything is looking pretty good," said DCC Ground Superintendent Darwin Lindsey. "The greens have come in very nice and with the rain this summer, everything is looking very green."

The golfers and their families also will be greeted by a newly renovated clubhouse, which also features the fine food of Little E-Z and concessions in the rotunda area.

Qualifying starts Monday, Aug. 9, and runs through Wednesday evening.

Match play will begin Thursday morning and run through Sunday, where the championship matches in each flight will be played.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.