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Birchmont: Krigbaum advances to quarterfinals with help from a hole-in-one

Kevin Krigbaum chips to the No. 10 green during men's championship play Thursday at The Birchmont. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Every serious golfer dreams of watching the tee shot majestically ascend into the heavens, gently drop to the green and find its way to the hole for an ace.

Thursday in the second round of the Men's Championship Division match-play tournament Kevin Krigbaum of Brooklyn Park had his dream come true.


Standing at the No. 11 tee, Krigbaum let fly with his 5-iron.

"I hit a good shot," Krigbaum said. "I saw the ball go into the air, bounce and roll toward the hole. I was hoping that it would end up close enough to the cup to be a 'gimmie' and that I wouldn't have to putt."

After his fellow Birchmonters hit their tee shots the group walked toward the green.

"When I was 30 yards away I looked for my ball and I didn't see it," Krigbaum said. "One of the guys in the group said he thought he saw it roll into the cup. Then the TV guy said that was where we should look. And there it was.

"This is my first ace and wouldn't you know it, I never saw the ball go into the hole," Krigbaum added.

With the help of that shot Krigbaum advanced to the Birchmont quarterfinals as he slipped past Tim Skarperud of Grand Forks 2-1. Skarperud was this year's medalist and last summer's runner-up.

The reward for Thursday's triumph is a 9:20 a.m. match against Mike Levitt of Bemidji who tripped Adam McArthur of Detroit Lakes 2-1.

Today's other lower-bracket battle pits Matt Skarperud of Scottsdale, Ariz. against Scott Mesmer of Houston, Texas. Matt Skarperud upended Sam Carr of Roseau 3-2 while Messmer claimed the final hole to nip Jim Foss of Roseau 1-up.

In the upper bracket, defending champion Tom Jenkins of Plymouth overcame Chris Curb of Bemidji 1-up, Sam Matthew of Roseville stopped Paul Daman of Bemidji 2-1, Clint Cornell of Grand Rapids nipped Jake Sanders of Crookston 1-up and Eric Lilleboe of Okemos, Mich. bounced Matt Norby of Grand Forks 8-6.

Today's pairings see Jenkins facing Matthew and Cornell meeting Lilleboe.

Krigbaum played very well and finished 4-under-par for his 17 holes. In addition to the ace on No. 11 Krigbaum's card featured an eagle on No. 9 and birdies on 10 and 12.

"During that four-hole stretch I was 6-under-par," Krigbaum said. "But I needed every one of those holes because Tim won 14 and 15 and my lead was only 1-up."

A 'gimmie' birdie on No. 16 upped Krigbaum's advantage to 2-up and when both men bogeyed No. 17, the match was over.

"All of the pressure was on Tim because I wasn't supposed to win," Krigbaum said. "Tim didn't play as well as I've seen him play in the past and it was a good day for me to draw him."

Tim was one of three Skarperud brothers who qualified for the Men's Championship match-play but two days into the competition only one remains. Oldest brother Chad lost Wednesday but middle brother Matt has posted a pair of wins.

"The Birchmont has turned into a family affair," Matt said. "It's an annual event for all of us."

The Skarperuds have been coming to the Birchmont since the mid-1980s. Their introduction to Bemidji was courtesy of grandfather Harvey Hanson who had a lake home on Lavinia Road.

"We played in the Birchmont from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s and then we missed a few years," Matt said. "About five years ago we came back and now we plan to return every year."

Matt did the family proud Thursday as he carded only one bogey while registering three birdies on way to his victory.

"In match-play it is important to keep the ball in play and not make many mistakes," Matt said. "This is a great tournament. Rick Grand and his associates do a great job and I consider the Birchmont my major tournament of the year.

"My goal this week is to better by brother's performance of last year by one match," Matt said, referring to Tim's runner-up finish in 2009.

Thursday's action also saw Matthew, the youngest player in the Men's field, nip Daman, the elder statesmen of the Men's Division.

Matthew, 17, won two of the last three Junior titles and was second in the division in 2008. This is his first year moving up to the Men's Championship field.

"What I've learned is that everybody is very good," Matthew said. "It takes a lot of skill to survive here. I'm glad I made the move up and I'm very proud of what I've accomplished. I'm also excited to be here. This is a lot of fun."

Curb also was proud of his performance Thursday even though he lost to Jenkins.

"I'm not upset with the loss because I started out 3-down after three holes and I took Tom to the 18th," Curb, who graduated from Bemidji High School in 2007 and currently plays on the Bemidji State University golf team, said. "I thought I would be closed out sooner than the 18th hole."

Curb not only hung in, he gained ground on the defending Birchmont champion. After winning 12, 13 and 14, Curb had completed his comeback and the duo was even. Jenkins, however, regained a 1-up advantage with a birdie on No. 16 and the golfers halved the next two holes.

"I love playing in the Birchmont," said Curb who has played three years in Juniors and three years in the Men's Championship. "I've always wanted to play against Tom - just not in the second round."

"It definitely was a battle," Jenkins said. "I knew it would be. Chris has a great game and I needed to be at the top of my game. I was fortunate to make one shot today that was better than one of his."

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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