BEMIDJI - A year ago Dale Finck of Bertha 3-putted on the 18th green in the Executive Championship match and had to settle for second place when Joe Burgess of Woodbury got down in two for par.
During the first two days of this year's Birchmont, however, Finck has demonstrated that 2011 was no fluke. The man who didn't take up golf until after his college days carded the lowest round during both days of qualifying and captured the medalist honor with his 73-75-148.
Finck will own the second seed in the 16-man match-play portion of the tournament and will open against Todd Witkowski of Zeeland, Mich. in today's 12:33 p.m. pairing. Witkowski advanced to the match-play by shooting 82-82-164.The foursome will also include a match between Burgess and Tony Carlson of Maple Grove who qualified with rounds of 82-83-165.
Today's other match-play pairings see Matt Mayer of Fargo (159) facing Miles Schacher of Hawley (159), Todd Schafer of Grand Forks (157) meeting Randy Landsverk of Fosston (160), Derrick Johnson of Grand Forks (152) squaring off against Rick Barrett of Red Lake (162), Lee Hetletved of Grand Forks (152) facing Vern Capelle of Little Falls (163), Scott Hinners of Bemidji (155) meeting Brad McEnroe of Minneapolis (161) and Aaron Burnside of Detroit Lakes (157) battling Russ Moen of Bemidji (160).
Although Finck's main goal during the first two days of the Birchmont was to advance to the match-play, he is proud that he was able to back last year's finish with the medalist honor.
"It proves that you belong here," he said. "I haven't been playing golf as long as most of the Executives but finishing second last year and being the medalist this year shows that I can play with them. It shows that I belong in this tournament."
Tuesday's scores generally were higher than Mondays, probably because of a stiff wind that blew off Lake Bemidji. The breezy conditions did not seem to bother Finck, however.
"I got it around very well and actually scored well," Finck said. "In past years I would hit a few shots and things would balloon but (Tuesday) I gutted it out and shot 75.
"Playing well in Monday's first qualifying round settles you for Tuesday but you still try to play the course hole-by-hole," he said. "You still need to forget the past, whether it was good or bad, and concentrate on the shot (at hand)."
At the start of Tuesday's second round Hinners shared the top spot with Finck as each shot 73 on Monday. But Hinners wasn't able to duplicate that success as he shot 82 and tied for the fifth qualification spot at 155.
"Monday I played very well and I was able to get up and down on the green on just about every hole," Hinners said. "But Tuesday I fought to get around. Birdies on No. 9 and No. 10 got me to 2-over par but things got to me on the final holes."
Hinners found the woods off the tee at No. 15 and took a 7. He carded bogeys on 16 and 17 and ended Tuesday's round with a double-bogey-6 on No. 18.
"After the 15th hole I figured that I lost any chance of being the medalist so I just wanted to get into the shop and get ready for Wednesday's start of match-play," he said. "I'm a twice-a-week golfer and it's tough for us to put good rounds back-to-back. But, in a tournament setting, I think Monday was a better indication of how I expect to play the rest of the week."