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Birchmont juniors: Matthew wins second title in three years

Sam Matthew of Roseville watches intently as an iron shot on No. 14 heads toward the green in Saturday's junior final against Kevin Larson of Bemidji. Matthew posted a 6-and-4 victory. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

This is getting to be old hat for Sam Matthew.

The junior-to-be at Roseville High School captured his second Birchmont junior title in three years, winning the division crown with a 6-and-4 win over Bemidji's Kevin Larson Saturday.

Last year, Matthew advanced to the final before falling to Bill Carlson. It seems getting to the Birchmont final is a given for the perpetually smiling Matthew.

"I like it up here - a lot," he said. "I'm not a big hitter and where the juniors play the course from it's not all that long. Plus, I just like being here. Everything about it is great."

After taking medalist honors with a solid 4-over 76, Matthew opened match play with a big 6-and-5 win over James Arnason of Grand Forks. He then was involved in the match of the week in the division, taking on Bemidji's Trey Dale.

"I was down three with six to go," said Matthew. "I got it back to even after the 17th hole and then won the match with a par on 18. It was a great match."

That set up the final against Larson, who made the final pairing after defeating Kaleb Hanson of Laporte 1-up and Bemidji's Rylee Curb 3 and 2.

But the final belonged to Matthew. He said he concentrated on playing solid golf tee to green and not taking any unnecessary chances. "I ended up hitting 13 of 14 greens," he said. "I was hitting the ball pretty well."

Matthew never trailed in the match Saturday. He won the first hole with a par and the lead held up as the players halved the next four holes with par. Another par on the sixth hole gave Matthew a 2-up advantage and yet another on eight put him ahead 3 up.

Larson came back with a birdie 4 on No. 9 to give Matthew a 2-up lead at the turn.

Matthew put his head down and kept playing solid golf. Another par on 10 gave him a 3-up lead. The players halved No. 11 with par. Matthew then closed out the match with pars on 12, 13 and 14 to close it out.

"There weren't a lot of birdies on the card, but sometimes in match play pars do the job," Matthew said. "That's what happened for me today."

While Matthew will be eligible to play in the Birchmont junior division again next year, he said he may make the move to the men's championship division.

"The course is a lot longer from where the men's champs play it," he said. "That would be the biggest difference for me. But maybe it's the time to make the move - we'll see."

Without a doubt there are more than a few Birchmont juniors who wouldn't mind seeing Matthew make that move.