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Walters shoots low on 1st day of qualifying

Clinton Boutelle watches his tee shot to the seventh hole during Wednesday's championship qualifying.1 / 3
Travis Ross talks to his ball after missing a putt on the 13th green Wednesday afternoon. He shot a 3-under par 139 to take the fourth seed going into Thursday's match play.2 / 3
Pine to Palm golfer Ryan Hartwell, right, takes a relief drop behind the 18th green under the watchful eye of rules judge Greg Potvin, left, after his ball came to rest in the mud between the cart path and grass during Wednesday's flight qualifying.3 / 3

Even a deluge of rain Tuesday, during the first day of qualifying for the Pine to Palm Golf Tournament at the Detroit Country Club, couldn't cool off Wade Walters' game.

After a heavy downpour late in the first round caused about an hour's delay, Walters restarted his game by making eagle on hole six on a five-foot putt, and capped his five-under par round with a birdie on seven and a pair of pars on eight and nine to finish on top of the field of 178 golfers with a five-under par 66.

"The greens were soft (with the rain) and I was able to attack the pins," Walters said of his game.

The 27-year-old St. Paul Como High School graduate shot 33 on each nine, while making four birdies and the eagle.

"I putted well," Walters said.

Walters' group was the very last one in, with twilight descending on the Detroit Country Club.

Before Walters came in with his 66, two golfers were holding the lead with their three-under par 68's, Mahtomedi's Sean Barrett and Plymouth's Andy Stahlman.

Barrett -- who will be a senior on the St. Thomas men's golf team -- almost was unable to even compete in his second Pine to Palm Tournament.

After getting lost on the way to the DCC, Barrett just made his tee time by 15 minutes and was able to shake off any nerves early with a birdie on the first hole.

"I had just enough time to take five practice putts and then tee off," Barrett said. "But I put the ball in play off the tee and hit a lot of greens to have a lot of good birdie putt looks."

Barrett is a co-state champion from the 2006 Minnesota Class 2A state high school meet.

Stahlman, who is a freshman on the St. John's University men's golf team, shares second-place honors with Barrett after he fired a 68.

There was a five-golfer pileup for third place, as Kenny Rucker (Eau Claire, Wis.), Matt Rubis (Fargo), Pat Deitz (Fargo), Rick Kuhn (Bismarck, N.D.) and Detroit Lakes' Ben Bergquist all carded a two-under par 69.

Kuhn is a two-time Pine to Palm champion in 1991 and 2005, while Bergquist has played all his life on the DCC links.

Bergquist was shooting even par before the squall hit, but finished with two birdies to score his two-under par round.

The DL native isn't a stranger to Pine to Palm Tournament play, and is now in a very comfortable position for making the field of 64 match-play cut.

"I'm not going to do anything new (Wednesday), just go out and play golf on this course like I know how to," Bergquist said. "I like my position I'm in. You just go out the first day of qualifying not trying to shoot yourself in the foot."

Defending champion Tom Hoge used his practice round to perfection by shooting a six-under par 65.

But Hoge's score will not count, since he gets the automatic No. 1 seed in match play, which begins Thursday.

The second day of qualifying takes the lowest 148 scores and ties, and will be trimmed down to the final field of 64 after today's (Wednesday) round two.

The Pine to Palm Long Drive Contest was Wednesday evening, instead of Tuesday, because of the rain.

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