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MONTE DRAPER | BEMIDJI PIONEER Defending champion Lee Hetletved (above) will face Derek Hasselberg in today's Executive title match.

Hetletved, Hasselberg reach championship match

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BEMIDJI -- Lee Hetletved of Grand Forks was happy to get off the course Friday. Rain, cold and a strong north wind had battered Hetletved and his Executive Championship semifinal opponent, Derrick Johnson of Grand Forks, all day and both men had their games impacted by the weather.

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"We were just grinding out our rounds," Hetletved, the defending Executive champion, said. "I was not at my best and neither was Derrick. "It looked like neither one of us wanted the win."

For much of the match Johnson had the better of the play and he led 2-up after 10 holes. Hetletved, however, started his comeback by winning No. 11 and victories at No. 13 and No. 15 provided a 1-up lead.

A key turn of events occurred on No. 16 after Hetletved's drive found the woods flanking the left fairway.

The defending champion found and was able to identify his ball and had enough of an opening for a punch-out to the fairway. His third shot stopped on the green about five feet short of the pin and Hetletved converted the putt to save his par and halve the hole.

"That was the second day in a row that I found those woods and made par," Hetletved said.

The halve on No. 16 preserved Hetletved's 1-up cushion and pars down the stretch were enough to give him a 1-up victory.

Also surviving Friday's Executive semifinals was Derek Hasselberg of Princeton who eliminated Executive medalist Aaron Burnside of Detroit Lakes 4 and 3. Hasselberg and Hetletved will battle at 10:40 a.m. today for the division crown.

"Friday was a case of not playing my best but still winning," Hetletved said. "I don't think being the defending champion put a target on my back because everybody has seen me play well one day and poorly the next day. I wish I knew who will show up on Saturday."

Hasselberg's Birchmont week has been more predictable. He qualified at 153, shot 1-under-par on Thursday and was 1-over-par when he closed Burnside on Friday.

"I played well Thursday and Friday," Hasselberg, who is making his first appearance in the Executive division after 13 years of playing in the Men's Championship ranks, said. "I'm excited to be here."

Hasselberg has had success in the Men's division and among his highlights was a loss to eventual champion David Schultz in the 2001 semifinals.

"I'm playing well but my game is not where I would like it to be to play in the Men's Championship," Hasselberg said. "In Men's Championship you have to make five or six birdies a round and be lucky to win. I might win a match or two in the Men's but I won't make enough birdies to make it too far.

"The golfers in the Executives also are more my age bracket and its fun to play with them," Hasselberg continued. The guys are serious about the game but they are more friendly and social and you can enjoy your round better than in the Men's."

Hasselberg's plan today is to play his game and enjoy playing on Saturday.

"I have the opportunity to play on the final day and I love it," he said. "I came here to play golf on Saturday, whether it's in the Championship, the President's or the Vice-President's flight. And I'm excited to still be playing."

Hetletved and Hasselberg will hit the first tee at 10:40 a.m.

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Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

(218) 333-9200
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