Brad Anderson of Staples is a veteran of the Vandersluis tournament. And he is fast becoming a fan of the Birchmont.
"I'm been coming to the Vandersluis for 15 years and coming to Bemidji is like 'Old Home Week,'" Anderson said. "I have so much fun at the Vandersluis that I decided to play in the Birchmont."
Anderson is making his third appearance at the summer classic and Monday, during the initial round of Men's Championship qualifying, he gave notice that he could be among the favorites as Anderson carded a 35-36-71.
Anderson was one of only two golfers to break par on a windy day at the BTCC. Joining him, however, was the first-day medalist Tim Skarperud who shot 33-32-65.
"I kept the ball in play," Skarperud, whose Birchmont history includes runner-up finishes in 2006 and last year, said.
"My driving was solid. I missed only one fairway all day."
After registering pars on the first two holes Skarperud took full advantage of the wind on No. 3.
"I drove the green and made an 18-footer for eagle," Skarperud said. "That hole jump-started my round."
Skarperud birdied No. 4 and on the back side he registered birdies on 10, 16 and 17. He finished the round without a bogey.
"When you drive the ball well and keep the ball in play you won't have to have a long iron in your hand," Skarperud said.
Monday's Men's Championship field was trimmed to the top 64 and after today's round the field will be cut to the low 32. The match-play portion of the Birchmont will begin Wednesday.
Paul Daman of Bemidji also established himself among the contenders as he shot even-par-72. The group at 73 included Clint Cornell of Grand Rapids, Jim Foss of Roseau, Matt Norby of Grand Forks and Matt Skarperud of Scottsdale Ariz.
Kevin Krigbaum, a Bemidji native who resides in Brooklyn Park, was at 74. Joining him were Brad Johnson of LeSueur, Tim Flechtner of Fargo, Eric Lilleboe of Okemos, Mich., Sam Matthew of Roseville and Thomas Strandemo of Fargo.
"So many golfers in this field can win it," Skarperud said. "My goal is to just make it to the cut of 32 and get to match-play. It doesn't matter if you finish No. 1 or No. 32 in qualifying as long as you make match-play."
Anderson wasn't surprised with his under-par round.
"I thought I had a 71 in me," he said. "It's all in the green. If you can roll in a few putts and get up and down when you miss the green you can score well on this course."
Anderson didn't make the championship field in 2008 and last year he lost in the quarterfinals. Monday he played very well, however, carding birdies on the second, third, eighth, 15th and 16th holes. Those birdies were partially offset with bogeys on 1, 6, 14 and 18.
"I'm happy with the 71 but (today) I hope to hit the driver a little better and give myself more birdie chances."
Barring the unforeseen, Anderson should make today's cut to the low 32. Also in prime position is Matthew who is making the jump from the Junior Division to the Men's Division.
Matthew's resume includes two Junior titles and a Junior runner-up within the past three seasons. At 17 years of age he could still play in the Junior Division but Matthew decided that the time had come to test his talents against the Men's Division golfers.
"I wanted to move up," Matthew said. "There is a little more challenge and I thought it would be more fun to have two days of qualifying."
Matthew was happy with his 74 but his goal was to shoot under par.
"That didn't happen but I still want to be among the top seeds," Matthew said.
Krigbaum has played in the tournament for about 10 years and looks forward to his return trips home for the Birchmont.
"I grew up watching the Birchmont and as soon as I was old enough I played in it," Krigbaum said.
His top individual finish was a semifinal loss to eventual champion Rick Passolt in 2005.
Monday Krigbaum shot 34-40-74 despite a strong wind coming off Lake Bemidji.
"You get a different look and different shots when the wind blows like it did on Monday," Krigbaum said. "I was fighting the wind a little on the back side but you have to be satisfied with anything around par."
Krigbaum also had a special ally helping him maneuver through Monday's round.
"Johnny Larson (the 2007 Men's Championship winner) was my caddie," Krigbaum said. "He has to be at a wedding this weekend so he can't play in the Birchmont. Johnny's not a bad guy to have on your bag."
Krigbaum's card included a chip-in birdie on No. 2 and another birdie on No. 9. The front side included a bogey on No. 3 and he also carded bogeys on 11, 12, 16 and 18.
"I was happy with the 74 because I am in position to be among the low 32 after two days," Krigbaum said. "You can't win the tournament on the first one or two days. The goal is to put yourself into a position to make the cut and I did that Monday."
Today's Men's Championship qualifiers will begin their second rounds between 12:48 p.m. and 2 p.m.