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The Four is now set: Strandemo, Welle, Robinson and Rachey stay alive

In a steady rain Ben Welle watches his tee shot on the par five 12th hole Saturday afternoon. Welle defeated Coy Papachek to advance to Sunday’s semifinal match play.1 / 4
Mark Robinson watches his tee shot on the par four 13th hole during his Saturday match against Greg Melhus.2 / 4
Matt Rachey of Waconia, Minn., watches his drive on the 12th hole Saturday afternoon during the Pine to Palm Golf Tournament in Detroit Lakes, Minn. Rachey beat Jacob Montplaisir 4 and 3 to advance to Sunday morning match play. 3 / 4
Thomas Strandemo of Fargo seems to will his birdie putt on the 11th green into the cup during his Saturday match against Michael Kosiek.4 / 4

The name Strandemo is synonymous with success at the Pine to Palm Golf Tournament, with Jim Strandemo being a three-time champion, one of only four players to do so. 

The last title Strandemo won was in 1989, but he has been a mainstay in the Pine to Palm over the course of the last two decades.

But now there is another Strandemo back in championship contention, with Thomas playing to the Pine to Palm final four with two wins Saturday at the Detroit Country Club.

“Jim is my dad’s (Guy) cousin, but I still call him Uncle Jim, because he’s like an uncle to me,” Thomas Strandemo said. “My dad also has had a lot of history in the tournament and both played pretty well here.

“There is a sense of pride I carry with me when I play here.”

But now Thomas Strandemo can potentially add his name to the history of the Pine to Palm by winning two more matches and adding his name next to Jim’s on the championship board.

Strandemo, who plays for the University of Louisiana – Lafayette men’s golf team and played at Shanley, won handily over Jake Wherley 5 and 4 in the Saturday morning round, while staving off Michael Kosiek 3 and 2 in the quarterfinals.

Strandemo had two fast starts to key victories, the first by taking a 4-up lead through seven holes against Wherley.

“He opened the door early and I took advantage of it,” Strandemo said. “In the afternoon, (Kosiek) was an outstanding putter and that got me a bit rattled at first, but I got used to it. My caddy, Cameron Hager, and I always want to be three under for every nine holes.

“He told me don’t worry about his putting, and just play my own game.”

Strandemo took a 1-up lead on hole nine and added another hole on 10. The duo halved the next three holes up to 14, where Strandemo won with a birdie for the 3 and 2 win.

“There was no defining moment of where I was going to win the match, I was always on edge,” Strandemo added.

His opponent will be another golfer on a hot, winning streak in the University of Minnesota’s Matt Rachey.

The Gopher took a close match 1-up over Bill Carlson in the morning round, while having a much easier time with Jacob Montplaisir in the quarters for a 4 and 3 victory.

Rachey has a 5 and 3 win over Chris Harris and a 3 and 2 victory over Dominic Kieffer, en route to his final four qualification.

In the bottom bracket, the 2008 Pine to Palm co-medalist Mark Robinson, survived a tough match with tourney veteran and stalwart Greg Melhus of Fargo.

Robinson beat Trenton Olson in Saturday’s opening round 3 and 2, before meeting Melhus in the quarterfinals.

The two were even for much of the front nine, before Robinson won holes six and seven with birdies for the 2-up advantage at the turn.

The two halved the next seven holes, with Melhus making a huge up and down on 15, but it wasn’t enough.

“A 2-up lead is not safe out here anytime,” Robinson said. “When you’re two up, you need to keep going forward, especially against a golfer like Greg, because he will not give you anything.”

The two have a history at the Pine to Palm, as well, with Melhus defeating Robinson in the same quarterfinals in 2008, the year he was co-medalist with Tim Fiechtner.

“I knew I had to play well today, because Greg is in it every year,” Robinson said.

Robinson played the Pine to Palm from 2007-10, but had to miss the next three years due to work.

His route to the final four was not an easy one, with an opening round victory over another former Pine to Palm champion in Rick Kuhn1-up.

He downed Lucas Gervais 2-up and Trenton Olson 3 and 2.

Robinson’s semifinalist opponent will be Moorhead’s Ben Welle, who is a sophomore on the University of Kansas men’s golf team.

Welle is playing some of the best golf in the tournament and Saturday was no different with a 1-up victory over 2011 champion Connor Holland and a 1-up win over Coy Papachek in the quarterfinals.

“I’m going to have to go through (Welle), and I’m the old man now at 27,” Robinson said. “He’s a good player and hits the ball a long way. Hopefully it will be another good match and we will see where it falls.”

The semifinal matches will be at 8 a.m. and the winners will be teeing off in the championship match at 2:45 p.m.

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