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Leintz claims Junior Championship medalist honor

Elliott Leinen of Bemidji rips his tee shot on No. 10 during Monday's Junior Championship qualifying. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI - Aaron Leintz of Bagley is familiar with the Bemidji Town & Country Club layout because of his previous Birchmont and PGA Junior tournament experiences.

Monday in the opening round of qualifying in the Junior Championship division, Leintz put that experience to good use as he carded the division's medalist score of 37-34-71.

"This ties my best round ever at Bemidji," Leintz, who will be a senior at Bagley High School this fall, said. "I really like this course. I like the greens and the entire course is in very good shape."

Leintz was the lone Junior golfer to shoot under par on the 36-36-72 BTCC layout. His closest rival was Elliot Leinen of Bemidji who finished at 74.

The pair will take the top two spots in the match-play portion of the Junior tournament which begins Wednesday. Leintz will open in the upper bracket against Zach Borgen of St. Michael who won a playoff for the final spot in match playafter shooting 98 Monday.

In Wednesday's highlight match of the lower bracket Leinen will face Austin Jensen of Grand Forks who qualified with a 95.

Wednesday's other upper-bracket pairings see Barrett Eickhoff of Grand Forks (86) meeting Gavin Loscheider of Grand Forks (86), Matthew Gregg of Bemidji (81) facing Andrew Thompson of Grand Forks (93) and Doug Larson of Crookston (83) squaring off against Reed Bohm of St. Hilaire (93).

In addition to the Leinen-Jensen matchup the lower bracket will see Sam Starkey of Bemidji (85) meeting Grant Anderson of Edina (87), Alex Barrett (81) of Bemidji facing Chris Washington of Bemidji (94) and Morgan Williams of Bemidji tangling with Matt Borgen of St. Michael.

Leintz had an adventuresome round Monday as his card included six bogeys, five birdies and an eagle. The latter came on No. 15 when he drilled a 3-wood off the tee to the middle of the fairway, found the green with a 5-iron and sank a 25-footer.

On the front side he birdied No. 1 and No. 7 and the card on the back-nine included birdies on 10, 13 and 16.

"The eagle on No. 15 was the highlight of the round, that's for sure," Leintz said. "I felt that I didn't need to hit driver off the tee and I put the 3-wood down the middle. One of the things I enjoy about this course is that you don't need to hit driver on every hole.

"There are rewards on this course for hitting it in the middle rather than just hitting it super long," Leintz continued. "I missed only two fairways all day and both of those misses cost me. But, for the most part, my game was where I want it to be."

Leintz' game has taken him to the Minnesota Class AA state high school meet the past two years and this spring the Section 8-2A individual champion finished 33rd at the state meet at The Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan.

"I thought I could be the Junior medalist and I think I can win this tournament," Leintz, who lost to eventual Junior champion Trey Dale in last year's semifinals, said. "Last year I learned not to play against my opponent in match play. I learned that it is better just to play yourself. If I just play my game as well as I can and not worry about what my opponent is doing I'll be fine."

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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