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Defending champ overcomes slow start to advance in Mid-Am division Thursday

For A.J. Greff, his defense of his Pine to Palm Mid-Am championship was almost short lived, until back-to-back birdie holes saved his 2013 tournament.

First-round challenger Eric Lundmark pulled out to a 2-up advantage on Greff after the first three holes of the opening round of the Mid-Am match-play tournament, but by the time the duo made the turn, the 2012 champion was back in control 1-up.

Birdies on holes six and seven snapped Greff’s sluggish play, as he moved on to win 2 and 1 over Lundmark.

“I got on a roll after making those birdies on six and seven,” Greff said. “I lost 10, but chipped in from the sand on 11 and then made a couple of 20-foot birdie putts.”

Lundmark played tough, though, trailing only by one at hole 16, but Greff took 17 to end the match.

The key for Greff to repeat is to stay out of trouble, the Fargo golfer said.

“On this course, it’s important to stay on the fairways and greens and making par consistently is big,” Greff said. “I’m feeling pretty good right now, my game is coming around.”

Greff faced Perry Piatz, who downed former Mid-Am medalist Kent Fronk 3 and 2, in second round action.

This year’s medalist was Fargo’s Kent Spriggs, who is also rolling at the right time.

He defeated Brian Benson 6 and 5 to advance to the second round, where he faced Detroit Lakes’ Aaron Burnside, who beat Kevin Swenson 2 and 1.

As was the case during his qualifying rounds, Spriggs’ driver was a lethal weapon for him.

“I was using my driver everywhere and it was working again,” Spriggs said.

“I am still hitting the ball well and making a lot of putts.”

Spriggs made five birdies, with three of them winning holes and he never lost a hole.

He made birdie on two for the win, then took holes 12 and 13 with birdies. Spriggs maintained a commanding 4-up lead at the turn.

A motivation which still churns Spriggs is losing the Mid-Am finals last year to Greff and it pushed him through the summer to improve his game.

“I just want to keep playing well and so far, so good,” Spriggs added Thursday.

In the next bracket, Perham’s Bob Cavanagh rolled through Mitch Buboltz 5 and 3, while Joe McGinnis was a 1-up winner over Paul Uithoven.

Former champion Jay Olafson had a bye after Dave Collins withdrew, while Concordia College men’s golf head coach and former Mid-Am medalist Duane Siverson beat Jon Anas 3 and 2.