Siblings Andrew and Emily Israelson captured the men’s and women’s division championships in the same year for a second time on a day of thrilling title matches at the 97th playing of The Birchmont from the Bemidji Town & Country Club on Saturday.
Every title match went to at least the 17th hole on a day where air conditions were largely improved from the forecasted smoky air that appeared to be on the way. In the final two championship matches, it was a familiar name that emerged through the sunshine and breeze to find victory again.
Fresh off defeating previous final foe Jim Foss 4&3 in a morning semifinal, Andrew Israelson found himself facing off with former North Dakota State teammate Nate Adams in the men’s division final after the current NDSU golfer held off a late charge from Jay Gregory to win 3&2 in his semifinal. The two had played together in the 2019-20 school year when Israelson was a senior and Adams was a freshman, but it was the alum and frequent BTCC player who had the final say in the afternoon.
A saving par putt on the first hole put Israelson ahead briefly in the match before his bunker trouble at the third allowed Adams to pull even. The 2016 and ’17 champion turned the match back in his favor for good with a birdie on the par-5 fourth, then knocked in back-to-back birdies at eight and nine to make the turn at 3 up. A victory for Adams at 12 to pull within two was offset by Israelson’s par at the 14th to take the 3 up lead back with only four to play.
Tree trouble for Israelson at 15 coupled with a strong approach by Adams brought the lead down to two, and Adams followed it up with a clutch birdie putt on 16 to go 1 down. Just when it seemed a wayward tee shot left at 17 had completely dashed his hopes, Adams put together a miraculous second shot to reach the green and scramble a par half with Israelson.
But after missing the 18th green long on his approach, Adams could only make a matching par with the steady Israelson and the latter had a 1 up victory locked up for the closest of his three Birchmont titles.
Alongside the men’s final, Cody Cook rallied for a 1 up win against Justin Johnson in a consolation final that pitted two Bemidji State alums head-to-head.
After they had achieved the feat of winning their divisions in the same year in 2016, it became another Israelson sibling double five years later after Emily claimed her fourth straight women’s division title and fifth in six years by defeating Morgan Hetletved 3&1 in the final.
Israelson captured the second hole after a Hetletved par and never looked back from that point, only seeing her lead slimmed to 1 up for two holes late in the front nine. Hetletved slimmed the lead to two with a win at the 13th, but Israelson captured the 17th when she needed only a half to wrap up a fourth consecutive women’s crown.
In a battle between the medalist and defending champion of the men’s executive field, it was medalist Troy Johnson who pulled ahead with a victory on the 12th hole and never looked back on his way to a 1 up triumph against last year’s winner Joe McKean. In a remarkably tight match, just three holes were won between the two golfers after they split two on the front nine.
A highly impressive week of golf in the men’s senior division was crowned with a championship for Mark Lindberg, who came from behind to topple Bemidji’s Paul Daman 1 up in the final to finish a week that had started with medalist honors in qualifying.
Another defending champion retained the title in the masters field. Jeff Tweeton won the first three holes of the back nine before holding off Jack Seiberlich for a 2&1 result to add another title to his victory from a year ago.
The junior 17U final was the only one of the day that required extra holes, with Luke Thompson edging out Bemidji’s Nick Yavarow in 19 holes to claim the division.
A total of 303 participants took part in the 97th edition of The Birchmont.