THE BIRCHMONT: Familiar Names, High Seeds Deliver On First Match Play Slate

A morning delay due to rain only brought a brief pause to play as the 97th playing of The Birchmont had its first day of match play on Wednesday at the Bemidji Town & Country Club.

Returning men’s division champion Johnny Larson of Springfield opened his title defense by dispatching Rylin Petry 5&3 on a good day for former men’s winners. 2019 champion Chris Swenson secured a 3&2 victory against Matt Kulla to set up a matchup with medalist winner Lucas Johnson–a 1 up victor over Tim Skarperud. Andrew Israelson (2016, ’17) and Nick Schaefer (2015, ’18) were also former winners to advance, with Bemidji represented in the round of 16 by Israelson, Chris Curb, and Jay Gregory.

Emily Israelson’s latest defense of the women’s division¬†title began by stopping a spirited effort by final qualifier Claire Haakenson in a 4&3 win. All eight higher seeds advanced to the quarterfinal round, including Bemidji golfers Abbie Kelm and Taylor Offerdahl.

Defending men’s executive champion Joe McKean was forced to sweat out a 19-hole session with Mitch Deere before finishing as the winner. Mike Fore and Mark Hylden also needed one extra hole to edge past Chris Hennum and Ekren Miller respectively, while medalist Troy Johnson went the distance before winning 2 up against Patrick Arnason.

Paul Court started his quest to win the men’s senior division for a second straight year with a 2&1 dispatching of Thomas Daman in the opening round. Mark Lindberg followed up his outstanding qualifying with a dominant 7&6 victory against Jason Novak, and Bemidji natives Paul Daman and Scott Hinners were also among those to advance.

In the masters field, defending champ Jeff Tweeton rolled to a 6&5 win against Ken Riesberg, setting up a quarterfinal matchup with Bemidji’s Bob Paine. Medalist Mike Antonovich defeated Larry Malnor 4&3 and will now face Glen Hasselberg–a 5&4 winner over Mark Noga. David Lee, Jeff Wallin, Jack Seiberlich, and Mike Aakhus completed the field for the quarterfinals.

The junior 17U quarterfinals started with a big win for final qualifier Landon Miller of St. Louis Park, who defeated medalist Tony Carlin 5&4 in the opening round. Bemidji’s Nick Yavarow will meet him in the semifinals after topping Luke Walker 2&1. In another “Bemidji vs. St. Louis Park” semifinal, local representative Ryan Daman will play Luke Thompson.

Match play brackets continue today, with the 12U division golfers also competing in the early evening.

All results and brackets can be accessed through the official Birchmont website.