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Pine to Palm: Defending Senior champion loses in first round

Paudie O'Conner tees off on the par three 14th hole during his senior championship match against Ron Vincelli Thursday.1 / 2
Pine to Palm senior T.L. Solien reacts to narrowly missing a long birdie putt on the par four 15th hole Thursday. Solien knocked off defending senior champion Joe Sauer 4 and 2. (Brian Basham/DL Newspapers)2 / 2

After a strong summer of practicing and polishing up his golf game, defending Pine to Palm champion Joe Sauer ran into the uncertainty of match play Thursday.

As Sauer found out, match play is a fickle thing, as a combination of running into a hot T.L. Solien and a sub-par game ended his quest for a repeat title after losing 4 and 2.

"You have to give Tim (Solien) credit, he had a lot of birdies," Sauer said. "His driver was good and my driver stunk."

Sauer kept the match close at the turn, trailing only by one, but Solien birdied both 10 and 11, while Sauer answered with a birdie on 12 to pull back to within two.

But Solien capped a strong game by making birdies on 15 and 16 to seal the deal.

"He was putting well, too," Sauer included.

After not having have to qualify and using a practice round as a more leisurely one earlier in the week, Sauer thought maybe the more casual play instead of having to qualify may have played a part in his sluggish play Thursday.

"I would never choose to have to qualify, but I think there's something to not having to," Sauer said of playing with less intensity during qualifying. "I was taking shots I would have never tried if I was qualifying."

Solien will face No. 8 seed Paudie O'Connor of Las Vegas, Nev., who won on the first playoff hole against Ron Vincelli.

Detroit Lakes' William Blake is now the highest seed remaining after winning medalist honors with his one-over par 72 and surviving his first round match against Bill Erickson.

Blake downed Erickson 5 and 3 after playing a consistent round throughout his match.

"I just had good, consistent play, along with some good putting," Blake said. "I didn't get into trouble and had a good short game."

Blake made two lengthy putts to take the wind out of Erickson's sails, including about an 80-footer for birdie on the third hole, then sunk a 28-footer on nine to halve it with birdie.

"That one was key," Blake said of his long putt on hole nine.

Blake's next opponent is Tim Rubis, who walked away from Rick Johnson 7 and 6.

In the upper bracket, Bill Hawkins won 1-up over John Schwankl. Hawkins was one of the four survivors of the six-man playoff, which was held Thursday morning.

Hawkins will face Mike Stirling, who downed John Bartley 1-up, as well.

The Blake/Rubis winner will face Perry Clark or Dan Elton. Both won 1-up, as Elton made it through a playoff hole against Chuck Renner.

Clark beat third-seeded Jeff Tweeton to advance.