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Birchmont men's championship field narrowed to 16

Chris Curb chips onto the No. 6 green Wednesday during his opening match-play battle against Brad Johnson. Curb posted a 6-5 victory. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Paul Daman plans to incorporate a slight change in his routine when he prepares for today's second-round match in the Birchmont Men's Championship Division.

"I'm going to get my kids to day care sooner so I have more time to warm-up for my match," Daman said. "That's the only change that I'm planning."

Daman, a Bemidji native, is the senior citizen of the Men's Championship field and today the 43-year-old Birchmont veteran will face the youngest surviving golfer, Sam Matthew of Roseville.

Daman advanced to today's round by stopping Tyler Syvertson of Bemidji 2-1. Matthew eliminated Nick Forsberg of Staples 4-3.

Also posting first-round victories Wednesday in the Men's Championship upper bracket were defending champion Tom Jenkins of Plymouth, Chris Curb of Bemidji, Clint Cornell of Grand Rapids, Jake Sanders of Crookston, Eric Lilleboe of Okemos, Mich. and Matt Norby of Grand Forks.

Jenkins blitzed Ben Cahill of Grand Rapids 6-5 while Curb duplicated that score against Brad Johnson of LeSueur.

Cornell ousted Josh Bergrud of Grand Forks 4-3 and Sanders was a 4-3 victor over Chad Skarperud of Fargo.

Lilleboe bounced Ben Moen of Bemidji 8-7 and Norby nipped Toby Palmiscno of Bemidji 2-1.

In the lower bracket Tim Skarperud of Grand Forks eliminated Brett Severson of Hawley 3-2, Kevin Krigbaum of Brooklyn Park stopped Garrett Nelson of Baudette 2-1, Adam McArthur of Detroit Lakes tipped Thomas Strandemo of Fargo 2-1, Mike Levitt of Bemidji downed Brad Anderson of Staples 2-1, Matt Skarperud of Scottsdale, Ariz. slapped Ekren Miller of Orlando, Fla. 3-2, Sam Carr of Roseau was a 2-up winner over Duane Wages Jr., Jim Foss of Roseau bounced Jim Clark of Minnetonka 4-3 and Scott Messmer of Houston, Texas ousted Tim Flechtner of Fargo 5-3.

If experience is an ally Daman will have an edge today against Matthew. Daman began his Birchmont career as a caddy for Jody Gumlia 32 years ago and his playing days at the Birchmont began when he was 15 years old.

He started his playing career in the Junior Division but advanced to Men's Championship at 18. And, except for one year, Daman has been in the Men's Championship ever since. His top finishes have been runner-up placings in 1998 to Steve Erickson and 2003 to Rick Passolt.

"I played in the Executive Division one year and lost in the semifinals," Daman said. "After that year I realized that I needed to be in the Men's Championship. I feel that if I play my best golf I can still win in that division. And I would hate to win a different division when I still feel that I could challenge in the Men's."

Today's match against Matthew will present a different type of challenge.

"Sam is a great player and the one thing I can't be worried about is how far the younger guys hit the ball," Daman said. "My job is to stay in the moment and not worry about what my opponent is doing.

"Experience has nothing to do with having an edge over the other guy," Daman added. "Experience is a factor in how you control your emotions. Experience won't help me beat Sam but it will help me stay within my own boundaries."

Despite his youth Matthew also is an experienced Birchmonter. This year is his first foray into the Men's Championship waters but he does have a pair of Junior Division titles and a runner-up finish on his resume.

When today's match starts at 9:18 a.m. Daman will be hoping that Matthew plays well.

"Golf is so humbling and I've been humbled so much in this tournament," Daman said. "Half the guys are going to lose every day and when I start my round I don't worry about winning or losing. I want to play well and I want my opponent to play well.

"I desperately would like to win the Birchmont but on the flip side is that I want to win it while playing my best," Daman continued. "What I like about being in the Birchmont is that, win or lose, everybody is gracious. The golfers know how to react when they win and how to react when they lose."

Jenkins has the division's longest current winning streak as he is the defending champion. He added to that streak Tuesday by bouncing Ben Cahill 6-5.

"The main difference in being the defending champion is that you can relax on Monday and Tuesday instead of grinding it out for six straight days," Jenkins said.

In today's second round Jenkins will battle Chris Curb and he hopes that he can match Monday's level of play.

Jenkins played steady golf while Cahill struggled. He was 2-under-par when the match ended.

Another goal this week is to have fun.

"Before last year I hadn't been back to the Birchmont for four years and I had forgotten how much fun playing in the tournament is," Jenkins said.

"I would love to defend my title but no matter what happens I'm going to have fun."

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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