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BIRCHMONT: Fargo's Carlson outlasts future BSU golfer Oster

Bill Carlson of Fargo hits an approach shot during Saturday’s Men’s Championship final. Carlson, a junior at North Dakota State, defeated A.J. Oster 1-up to win the men’s title. Matthew McLaughlin | Special To the Pioneer1 / 2
A.J. Oster of Andover surveys a putt during his championship match against Bill Carlson. Carlson beat Oster 1-up to win the title. Oster will be golfing for the Bemidji State team this fall. MATT MCLAUGHLIN | SPECIAL TO THE PIONEER2 / 2

BEMIDJI -- By the time he won the 2013 Birchmont Men's Championship final, Bill Carlson was exhausted.

The Fargo native and North Dakota State junior golfer defeated Andover resident and future Bemidji State golfer A.J. Oster 1-up to claim his first-ever Birchmont title Saturday afternoon at Bemidji Town and Country Club.

"I felt like I was under stress for 10 hours today," Carlson said. "It will be nice to sit down."

Carlson couldn't do that until the dramatic final hole. With Carlson 1-up, Oster hit the green on his second shot just 12 inches from the pin while Carlson overshot the green and had to settle for par.

"I hit my driver really good on that first shot then hit two really bad ones," Carlson said. "The last putt I made was a lot better."

It ended up being the championship-winner, but not before Oster missed the putt that would have sent the match to overtime.

The strong winds coming off Lake Bemidji made putting difficult all day, but No. 18 -- right along the lake -- was particularly troublesome.

"Yeah, that was rough," Oster said. "I just couldn't make a putt today. I didn't putt well all week, really."

The two needed to win intense semifinal rounds to reach the final.

Oster defeated Jeff Peltier of Bemidji 3 and 1 earlier Saturday morning to reach the final.

Carlson needed 19 holes in a sudden-death overtime semifinal round, besting Zach Israelson of Staples 1-up.

So during the final round that afternoon, it was understandable that both golfers had some trouble sinking their putts to put the match away.

"They sped up the greens and made them a lot quicker," Carlson said. "The wind made a lot of difference on those downhill putts, so it was hard to keep them below the hole."

Oster agreed.

"I think we both had trouble reading putts today," Oster said. "Their greens didn't come back all the way so the grass was moving in a different directions. It's hard to judge downhillers because they're fast. They look like they move but they don't.

"Its a mental game," he continued. "You have to get yourself to hit them straight but you can't."

The two golfers were even for most of the way. Neither led by more than a hole.

Oster went 1-up on hole No. 2 but Carlson evened the score on No. 5. The two went back and forth until No. 11 when Oster pulled even.

The score stayed that way until No. 15, when Oster hit a ball into the reeds on his second shot while Carlson placed the ball close to the pin and birdied the par-5 hole.

"That hurt me," Oster said. "I knew he was going to two-putt so I had to get up and down."

"There were reeds right behind ball, so I couldn't get good contact with it. I had to give it a whirl but it was going to be tough."

Oster ended up bogeying the hole and giving Carlson the 1-up lead with three holes to play.

"I thought I played well on 16, 17 and 18," Oster said. "I just didn't make a putt. That was rough."

On 16 and 17 both golfers shot par, which set up the dramatic finish.

Carlson, who won the Junior Championship in 2008, was glad to get it over with and finally taste victory in the Men's Championship division.

"I haven't really done that much (in the men's division)," he said. "This is the first year I've played well.

"There was a lot of pressure on me this time around. It's the championship match so you put a lot of pressure on yourself. There's a lot of people watching. So I was nervous. but I was able to keep myself calm enough to win."

Carlson said he plans on returning next year to defend his title.

Oster will also likely return next year for the Birchmont. But he'll also be a mainstay at the Bemidji Town and Country Club -- he'll be joining the Bemidji State golf team this fall.

"It was great to have all these BSU people around here," he said. "They were all cheering me on in the finals, that was nice. It was a lot of fun.

"I love this course, too. It suits well for my game. I just have to figure out the greens a little more and I should be able to score real well."

Jack Hittinger

Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.

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