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Birchmont super seniors: Barnes sheds runnerup reputation

Bryant Barnes hits a tee shot in his match against Rick Curb for the super senior championship Saturday. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

There are some names that have become synonymous with the Birchmont.

Bryant Barnes is one of them.

Guess that's what happens when a golfer plays in nearly every Birchmont tournament over the last 59 years.

Barnes, of Shawnee Mission, Kan., continued his decades-long fine play in the Birchmont Saturday, defeating Bemidji's Rick Curb 2-up to win the super senior division crown.

"I played my first Birchmont when I was 12-years-old," Barnes said after Saturday's final. "There wasn't any junior division at that time, but a lot of flights instead. My first match was against Dr. Gail from Grand Forks. He told my dad he would quit the game if he got beat by a 12-year-old kid. Well, I won and from what I remember, he quit."

Saturday's championship was special for Barnes. "I've been the runnerup a lot around here," Barnes said with a smile. "The best I ever did was the semifinals of the men's championship (when a kid named John McRae was caddying for him), but I was runnerup in seniors two or three times. Last year, Joe Mayer beat me in the super senior final and I was second again. I guess it was my turn this time."

Barnes said he doesn't play in tournaments much any more, usually just the Birchmont. He does play the game nine or 10 times a month at home, however.

Barnes had a solid round in qualifying, ending with an 82. It could have been better, though. "I had a nine on the 10th hole," he said with a laugh. "I actually played well this whole tournament, for me. I only had three or four bad holes."

Barnes opened match play with a big 8-and-7 win over Rodger Davis of Bemidji and followed up with a 4-and-3 win over Murray Williamson of Eden Prairie. He advanced to the final with a 5-and-4 win over Del Gangelhoff of Cass Lake.

Things didn't start well for Barnes, who bogeyed the first hole to fall behind early. However, he evened the match when he made a 30-footer for birdie on No. 2.

The players halved the third hole and Barnes went 1 up on No. 4, this time making a 40-foot bomb for birdie.

The players halved the next four holes before Curb evened the match with a par on 9.

Pars from both led to halves on the first three holes of the back nine. Curb then took the lead with a par on 13. Barnes returned the favor and evened the match with a par on 14. Another par from Barnes on 15 gave him a 1-up lead. He maintained the lead when he made a four-footer for par on 16.

That led to the decisive 17th hole. Curb hit his drive to the trees right of the fairway, chipped out and put his third shot in a greenside bunker. Barnes hit the green in regulation and rolled a good lag putt to four feet. That was the match as Curb conceded.

"It was a fun match," Barnes said. "The competition was good and I got the opportunity to meet some very nice people.

"The golf course was in great shape - the best I've seen it for the tournament in a while. It was a very good week all the way around - like usual."

And that really means something, coming from a player and person like Barnes.