The 96th edition of The Birchmont concluded with familiar names still standing as the championship flight winners, but only after a series of riveting finishes on Saturday at the Bemidji Town & Country Club.
Johnny Larson, nine years removed from his most recent of two Birchmont men’s championship titles, added a third title to his name after holding off Danny Menton 2&1 in the afternoon. After going 1 down right on the first hole, a spectacular up and down for birdie at no. 3 from the fairway of the 17th hole pulled Larson all square and kickstarted his day. A close approach led to a pick-up eagle at the par-5 4th to take the lead, and Larson would follow with a birdie at the 5th to go 2 up–a margin he regathered at the turn after a birdie at the 9th.
Despite being 3 down after a 12th hole where his ball hit the flagstick and bounced away on his second shot as Larson rolled in a long, downhill birdie, Menton made a strong push midway through the back nine. He won the next three holes by way of birdies at 13 and 15 and a Larson bogey at 14 to get back to all square. But after bunker trouble for Menton at 16 left him with a bogey and hole lost, Larson stayed steady at 17 while Menton missed left behind a tree off the tee. Menton’s eventual bogey and concession of the hole handed Larson his first Birchmont men’s victory since 2011 and third to go with another title in 2007.
In the morning, Larson led his semifinal match with Fargo’s Mason Opheim for just three holes, but the last of those came when he made par at the 18th while Opheim bogeyed. Menton had a much more comfortable semifinal match against former Bemidji State teammate John Hafdal, winning 7&5 thanks to seven birdies across 13 holes.
Alongside the final men’s match, Bemidji’s Bob Brink and Bovey’s Sam Skaar served up a terrific men’s championship consolation final. Despite never leading throughout the 18 holes and trailing 2 down with two holes to play, Brink rallied to win 17 and 18–including hitting a downhill birdie at the last while Skaar had his birdie putt to halve and win lip out. The Bemidji native took the victory on the third extra hole after a missed par putt from Skaar.
The women’s championship featured a memorable match between three-time and defending champion Emily Israelson and Detroit Lakes native Madison Herzog. Both players took turns leading by a mere hole on the front nine, but Israelson pulled even on the 10th before a birdie at #12 gave her another slim 1 up lead. Her lead lasted until the 15th, where the NDSU rising junior Herzog birdied to again go all square.
The final two holes delivered up a remarkable contrast in results. Herzog struggled with the 17th, making a double bogey to suddenly find herself needing to win the final hole to extend the match. But from 130 yards away on the par-4 18th, Herzog incredibly holed out with her second shot for eagle and new life in the match.
After halves on the first and second extra holes, Israelson made birdie back at the 3rd to finally secure her fourth women’s title in the last five years after a dramatic finale.
Previously a winner in the junior championship in 2001, Joe McKean of Farmington captured the men’s executive championship with a victory against former executive winner Derek Hasselberg. In the men’s seniors, Paul Court took the title in his second year playing The Birchmont after overcoming Rick Passolt 1 up.
The masters division found a familiar name navigate the bracket to victory, as Perham’s Jeff Tweeton won his fifth title across the senior and masters divisions with a 3&2 triumph over last year’s winner Doug Taylor. And in the junior 13-17 division, Rylin Petry of Fertile defeated Luke Thompson 3&2 to claim the title.