THE BIRCHMONT: Comebacks Mark Penultimate Day’s Matches; Championship Saturday On Deck

It took several more thrilling finishes on Friday to confirm the final day’s matches for the 96th Birchmont at the Bemidji Town & Country Club.

Comebacks were especially prevalent in the men’s championship quarterfinal matches Friday afternoon. Despite being 2 down to Beck Erholtz with five holes to play, former Bemidji State men’s golfer John Hafdal won holes 14 and 16 before an Erholtz double bogey on 17 gave him the lead for good in a 1 up victory. Danny Menton–a 2012 BSU alum–found himself 1 down to two-time winner Andrew Israelson with two holes to play, but birdies on 17 and 18 helped Menton turn around the result to also win 1 up.

2011 and ’14 men’s champion Johnny Larson trailed for almost the entire front nine to medalist Cody Cook, but reversed the tide on the homeward stretch to capture a 2 up win and advance to face Mason Opheim. The Concordia Moorhead rising senior continued his excellent first Birchmont appearance with a 5&4 win against Bemidji’s Jay Gregory.

Hafdal and Menton will now meet in a Bemidji State throwback semifinal Saturday morning at 8:10am, with Larson and Opheim playing alongside them in the other semifinal. The two winners will square off alongside the men’s consolation finalists in the championship match at 1:30pm, which can be heard on KBUN-FM 104.5 and kbunsportsradio.com.

The finalists for the women’s championship were confirmed in contrasting semifinals Friday. Defending winner Emily Israelson dominated her match with Lily Bredemeier, shooting 2-under par through 11 holes for a speedy 8&7 victory as she continued her quest for a fourth Birchmont title in five years. She will face Detroit Lakes native and North Dakota State rising junior Madison Herzog, who defeated Bemidji and UND’s Abbie Kelm 2&1 in a close battle between the qualifying co-medalists.  Their match is scheduled to tee off at 1:15pm.

The men’s executive field will see a winner add to one previous Birchmont success. 2001 junior champion Joe McKean reached the final with a 2&1 win against Derrick Johnson. He will now face 2014 executive winner and Princeton High School boys golf coach Derek Hasselberg, who also edged Mike Fore 2&1. The executive final has a 1:00 tee time scheduled.

The senior men will have a new winner this year, after Paul Court knocked off defending champ Jeff Slupe 3&2 in the semifinals. Rick Passolt, who has won championships in the men’s (2003) and executive (2009, ’10) fields, will now try to add a senior title after a grueling 25-hole victory against Mark Lindberg. Their match is slated for a 12:45pm start.

The masters division has lived up to its name, as two former winners will square off for the championship flight title. Defending champion Doug Taylor returned to the final with a 3&2 victory against Mark Noga. Meanwhile, Perham’s Jeff Tweeton will try to add to his 2003 and ’06 senior titles, as well as masters titles in 2017 and ’18, after topping Wayne Caughey 5&4 to reach the final match. They will tee off at 12:30pm on Saturday.

While the 13-17 junior division took the day off, the junior 12U 1st flight crowned the first winner at the 96th Birchmont, as Preston Miller of St. Louis Park defeated Logan Motzko in the final.

The junior 13-17 division final between Rylin Petry and Luke Thompson will tee off at 12:15pm on Saturday to begin the full slate of championship matches.