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Birchmont’s best advance as match play begins

Not many underdogs made it through the opening round of match play at the Birchmont Golf Tournament on Wednesday, but a few upsets shook up portions of the brackets and knocked some strong competition out of contention early.

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Lucas Johnson chips onto the first green on Wednesday, July 28, 2021, during the 97th annual Birchmont Golf Tournament at the Bemidji Town and Country Club. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Not many underdogs made it through the opening round of match play at the Birchmont Golf Tournament on Wednesday, but a few upsets shook up portions of the brackets and knocked some strong competition out of contention early.

The No. 7, 9 and 10-seeded golfers in the men’s division were all sent packing. The No. 3 seed was almost added to that list, but Litchfield’s Brandon Nelson thwarted a strong, 21-hole challenge from 30th-seeded Zach Hinschberger, who was also part of Tuesday’s seven-golfer playoff to simply qualify for the championship bracket.

Even so, 26th-seeded Beck Erholtz topped seventh-seeded Brandon McGarry 5-and-3, while 23rd-seeded Jay Gregory knocked off 10th-seeded Sam Skaar 3-and-2. No. 24 Josh Bergrud upset former Bemidji State golfer and ninth-ranked Cody Cook 1-up, as well.

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But a bevy of favorites also advanced to Thursday. Top-seeded Johnny Larson of Springfield began his championship defense with a 5-and-3 win over last year’s Junior 13-17 champion Rylin Petry, while No. 2-seeded Lucas Johnson of Moorhead stayed hot with a 1-up win.

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Additionally, No. 4-seeded Jacob Skarperud (4-and-2), No. 5 Chris Curb (1-up) and No. 6 Nate Adams (3-and-2) made it into day two as some of the highest seeds.

Curb, the 2005 junior champion, also tops a list of three Bemidjians who advanced in the men’s bracket, with No. 8 Andrew Israelson (5-and-4) and Gergory making up the rest of the local representation.

Other past champions moving on include 2019’s Chris Swenson (3-and-2), 2015 and 2018’s Nick Schaefer (5-and-4), 2012’s Josh Bergrud (1-up), 1993’s Chad Skarperud (19 holes), 2016 and 2017 junior champ Nate Deziel (19 holes).

Women’s division

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Three-time defending champion Emily Israelson chips onto the eighth green on Wednesday, July 28, 2021, during the 97th annual Birchmont Golf Tournament at the Bemidji Town and Country Club. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

The women’s field was all chalk, as each of the top eight seeds advanced to stockpile the next round.

To no surprise, three-time defending champ and four-time winner Emily Israelson cruised 4-and-3. The Staples product meets Bemidji’s Taylor Offerdahl in the quarterfinals after the eighth-seeded Offerdahl prevailed 6-and-4 on Wednesday.

Fourth-seeded Renda Wakeman (2-up) and fifth-seeded Madison Herzog (5-and-3) will square off in another quarterfinal battle, while second-seeded Lily Bredemeier survived after 23 holes and will meet seventh-seeded Abbie Kelm (5-and-4 winner) of Bemidji.

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Riley Crothers, the No. 3 seed and a 3-and-2 winner on Wednesday, will play sixth-seeded Morgan Hetletved after the latter’s 5-and-4 win.

Men’s executive division

Many of the men’s executive favorites also advanced. Top-seeded Joe McKean of Farmington needed a playoff hole but snuck past Mitch Deere, while eighth-seeded Nick Bergan won 5-and-4. Fourth-seeded Steve Well (3-and-2) and fifth-seeded Mike Fore (19 holes) also prevailed.

On the other half of the bracket, second-seeded Troy Johnson was a 2-up winner, while seventh-seeded Mark Hylden knocked off Bemidji State men’s golf coach Ekren Miller in 19 holes. No. 3 seed Joe Burgess (1-up) and No. 11 seed Derrick Johnson (6-and-4) advanced, as well.

Men’s senior division

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Golfers practice their putting on the third day of the 97th annual Birchmont Golf Tournament at the Bemidji Town and Country Club. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Paul Court of Cold Spring advanced 2-and-1 past Bemidji’s Thomas Daman in the men’s senior division as he pursues back-to-back titles. Court next faces John McEnroe, a 4-and-3 winner out of Crosslake.

Other senior winners who will next challenge each other include Rick Vanyo (6-and-4) and Bemidji’s Paul Daman (6-and-5), Mark Lindberg (7-and-6) and Bemidji’s Scott Hinners (2-and-1), and Rick Passolt (2-and-1) and Todd Schaefer (4-and-3).

Masters division

In masters play, top-seeded Jeff Tweeton of Perham cruised 6-and-5 and will next meet Bemidji’s Bob Paine, who won in 19 holes Wednesday. David Lee (1-up) and Jeff Wallin (6-and-4) will also compete on that side of the bracket.

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Former Golden Gopher and Minnesota North Star hockey player Mike Antonovich won 4-and-3, and he’ll next meet Glen Hasselberg, a 5-and-4 winner in a minor 7-10 upset.

Rounding out the bracket, Jack Seiberlich won 5-and-4, while Mike Aakhus prevailed 1-up.

Junior divisions

Both junior divisions will have new champions this summer, as last year’s winners aged out of their fields.

The race to claim the latest 13-17 crown began with Landon Miller’s upset of the top seed, as the St. Louis Park product knocked off Tony Carlin 5-and-4. Nick Yavarow, a member of the Bemidji High School boys golf team, used the home-course advantage to win 2-and-1 in his first-round matchup.

On the other half of the bracket, Yavarow’s teammate also moved one step closer to the championship. Ryan Daman won 2-and-1 and will next face Luke Thompson, a winner by the same score on Wednesday.

In the opening round of the Junior 10-12 division, top-seeded Logan Motzko of Chaska advanced into the semifinals. Jackson Fogelson, the son of BHS baseball head coach Mike Fogelson, also advanced as the No. 4 seed.

The flip side of the Junior 10-12 bracket featured a pair of upsets, as sixth-seeded Beckett Grand of Bemidji and seventh-seeded Ryder Rivard of Grand Forks, N.D., moved on.

The 97th annual Birchmont schedule

  • Monday: Qualifying rounds for men’s, men’s senior, men’s executive and junior divisions.

  • Tuesday: Qualifying rounds for women’s, masters divisions; second round for men’s, men’s senior, and men’s executive divisions. Match play begins for Junior 10-12 division.

  • Wednesday: Match play begins for all championship divisions. (Men’s letter C, D, E flights, men’s executive regular and Junior 10-12 divisions do not play.)

  • Thursday: Match play continues for all championship divisions. (Men’s letter A and B flights, senior regular, masters regular and junior 2nd and 3rd flights do not play.)

  • Friday: Match play continues for all championship divisions. (Women’s regular, junior champ, and junior 1st flight do not play.)

  • Saturday: Match play finals for all divisions.

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