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Defending champ to skip Pine to Palm for pro pursuits

Alex Kline shakes hands with his opponent after a winning round on semifinal Saturday at last year's tournament. File photo.

The 84th Pine to Palm will have a new champion in 2016 as last year’s winner Alex Kline has elected to turn professional having recently graduated from college in Phoenix and moved back to Minnesota for the summer.

“My goal is to have status on a PGA sanctioned tour, PGA Canada, Web.com, PGA Latin America, earn a card,” said Kline. “It’s tough, because there are so many good guys out there, but you can't get through if you don't play.”

Kline played in his first professional event May 9, the US Open qualifying tournament at the Minneapolis Golf Club, where he was the medalist with a three-under par round of 69, and one of five players advancing to sectional qualifying for the US Open.

Kline posted a top 20 finish at Royal Oaks Country Club in Vancouver, Wash., at the U.S. Open sectional qualifier and was in contention on the back nine of the final round.

“It was fun; that was kind of the highlight of the year, so far,” said Kline. “It’s always fun to be on a stage like that.”

It was Kline’s section appearance at the Open qualifier, having reached the same level in 2014.

After winning the Pine to Palm last August, Kline seized momentum from the championship and used the confidence gained in Detroit Lakes to excel in his senior season at Grand Canyon University.

ALEX KLINE

“I got off to a really good start,” he said. “In contention the first event, let it slip away the last 18 holes. I rode momentum from winning the Pine to Palm and kept everything going. It was a fun last season of college golf.”

Kline earned second team All-Western Athletic Conference honors after placing in the top 10 in two tournaments this season. In his best finish of the season, Kline finished tied for fifth in the Herb Wimberly Invite on Oct. 19-20 after shooting a two-over in three rounds. In the OGIO UC Santa Barbara Invite on April 11-12, Kline tied for eighth after shooting one-over through 54 holes. During the WAC Championship on April 30-May 2, Kline climbed the leaderboard from 18th place to 12th in the final round recording a one-under 72. He was named the WAC golfer of the week for the second time in two years at GCU.

In 11 tournaments, Kline and fellow senior Jake Byrum led GCU to five top-six place finishes this season, including two second place finishes at the Herb Wimberly Invite and OGIO UC Santa Barbara Invitational. The pair also helped the Antelopes to place unofficially in third at the WAC Championship. Due to the school’s transition to Division I status, Grand Canyon was unable to score as team.

Kline looks back to the 1-up victory over the University of Minnesota’s Charlie Duensing at last year’s Pine to Palm as one of the reasons he had so much success after the tournament.

“When I first won it, it didn't really sink in,” Kline said. “When I got down to school, That's kind of a bigger deal than I realized. It was a big help for me getting better under pressure and  in pressure situations. I’ve got something to fall back on and it’s a nice confidence booster, something I can always look back at If I’m struggling or under the gun a little bit, I can think back to what I was doing there and it’s always nice to have that on the backburner.”

Kline may make a non-competitive appearance at this year’s Pine to Palm, either on the bag for a friend or just enjoying the tournament without the added pressure of defending the title.

“It’s tough,” he said of not playing in DL. “ It’s my favorite tournament ever. All my buddies play and go up and have a great time. The course is fun; the atmosphere is fun. I wish I could be there, but I’ve got bigger things going on. It’s just something you have to sacrifice.”

KLINE poses with the championship trophy.

Kline joins Ben Welle, the 2014 Pine to Palm champion, who also chose to turn pro this year with a scheduled debut at the Minnesota State Open Championship July 22-24 at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids, Minn.

Qualifying school is next on the agenda for Kline’s professional pursuit either in the fall of 2016 or spring of 2017 with a one-year goal of gaining sanctions to a PGA tour.

“If I can get status and earn a card on any of those tours, I’ll be doing pretty well,” he said.

Kline is chasing the dream of many successful, young golfers, in turning a passion into a career.

“It’s not a bummer to go out and practice,” he said.

Tour stops on the Dakotas Tour and North Star Professional Golf Tour this summer are on tap to prepare for Q-school, along with raising money for entry fees and travel expenses that come with playing in professional golf events and the quest to qualify for a tour.

Fans can help Kline’s cause by visiting his GoFundMe page, which can be found with a simple web search.

The 84th Pine to Palm tournament will be held August 8-14 at Detroit Country Club.

Robert Williams

Sports Editor at the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 

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