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Larson hangs on to top Palmiscno and advance to Birchmont semifinals

Johnny Larson of Springfield crouches to line up a putt during Friday's Men's Championship quarterfinals. Larson defeated Toby Palmiscno 1 up. Brian matthews | Bemidji Pioneer1 / 2
Collin Lervick of Chanhassen chips onto the green on the second hole at the Bemidji Town and Country Club. Lervick went on to defeat Luke Sheetz 6 and 5. Brian matthews | Bemidji Pioneer2 / 2

BEMIDJI - Johnny Larson of Springfield is accustomed to winning matches at the Birchmont. His resume includes a pair of Men's Championship titles, the second coming last summer.

Some of his battles were one-sided and some required extra holes to determine a winner.

Friday's match against Toby Palmiscno of Bemidji appeared to be one of those extra-hole affairs after Larson bounced his tee shot on No. 18 off a tree guarding the left side of the fairway.

His ball bounced back onto the short grass but 250 yards out. It took Larson four more shots to find the green while Palmiscno, who needed to win No. 18 to extend the match, was 50 feet above the hole after two shots.

"The only reason I played that hole out was because Toby was above the hole," Larson said.

In the end, Larson's decision not to concede the hole was the right thing to do. Palmiscno was short on his first putt and three feet long on his second. And when his third putt circled the cup, Larson was able to drain his putt to halve the hole and win the match 1 up.

"You never want to win a match like this," Larson said of Palmiscno's four-putt double bogey. "Golf can be a humbling game sometimes."

The unexpected ending vaulted Larson into today's semifinals and an 8:45 a.m. battle with the 2009 champion Tom Jenkins of Plymouth. In Friday's quarterfinal Jenkins dominated Duane Wages of Grand Forks 6 and 5.

Today's other semifinal matches this year's medalist, Josh Bergrud of Grand Forks, against Collin Lervick of Chanhassen. Bergrud took advantage of a bogey by Chris Curb of Bemidji on No. 18 to win the match 1 up.

Lervick had an easier time advancing as he posted a 6-5 win over Luke Sheetz of Grand Rapids.

A birdie on No. 9 capped a front nine that saw Larson post a 2 up lead. Another birdie on No. 12 increased the advantage to 3 up and, after the golfers halved No. 13 and No. 14 with pars, it appeared that Larson was on his way to a victory.

The tide turned on No. 15, however, when Larson shanked his second shot and could do no better than a double bogey.

"That shank was the first bad shot of the day," Larson said.

With new life Palmiscno continued his comeback with an impressive birdie on No. 16 that won the hole and cut Larson's lead to 1 up.

Both golfers carded 4s on No. 17 to set the stage for the dramatic 18th.

"I played as well as I could for 16 of the 18 holes and I'm moving on," Larson said. "My plan Saturday is to just play golf, make some birdies and have fun."

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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