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Israelson edges Elliot for semifinal berth

MONTE DRAPER | BEMIDJI PIONEER Zach Israelson blasted out of the sand during Friday's Men's Championship victory over Jack Elliot.

BEMIDJI -- Zach Israelson comes from a golfing background and this year at the Birchmont the Staples resident is adding to the family's successful history.

Jack Elliot's 3-putt bogey on No. 18 gave Israelson new life and extended Friday's Men's Championship quarterfinal match to extra holes. And Israelson took full advantage of the opportunity as he capped a scramble par with a 10-foot putt on the first hole of overtime.

The par gave Israelson a 1-up victory and a berth in today's 8:15 a.m. semifinal against Bill Carlson of Fargo who edged Toby Palmiscno of Bemidji 2 and 1.

Today's other semifinal sees Jeff Peltier of Bemidji facing AJ Oster of Ham Lake. Peltier continued his memorable Birchmont Friday with a 4 and 3 win over Will Holmgren of Corcoran while Oster eliminated Tim Skarperud of Grand Forks 2-up.

Israelson was destined to play golf. His parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sister and cousins all know how to handle a golf club. Especially accomplished on the links is his dad, Bill Israelson, who won the Birchmont in 1973 and 1979 before turning professional where he experienced success on the various tours.

"I think I have some extra pressure because I'm Bill's kid," Zach said after Friday's win. "My dad was and is such a good player that I feel I need to be as good as I possibly can be, especially in Bemidji and in the Birchmont where he is very well known.

"But I don't mind the pressure and I wouldn't trade our golfing family for anything."

For the first nine holes of Friday's match Israelson, who is a junior at Savannah College in Atlanta and a member of the golf team, had things under control. He opened a 4-up lead after eight holes but Elliot sliced his deficit to 3-down at the turn with a par on No. 9.

"I started out not playing super well but I did birdie No. 4 and No. 5 and had that 4-up lead," Israelson said. "But Jack made a great charge on the back."

Elliot's charge began with a birdie on No. 12 and before Israelson knew what hit him Elliot owned a 1-up cushion after additional birdies on No. 13, No. 15 and No. 16.

"On the last couple of holes I just grinded it out and then Jack 3-putted No. 18," Israelson said. "And on the first extra hole I made par with a good up-and-down."

Nothing has come easily for Israelson this week. In his opener he edged his neighbor Brad Anderson of Staples 1-up. In Thursday's second round he needed 20 holes to slip past Ekren Miller of Bemidji and another overtime was required on Friday.

Despite the close matches Israelson stayed relaxed and on task.

"The golf course is my safe haven. I feel relaxed when I'm golfing," he said. "It's easy to be relaxed here because I get to play with my family and friends."

Today's semifinals will begin at 8:15 a.m. and the championship match will begin about 30 minutes after the semifinals.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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