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First time's a charm

Chad Niles and Jay Olafson shake hands on the 17th green following their match Sunday afternoon.1 / 2
Chad Niles watches his tee shot to the par three third hole during the Mid-Am championship match Sunday afternoon.2 / 2

A repeat run was not in the cards for defending Pine to Palm champion Jay Olafson, as Fargo's Chad Niles clinched the second Pine to Palm Mid-Am championship Sunday at the Detroit Country Club.

The pendulum of victory swung Niles' way with a victory on hole 14 with a par to expand to a 2-up advantage on Olafson.

It was too deep of a hole for the defending champion, as the duo halved the final three holes to give Niles the victory.

Niles, who was competing in his first Pine to Palm, was more than impressed with the Mid-Am field, which attracted 34 golfers vying for the championship during the week-long tournament.

"It's a very competitive field and just a great group of guys," Niles said. "Physically and mentally, it's a tough week. But my goal the entire week was to get my name up on the board, be it either as a medalist or winning it all.

"After I didn't win medalist (honors), my goal was to make it to the finals."

The only time Niles trailed in the championship match came on hole two, when he bogeyed and Olafson made par.

On holes three and four, though, Nile started building some momentum by making a 15-foot par to halve the hole, and proceeded to his a 40-foot birdie putt for the win and even the match up.

"That's when things started going for me," Niles said.

Niles took his first lead on hole nine with a par, and went 2-up after Olafson three-putted on 10.

The hole streak went to three with a birdie putt on 11, but Olafson struck back with wins on holes 12 and 13 to cut Niles' margin to 1-up, before the decisive hole 14 win.

"Jay played well, he only bogeyed on holes nine and 10," Niles said.

Niles decided to play in the Pine to Palm after his 25-year-old son, James, was signed up to play in the Championship Flight.

James qualified for match play, before losing in the first round to Caleb Ketterling.

"The Mid-Am Division is certainly a hit here," Niles added.

Niles started his championship journey with a 2-up win over last year's Mid-Am runner-up, Kent Fronk.

He defeated the No. 2 seed and medalist Duane Siverson in the quarterfinals, and cooled off a hot-charging Mike Seelye of Detroit Lakes in the semifinals 4 and 3.

The Fargo golfer will now earn a free spot in next year's Pine to Palm, along with an automatic bid into match play.

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