GOLF: Wiltse, Gilman, Sauer, McEnroe reach Senior semifinals at Birchmont (photo gallery)
BEMiDJI — Experience can be a valuable ally during Birchmont week and all four of the semifinalists in the Senior Championship division know their way around a golf course.
When the Seniors return to the Bemidji Town and Country Club at 12:20 p.m. today, three of the four men will be making their second straight appearance in the Final Four. The lone newcomer to the quartet is Ray Sauer of St. Cloud, although Sauer is no stranger to the BT-CC as his resume can be traced to a Men’s Championship title in 1971.
In Thursday’s quarterfinals, three of the matches went to the final hole. Defending champ Daniel Gilman of Centennial, Colo. nipped Curt Howard of Sapulpa, Okla. 1-up, Sauer claimed No. 18 with a par to edge Marc Redman of Bloomington 1-up and John McEnroe of Woodbury nipped Jack Larson of Clements 1-up with a par on the last hole.
The lone match that ended early saw Jeff Wiltse of Bemidji stop Brad Castle of Pinewood 5 and 4.
Castle’s perspective of that match, however, featured no loser as he was elated just to be golfing again.
“After breaking my back five years ago in an ATV accident, I’m happy to be upright and swinging a club,” Castle said. “This year I’m finally recovered enough to play consecutive rounds and it feels great.”
After Thursday’s action Castle will drop into the consolation flights but no matter what happens the rest of the way, he has had a memorable return to competitive golf.
“During qualifying on Monday I had consecutive 2s on my card,” Castle, who played his high school golf in Bemidji and currently is the golf coach at Red Lake High School, said. “I birdied No. 14 with a 2 and on No. 15 I holed in from 190 yards with a 5-iron. No one saw the ball go in but after we searched for awhile we looked in the hole and there it was.
“I’ve never had a hole in one but now I can say that I’ve had a double-eagle.”
Not even a double-eagle on No. 15 would have saved Castle in Thursday’s match against Wiltse.
“There are no chinks in Jeff’s armour,” Castle said. “Jeff definitely deserved to win.”
Last year Wiltse reached the semifinals but saw his hopes for a title end when he fell to Gilman 3 and 2.
“I learned a lesson last year in the match and the lesson was that I didn’t want to face Dan again in the semifinals,” Wiltse said. “Qualifying as high as I did (he tied for first and was seeded third) was important because it put me in the other bracket.
“Playing deep into the Birchmont is a grind and at this stage in the tournament anyone can win any match,” Wiltse continued. “But as long as you are winning you don’t mind coming to the course each day. It’s actually fun to be in a position to play for something. Normally, when you play golf there isn’t this much on the line.”
Castle caught Wiltse while the veteran Birchmonter is on a hot streak. His 146 in qualifying was the low 36-hole total among the Senior golfers and he has won each of his two match play battles 5 and 4.
“I’m playing well,” Wiltse said. “I didn’t give Brad anything and that always is my goal. At this stage you want to make sure your opponent earns every hole.
“Friday’s plan will be the same — try to get something in the fairway each time. If you get off the tee you can be somewhat aggressive. But if you have to punch out and scramble to save par, you are in trouble. Constantly playing defensive golf on this course gets really old,” Wiltse added.
Wiltse will take on McEnroe in today’s semifinals while Gilman will tangle with Sauer. Castle will also be on the course, playing in the consolation round.
“Even though I lost to Jeff on Thursday, I’m going to consider it a win for me,” he said. “The Birchmont is about seeing everybody. It’s a family reunion for week and I’m happy to be part of the Birchmont family once again.”
Men’s Championship Last summer AJ Oster of Ham Lake took Bill Carlson of Fargo to the 18th hole before Carlson managed a 1-up victory in the final of the Men’s Championship division.
On Thursday the two staged a rematch but this time Oster reversed the result as he toppled Carlson 3 and 1 in the second round of match play.
Oster opened a 1-up lead at the turn and increased his advantage to 2-up with a birdie on No. 10. Carlson sliced his deficit to 1-down after winning No. 13 with a birdie but he could get no closer as Oster held an edge on the finishing holes.
