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Adams reverses Pine to Palm fortune to capture the championship on the 19th hole

Having the experience of losing the final match at the 19th green in 2019 helped NDSU sophomore to his first Pine to Palm title.

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Nate Adams tees off at the tee box of the first and 19th hole on his way to putting his name on the champions board of the Pine to Palm at Detroit Country Club Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Robert Williams / Tribune

North Dakota State University sophomore Nate Adams knows what it’s like to go the distance and on to extra holes in the finals of the Pine to Palm golf tournament.

Adams let a late lead slip away to Andrew Israelson by finding trouble off the tee of the first extra hole at Detroit Country Club in 2019, the par-5, first. His 2019 drive left him a difficult second and an impossible third by the out-of-bounds fence that he nearly pulled off in what would have been the greatest up-and-down in tournament history.

This year, Adams reversed those fortunes.

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Pine to Palm champion Nate Adams poses with the tournament's championship trophy at the first tee Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Robert Williams / Tribune

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“It was a lot different than when I was in the championship two years ago,” said Adams. “I was leading after nine by a lot and Andrew came back on me, so I was trying to put myself in his shoes from that situation and I just kept trying to hit greens, trying to make my putts. Finally, one went in on the playoff hole, which is the most important hole, and it feels good to be the winner.”

Adams crushed his tee shot on the 19th, 511 yards from tee-to-green, he left himself 145 yards to the pin from the center of the fairway.

Welle put his ball up the left side, something he has done multiple times on the first hole and to success. From 190 yards, he drilled his ball into the front edge of the green and left an uphill putt for the win.

“That was a great, great shot from 200 out,” said Adams. “I wasn’t expecting that. Credit to Ben, he’s a really good player. He hardly misses shots. I just got one putt to go.”

Adams noted he felt pressured after seeing the Welle approach, but matched the effort by getting his ball to sit above the hole for his own shot at eagle for the win.

Adams went first and his ball looked good from the putter strike dropping center-cup and putting all the pressure on Welle to make his putt to extend the match.

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Welle’s putt slid just right of the hole.

Having confidence in the driver and proving it on the biggest hole of Pine to Palm week is what gave Adams the championship.

“That’s what I’ve gotten better at the last two years is my driving has gotten better, longer, straighter, everything has gotten better,” he said. “I had a lot of confidence coming on to this tee, especially after 18 where I hit it down the middle. Caddy just told me to play down the right with the draw I always hit. I swung hard and it went really straight and really far. It felt good.”

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Nate Adams is the 2021 Pine to Palm champion. He was the 2019 runner-up. Robert Williams / Tribune

Welle took a two-hole lead with back-to-back birdies at the par-4, 11th and par-5 12th holes. After halving with par-4’s at the 13th, Welle hit what looked to be a possible dagger on the par-3, 14th, leaving his tee shot three feet from the cup.

The sun was beating down on the players and gallery at 14, and pressure mounted as Welle stepped up to what looked like a tap-in, but the ball caught the lip and gave Adams new life avoiding a three-hole deficit with the miss.

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“I was baking up on that green and I wasn’t even thinking about missing it,” said Welle. “I just missed it and that’s the way it goes. Golf is funny that way.”

Despite the lost opportunity, Welle led 2-up.

That lead was cut in half when Adams drove the green on the 288-yard, 16th and nearly made a long putt for eagle. His lag was close enough to be conceded and he went to the par-3, 17th down one and looking to tie the match.

Adams did so by sticking his tee shot safely on the green, while Welle was long and facing an uphill chip with no green to work with in front of the pin. His chip ran long to near the back edge of the green and Adams two-putted to square the match.

On 18, both players faced lengthy birdie putts and Welle was forced to sink a four-footer to halve and set up the extra hole showdown.

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Pine to Palm runner-up Ben Welle watches a near-perfect tee shot at the par-3, 14th hole, during the championship match at Detroit Country Club Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Robert Williams / Tribune

“I started out with no expectations and kind of shocked myself,” said Welle. “I hit the ball really, really well. My game just kept getting better and better as the week went on. It usually does that here. You’ve got to get your yardages down with wedges and everything like that. I just kept playing well and Nate played awesome today. I think he had one bogey on the card and he fought back and all the credit to him.”

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Pine to Palm champion Nate Adams tees off the sixth in front of the gallery at Detroit Country Club Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Robert Williams / Tribune

Both players led by one at times on the front nine. Welle got out to a lead at the first with a birdie four, before Adams squared the match with a short birdie putt at the par-3, third.

All square at the sixth, Welle smoked his drive on the par-4, 282-yard hole over the green and out-of-bounds by a mere inch. The ruling was that a portion of the ball had to be in front of the OB marker, which was not the case after a string was run between the two poles where the ball sat.

After re-teeing, Welle conceded the hole to Adams for his first lead of the day, one he held to the ninth. Adams had a makeable opportunity on the seventh green to go up two, but his putt slid just below the hole on a break to the right.

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Ben Welle sticks this tee shot from the third tee box to the green during the Pine to Palm championship division finals Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Robert Williams / Tribune

“It was a good week,” said Welle. “Couple shots out there I wish I could have back, obviously, but overall a good week.”

The seventh hole struck again on Adams’ tee shot at the ninth that sliced right into the right-side bunker at the seventh green. His out clipped the treetops in front of him and led to conceding the hole to Welle as the golfers made the turn even.

For the former champion and 2021 runner-up, the Pine to Palm is a special tournament to play because of all the characters and the fact that Detroit Country Club is a chessboard that evens the playing field.

“It’s a fun golf course,” Welle said. “I’ve been telling everybody all week that anybody can beat anybody. You’ve got Rick Kuhn, Greg Melhus making the finals and it’s an unbelievable golf course because it fits anybody’s game in some certain way. It’s a fun week.”

For Adams, the victory solidifies a very strong summer of golf, especially an incredible run through the Resort Circuit tournaments.

“I said during the Birch and the Resorters, if I play well, I’m not going to play in the Pine,” he said. “My dad said, ‘if you win those two you have to play in the Pine.’ I didn’t win but I made it to the weekend in both and it’s just so much golf. I was just sitting there with my girlfriend and I just decided I might as well play. I’ve played well there before and I played great this time and I’m very happy.”

Adams and the Bison men's golf team will tee it up this fall for the first half of the season with a roster that includes this year’s Pine to Palm medalist Nate Deziel and the 2020 champion and semifinalist this year Ian Simonich. That trio is joined by an impressive roster for head coach Steve Kennedy and Adams is ready to get the collegiate season going.

“Definitely, I’m really excited for this season,” he said. “We’re going to have a really solid team. I hope we get the recognition we deserve coming in because I feel we’re going to be very, very good. We have a good chance at winning the Summit League next spring.”

In the morning semifinals, Welle ended a Simonich 10-match winning streak 4&3.

Adams defeated Melhus 2-up leading for most of the match aside from even scores on the 8th and 10th holes.

Area fans can catch the NDSU opener at Oxbow Country Club Tuesday, Sept. 7.

The dates for next year’s Pine to Palm are Aug. 8–14.

Read more Pine to Palm stories from this year's tournament by Robert Williams here .

Related Topics: GOLF
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