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Birchmont match play underway with close matches, rallies and super shots

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In the opening day of match play Wednesday at The Birchmont, perhaps no one had a sweeter shot in the men's championship than Brandon Myers.

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The Motley native and New Mexico State junior eagled the par-4 16th hole at Bemidji Town & Country Club on a 70-yard chip shot to defeat Ben Cahill of Grand Rapids 4 and 2.

"I thought it was going in right when I hit it," Myers said. "The ball sailed right over the flag and hit the back of the green, then spinned back about 20 feet to the front of the green and dropped in the hole. That's a great way to win a match."

The win moved Myers into the men's championship round of 16, which continues today.

Myers draws Mike Christensen of Grand Rapids.

"I've really got my work cut out for me, I knew I'm either going to play a 16-year-old who's playing on fire or a former pro," said Myers before turning to a joking tone. "Yep, just a former pro - no big deal."

Christensen moved on by defeating 16-year-old Tyler Rustad of Moorhead 3 and 2. He was 2-under par when the match ended on the 16th hole and

Christensen is coming off a stroke-play tournament championship at the Nemadji (Superior, Wis.) Invitational. He was a former two-time state high school champion at Grand Rapids, a collegiate player at Duke University and professional golfer.

Myers, who is an intern this summer at the Legacy Courses at Cragun's in Brainerd, has played in the last four Birchmonts and is looking to advance past the second round for the first time.

He lost in the second round last year to Jeff Wiltse of Bemidji.

Wiltse was the 2007 qualifying medalist and he was unable to replicate the success he found at the Birchmont last season.

Bemidji High School grad Chris Curb defeated Wiltse 5 and 4 in a battle of Bemidji. After falling behind with a bogey on the third hole, Curb birdied the fourth and fifth holes to take a lead he never relinquished.

It was a strong showing for Curb. He finished the front nine at one-under and was even when the match ended on the 14th hole.

"Today I was really able to make my putts and get up and down," Curb said. "I was a little surprised to win the way I did. I was thinking this was going to be a really close match - Wiltse is a very good player."

Birchmont men's medalist Jesse Nelson showed his blistering five-under score of 67 in Tuesday's qualifying round was no fluke.

The Bemidji State student drew 1993 Birchmont men's champion Chad Skarperud and outlasted the former champ for a 1-up victory.

Nelson was in control for most of the match until a wild finish. Skarperud rallied from a 3-down deficit to take a 1-up lead when Nelson bogeyed the 16th. But Nelson bounced back to move the match all square with a birdie on the 17th and won the match when Skarperud double-bogeyed the 18th.

"It was really a battle today and he's really a very good player," Nelson said. "I don't even know what I shot (in stroke play), I was just trying so hard to focus on the match.

Also winning in a close 1-up match was Thomas Strandemo of Fargo, N.D over Daryl Schomer of St. Cloud. He rallied from a 2-down deficit after five holes and took the lead for good when Schomer bogeyed the eighth hole.

Others moving on to Wednesday's round of 16 were: Neil Rude, Devin Hexner, Matt Skarperud, Tim Skarperud, Tom Jenkins, Justin Cross, Brad Anderson, David Mooney, Thomas Strandemo, Josh Bergrud, Johnny Larson and Paul Daman.

Larson, the 2007 champion from Springfield, will go up against Daman of Bemidji after advancing past Todd Hillier of Hoople, N.D. 2 and 1.

Larson took control of his match on the back nine. He pulled the match all square with an eagle on the par-5 10th hole and went ahead for good with a birdie on the 11th.

He was three-under par when the match ended on the 17th hole.

Daman, a fourth grade teacher at Northern Elementary School, led his match wire-to-wire. Foss tried to rally with an eagle on the 15th hole, but was unable to birdie the 16th to keep the match alive.

Cross turned in good performance Wednesday and defeated Russ Newman 4 and 3. He was three-under par when the match ended on the 15th hole. Both had eagles in the match: Newman on the par-5 fourth hole and Cross on the par-5 15th to win the match.

Ben Moen of Bemidji could not muster the same magic he had at last season's Birchmont when he reached the quarterfinal round.

Jenkins, a three-time Bemidji Town & Country Club Vandersluis champion, beat Moen 5 and 4. Jenkins was one-under par when the round ended and he advances to face Cross Thursday.

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