Pine to Palm semis feature both sides of the ball
In one corner this rainy morning, southpaws Connor Holland and Chris Swenson vie for a berth in the championship final this afternoon, while two righties square off in the other semifinal in Jon Miller and Andrew Passanante.
All four players are from the middle of the qualifying pack: Holland at 35, Swenson 31st, Miller the high seed at 24 and Passanante in at 29th overall.
Miller has shown plenty of intestinal fortitude over the weekend staving off elimination and coming up big on extra holes and in the clutch. The fiery grinder came up huge Saturday evening defeating top-seeded, medalist Nick Myhre, also in extra holes to earn a spot in the semis.
Myhre was cruising through the tournament until needing a gut-check comeback in the round of 16 to take out Matt Rachey in extras, but could not get past Miller, who only picked up the game of golf at the age of 18.
Miller’s military family background shows itself in the intensity he plays the game with and poses an intriguing match-up with Passanante.
Passanante is a football player with quality golf skills He is a former two-time, first team, All-American wide receiver at Concordia College, Moorhead and a Hawley native.
Passanante used his putter to get to the quarters in a marathon match with two-time Pine to Palm champion Rick Kuhn (1991, 2005) earlier Saturday. Kuhn is consistently competitive at the tournament every year and a very tough out.
Passanante took out the 60th seed Brennan Hockman 2-1 to move into the semifinals. Hockman had a terrific tournament shining late in matches to pull off three signature upsets.
The battle of the lefties features two soft-spoken gentleman who keep their emotions in check on the course.
Fergus Falls’ Chris Swenson defeated Nate Varty 4-2 to advance to Sunday’s play. Varty showed his own magic winning with eagle earlier in the day to dispatch Detroit Lakes’ Tanner Lane, a player with flair for the dramatic, and both golfers made incredible shots in the round to produce the longest match of the tournament with five extra holes.
Swenson has quietly gone about his business defeating Golden Gopher Peter Jones, No. 2 and medalist Noah Lawson in his first battle with a fellow lefty, No. 18 Nick Olsgaard and Varty, who was seeded tenth.
Swenson squares off with the lone past winner in the foursome, Holland, from the North Dakota State University Bison. Holland won in 2011 and while a championship would not match Kuhn’s span of 14 years between titles, could be a repeat with a six-year span.
Holland’s game is as smooth as his demeanor and the semifinal with Swenson in the rain will have the gallery fogged with who is up or down, as both these players express themselves with their clubs.
Championship semifinal tees:
Miller vs Passanante 8 a.m. (1)
Swenson vs Holland 8:10 a.m. (1)