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Birchmont: Nelson fires five-under 67, takes qualifying medalist honors

Anne Fraser was the only player in the Women's Championship to break 80 during Wednesday's qualifying and took medalist honors with a four-over-par 76. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

A self-described glorified cartboy from Pine River walked away with medalist honors in The Birchmont men's championship Tuesday.

Jesse Nelson shot a five-under-par 67 Tuesday to finish with the low two-round qualifying score of 140. Nelson finished ahead of Tim Skarperud of Grand Forks, who took second place alone at 142 with the only other two-round score under par.

"I was putting very well today," Nelson said. "Generally when I play like this it's because of my putter and short game."

Nelson's key stretch on Tuesday was three straight birdies on the eighth, ninth and tenth holes.

Nelson is a two-handicap golfer and plays on a daily basis at Arnold Palmer's Deacon's Lodge golf course next to Breezy Point resort.

He works as a guest services employee at the resort course during the summer.

"I shake hands, take care of guests...I guess you could call me a glorified cartboy," Nelson said with a smile.

Nelson, a 2004 Pequot Lakes graduate, will return to Bemidji this fall to continue his junior year at Bemidji State University.

This is Nelson's first Birchmont and it will be the only tournament he will play in this summer.

"I just decided to take a week off from work and I heard this was a fun tournament to play in," Nelson said.

His college roommate, Josh Dale, recommended The Birchmont.

Nelson shot 73 during a tough opening qualifying round on Monday, but was not rattled coming into Tuesday's round. For the second straight day, the players battled wind and sporadic rain.

The forecast for Wednesday calls for unseasonably cool temperatures with a high near 68 degrees. There is a slight chance for showers and thunderstorms throughout the day.

Nelson is more concerned with battling the field than fighting weather conditions.

"I don't really mind the wind that much," Nelson said. "There are some tough, good players out there and I'm just hoping to have the same consistency and play well."

Nelson opens match play today as the top seed against Chad Skarperud.

Finishing behind Nelson and Skarperud was group of four players at even-par: 2007 men's champ Johnny Larson, three-time Vandersluis champ Tom Jenkins, Bemidji High School grad Chris Curb and Devin Hexner of San Francisco, Calif.

The senior championship played some excellent golf in Tuesday's qualifying.

How good were the seniors? Try a scoring average of 77.8 across the field.

Jack Seiberlich, the defending champion, automatically earned the No. 1 seed in match play.

Earning co-medalist honors were Jim Kennelly of Bemidji and Pat Vincelli of Rosemount. Kennelly and Vincelli each shot one-under 71.

Kennelly is a Bemidji Town & Country Club member and plays regularly.

"I've played in this tournament many years, so for me a 71 is pretty good," Kennelly said. "It's the lowest I've ever posted in The Birchmont so I'm pretty pleased."

This year, Kennelly said he has shot as low as 73, 74 and 75 on his home course.

He said the key to dropping his score on Tuesday was staying out of trouble and success with his putter.

There were 10 scores in the senior championship under 80 Tuesday and Kennelly knows a challege lies ahead in match play.

"One day does not a tournament champion make," he said as he was constantly greeted with congratulations from the field.

Vincelli is playing in his first Birchmont after playing many Vandersluis tournaments, the annual Labor Day tournament at BTCC.

He's a veteran of the Pine to Palm tournament in Detroit Lakes and chose to play the Birchmont this year so his wife, Gayle, could play in the women's championship.

Around the scoreboard area, the senior field was impressed with Vincelli's performance and one commented that Vincelli made Tuesday's qualifying round look easy.

"My irons were really tight today and I hit a lot of greens - probably 15," Vincelli said. "There's a lot of good players out here and I know anyone can beat anyone, especially those that really know this course."

Anne Fraser of Lynn, Md. shot the low score of the 14-golfer Women's Championship division field.

Fraser checked into the clubhouse with a four-over-par round of 76 to beat 2006 champ Alyssa Williamson of Bemidji by five strokes.

North Dakota State sophomore golfer Rachel Roller and Sam Falk of Glenwood were six strokes back.

Fraser and Williamson will automatically advance through the first round with byes.

Todd Schaefer, who is going for his third straight executive crown, will open match play with the No. 1 seed as the defending champion.

Schaefer will open match play against Cory Pettit of Wadena.

Behind Schaefer in qualifying was Peter Bridston of St. Louis Park and Curt Howard of Sapulpa, Okla. Each shot a two-round qualifying score of 152.

Leading Super Senior qualifying was Gerry Douglas of Bemidji. He carded a seven-over-par 79 and was the only super senior score to break 80.

He is a four-time super senior champion, winning from 2003-06.

Three strokes back of Douglas was Bryant Barnes, who finished runner-up last season to Joe Mayer.