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Josh Bergrud of Grand Forks tees off on the sixth hole in the Birchmont men's championship. Bergrud rallied to defeat Johnny Larson 3 and 1. Brian matthews | Bemidji Pioneer

Bergrud outlasts Larson 3 and 1 to win Birchmont Men's title

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BEMIDJI - Josh Bergrud kept hanging around.

After letting Johnny Larson go 2 up after six holes at the 88th annual Birchmont Men's Championship final at the Bemidji Town & Country Club Saturday, Bergrud knew he had to kick his game into gear.

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"I got two down, then I knew he was going to start making putts," Bergrud said. "I played with him almost every day so I knew he was good at putting. I knew I was going to have to start making birdies, and I kinda got going there on 9 and 10."

The Grand Forks native won four straight holes - Nos. 9, 10, 11 and 12 - to turn the tide of the match and win this year's edition of the Birchmont 3 and 1.

His long putt on No. 17 secured the win over the defending champion.

"I figured he was going to birdie 17, so I figured I needed to birdie it too," Bergrud said of the tournament-winning hole. "He had a good look there, but he pushed it a little bit.

"I got a good read from his putt. I was going to play it pretty straight but I saw his move a little right at the end so I had to move mine to the right edge there. And it went in. I was feeling pretty good with the putter there, so I knew that was going."

The two had already had a long day of golf before the finale, but it didn't necessarily show.

Larson got to the finals by defeating Tom Jenkins of Plymouth 3 and 2 in semifinal action while Bergrud did the same with a 3 and 2 win over Collin Lervick of Chanhassen.

In the finals, Larson took control earlier in the match.

He bogeyed No. 1 to give Bergrud the early lead but the Springfield native answered with a birdie on No. 3 to even the match. He then won two straight on Nos. 5 and 6 to go 2 up.

But a disastrous No. 9 helped get Bergrud back into the match.

Larson drove into the forest on the par-5 hole, and then hit a tree with his second shot. He ended up with par on the hole.

Meanwhile, Bergrud sank a 12-foot putt to cut Larson's lead to one hole.

That swung the momentum in Bergrud's direction.

"I don't know. Nine, 10 11 and 12, I go two-over, he makes two birdies and all of a sudden he's 2 up," Larson said. "Nine was definitely a tough hole.

"But he played really well. I don't think he had a bogey the whole game."

Actually, Bergrud bogeyed on the par-4 No. 6 that put Larson 2 up.

But that was his only bogey of the match.

Larson bogeyed the par-4 No. 12 hole, which gave Bergrud the 2 up lead he held until the end of the match.

Bergrud took advantage of a few of Larson's missed putts - including the one on No. 12 which put him ahead.

"I don't know if he was feeling a little pressure or what, because he usually makes those," Bergrud said of Larson's few bogeys. "It was fortunate for me."

The two hit par on holes 13, 14 and 15. At the par-4 16th, Bergrud had a chance to end the match but just missed a birdie putt.

Bergrud hit the green about 15 feet behind the hole on his second shot.

His soft putt rolled slowly towards the hole but stopped about six inches short.

"The greens were rolling a little fast, or else that one might have went in too," Bergrud said. "I thought when I hit it I had a chance, but I'm not really looking to make that one downhill."

Instead, he had to birdie on the next hole to take the title.

"It's a pretty big deal to me," Bergrud, 23, said of his first Birchmont win. "I've been coming here a long time, since I was like 13 or 15.

"It gives me a lot of confidence. I came in with a lot of confidence," he continued. "We had the North Dakota state match play before and I almost made it to the finals there, so it's strange what a little confidence does for you."

Larson tipped his cap to Bergrud.

"Coming in second at the Birchmont is nothing to hang your head over," he said. "You always want to win, you're disappointed to come up short, but he played a good match."

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Jack Hittinger
Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at http://thebeaverblog.areavoices.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.
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