Thursday’s other Men’s Championship results found Michael Strain of Motley tackle Johnny Larson of Springfield 3 and 2, Jim Foss of Roseau edge Paul Daman of Bemidji 1-up, Conner Bjugstad of San Antonio oust Duane Wages III 3 and 2, Drew Gumlia of Tustin, Calif. bump Bob Brink of Bemidji 1-up, Tom Jenkins of Plymouth advance with a 2 and 1 win over Adam VanRaden of Grand Forks, Toby Palmiscno of Bemidji tip Andrew Israelson of Staples 3 and 1 and Nick Forsberg of Staples thump Van Holmgren of Corcoran 2-up.
Gumlia didn’t lead in his match against Brink until the two shook hands on the 18th green. Brink had a 2-up cushion at the turn but Gumlia tied the match by winning No. 11 and No. 12 and the score remained deadlocked heading into No. 18.
Brink gave Gumlia an opening on the final hole when his approach sailed wide of the bunker guarding the right side. Brink could not save his up-and-down and when Gumlia’s birdie putt settled a foot from the hole, Brink conceded.
“Bob was throwing darts all day and the one time on No. 18 when he didn’t, I threw a dart,” Gumlia said.
Foss also posted a par on No. 18 to break a tie and defeat Daman while Palmiscno overcame Israelson by winning No. 15 with a birdie and No. 16 and No. 17 with pars.
Larson, who won the 2007 and 2011 Birchmont titles, ran into a buzzsaw as Strain was 4-under-par when their match ended on the 16th green. Strain owned a 1-up lead at the turn and increased his advantage to 3-up with a birdie on No. 15. After both men birdied No. 16, Strain had his victory.
In today’s quarterfinals Oster will battle Strain, Foss will take on Bjugstad, Gumlia will meet Jenkins and Palmiscno will face Forsberg.
The Men’s Championship contenders will begin play at noon.
Women’s Championship Today’s Birchmont schedule includes another rematch of a 2013 final as defending Women’s champ Katie Sheetz of Grand Rapids will take on Jenna Palmiscno of Bemidji in the semifinals.
A year ago Sheetz stopped Palmiscno 1-up to claim the crown. Today’s rematch will begin at 9:05 a.m.
Today’s other semifinal will see Emily Israelson of Staples battling Haley Tollette of Andover.
In Thursday’s action Sheetz edged Melissa Tabery of Wadena 2 and 1, Palmiscno bumped Hailey Abel of Arvilla, N.D. 5 and 4, Israelson eliminated Dani DelGreco of Grand Rapids 3 and 2 and Tollette blistered Laura Cahill of Grand Rapids 7 and 6.
Executive Championship Today’s semifinals begin at 8:45 a.m. and still in the hunt are James Clark of Plymouth, Brad Anderson of Staples, Scott Hinners of Bemidji and last year’s runner-up, Derek Hasselberg of Princeton.
Clark advanced with a 6 and 5 win over Russ Moen of Bemidji while Anderson won No. 18 to edge Ben Jurgens of Fergus Falls 1-up. In the lower bracket, Hinners bounced Dale Finck of Bertha 2 and 1 and Hasselberg rallied from a 2-down deficit with four holes to play to slip past Chad Brune of Hugo 1-up.
Today’s pairings match Clark against Anderson and Hinners against Hasselberg.
Masters Championship Joe Mayer of Bemidji is still on track for his third straight title as he downed Jeff Wallin of San Diego 5 and 4 in Thursday’s semifinals.
Joining him in today’s 1 p.m. semifinals are Jim Twetten of Bemidji, Jim Archer of Prairie Village, Kan. and Ron Olson of Bemidji.
In Thursday’s action Twetten dumped Jack Seiberlich of Rush City 4 and 3, Archer eliminated Glen Hasselberg of Staples 3 and 2 and Olson bounced Jim Kennelly of Bemidji 3 and 2.
Junior Championship Keaton Wolf of Grand Forks will take on Isaac Westlake of Crookston and Zach Markovich of Crookston will face Brady Wright of International Falls in today’s 2:15 p.m. semifinals.
Wolf eliminated Charles Eickhof of Crookston 7 and 5 in Thursday’s quarterfinals while Westlake tripped Eric Cann of International Falls 1-up.
The lower bracket results found Markovich edge Leo Spry of Walker 1-up and Wright escape Dane Anderson of Crookston 1-up in 20 holes.