Chris Swenson captures the 85th Pine to Palm championship
Winners need fortune smiling in key spots of a golf round and Chris Swenson of Fergus Falls was graced with luck on the 18th hole in both the semifinals and the championship match of the 85th Pine to Palm golf tournament at Detroit Country Club in Detroit Lakes.
That luck came in the form of the bad variety for each of his opponents. In the semifinal versus North Dakota State University senior Connor Holland, Swenson sat in the middle of the 18th fairway while Holland’s drive hit a tree right and landed blocked by it to force a punch out with the match square.
In the final, both former Bison golfer Jon Miller and Swenson stared at the green from 120 yards out in the fairway under umbrellas in a steady rainfall.
Miller shot first and hit the green but bounced big and rolled off the surface and back onto the cart path.
“I saw a pretty big bounce and I knew long was dead and I had a pretty good feeling that’s where it was,” Swenson said. “I just wanted to make sure I didn’t get all the way back there, as well. I got two pretty good breaks on 18 today and I'll take them."
With no relief on either side of the curving path, Miller was forced to drop from 15-yards back on the 10th tee box with a nasty downhill chip to a downhill slope. His chip trickled past the hole and down the slope while Swenson waited at the back fringe with extra putts for the victory.
“Eighteen, nothing I can do, middle of the fairway, 120 into the wind, back pin; I hit a 140-club and just flushed it over the green and I’m dead, basically,” Miller said. “I’m just trying to keep it on the green and maybe make a putt for par.”
Swenson had all the relief on 18 with extra putts in hand to advance to the championship and ultimately, to claim it by winning 1-up.
“To be on top at the end is pretty cool,” said Swenson.
The match was even at the turn. Swenson led twice by a hole on the front nine and the lead changed hands four times in the final nine holes.
Swenson made par four on the 11th to go 1-up. Miller evened the match and went ahead with back-to-back birdies on holes 12 and 13, a par five and a four.
His only lead of the day was erased a hole later when he bogeyed the par-3, 14th, and Swenson dropped a bomb of a birdie putt to take the lead back in a steady rain on 15.
The duo traded Miller par for Swenson bogey on the par-3, 17th hole to set up the dramatics on 18.
“It was fun; it’s quite the grind Tuesday through Sunday but it was very fun,” said Swenson. “The rain makes you think a lot more, hit more controlled shots; it gets a little slippery.”
Battling the elements was compounded by the fatigue of getting to Championship Sunday.
“It was brutal, we battled all day, Miller said. “I, personally, played 140 holes this week and I think it kind of showed on the front.”
Both golfers made their first appearance in the Pine to Palm championship final.