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GOLF: Hinners, Fiechtner share Executive medalist score after day two at Birchmont

Men’s Executive player Scott Hinners chips onto the No. 11 green during Tuesday’s second round of Birchmont qualifying at the Bemidji Town and Country Club. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer1 / 4
Heather Erholtz chips onto the No. 11 green Tuesday during the Women’s Championship at the Birchmont. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer2 / 4
Trey Dale tees off on No. 2 during Tuesday’s second round of Birchmont qualifying at the Bemidji Town and Country Club. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer3 / 4
Jeff Wiltse drives off the No. 9 tee box during Tuesday’s second round of Birchmont qualifying at the Bemidji Town and Country Club. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer4 / 4

BEMIDJI — Scott Hinners of Bemidji has spent as much time as he could this summer at the Bemidji Town and Country Club. But not all of it has been designed to perfect his game.

“My nights have been spent at the putting green with my son (Dylan),” Hinners said. “The way he has the itch to golf, I’d just as soon watch him play as play myself. But, I guess the time at the putting green has paid off.”

Putting has been among Hinners’ strengths the past two days and the ability to find the cup with a minimal amount of putts enabled the veteran Birchmonter to shoot 74-76-150 during the 36 holes of the Executive Championship qualifying. Hinners finished tied with Tim Fiechtner of Fargo for the Executive medalist honor and will be the second seed when the match-play portion of the Birchmont begins today.

A year ago Fiechtner played in the Men’s Championship, missing the cut with a 160 in the qualification rounds and losing in the second round of the President’s flight.

Hinners, who reached the Executive final in 2012 where he lost to Lee Hetletved, took a similar path last summer, missing the Executive cut and losing his second match in the Chairman’s division.

This year, however, both golfers appear to be at the top of their game.

“Monday’s round was my low of the summer and Tuesday’s was my second lowest,” Hinners said. “On Monday I started very well, was 2-under-par at the turn and was very consistent. I also was able to play with Bob Brink in a group of veteran Birchmont golfers and I watched how they focused on each shot. I was able to learn how they approached the mental part of the game.”

Despite shooting 74 on Monday, Hinners took nothing for granted when he returned to the Bemidji Town and Country Club for Tuesday’s qualification round.

“My goal was to shoot 75 because I figured the cut would be in the mid to high 150s and I wanted to give myself some room,” he said. “I shot 76 and I was able to keep the ball in play. I also didn’t miss a putt that I needed to make.”

Sitting second in the match play seedings, Hinners is in position to make another run at the Executive title.

“Anything can happen in match play but this year I’m at the top end of the field and I’m usually in the middle or bottom of the qualifying. I feel that I’m in a good position and I’m feeling confident. But you can’t count anyone out.”

Even though Hetletved, the two-time defending champion had to miss this year’s tournament, the road to the Executive championship will be treacherous for all of the combatants. The field includes the men Hetletved defeated in the past two finals (Hinners and last year’s runner-up Derek Hasselberg of Princeton), plus 2011 champion Joe Burgess of Woodbury and Birchmont 2013 qualifiers Brad McEnroe of Minneapolis, Dale Finck of Bertha, Tim Gruidl of Edina, Derrick Johnson of Grand Forks, Russ Moen of Bemidji and Miles Schacher of Hawley.

In today’s opening round of match play Fiechtner will take on Moen and Hinners will face Johnson. The Executives will hit the course at 12:55 p.m.

Men’s Championship

Bob Brink of Bemidji continued his hot streak at the Birchmont as he followed Monday’s 69 with a 68 on Tuesday. His 36-hole score of 137 was the best among the Men’s Championship qualifiers and the 2004 Birchmont champion enjoyed a five-shot lead over his nearest pursuer in the chase for medalist honors.

Andrew Israelson of Staples was second with rounds of 70-72-142 while Trey Dale of Bemidji was a shot back at 73-70-143.

The Men’s Championship match play field was set after Tuesday’s action and a handful of Bemidji golfers made the elimination rounds.

In addition to Brink and Dale, the Bemidji connection includes Toby Palmiscno (78-69-147), Paul Daman (74-75-149) and last year’s semifinalist Jeff Peltier (77-75-152).

Among the other notables in the field of 32 are defending champion Bill Carlson of Fargo who did not have to qualify, 2009 champion Tom Jenkins of Champlin (76-68-144), Zach Israelson of Staples (73-72-145), Chad Skarperud of Fargo (73-72-145), the 2013 runner-up AJ Oster of Ham Lake (72-75-147), Tim Skarperud of Grand Forks (73-74-147), Matt Skarperud of Omaha (71-78-149) plus Johnny Larson of Clements who claimed the crown in 2007 and 2011 (73-77-150).

The Men’s Championship contenders will begin their match play round at 8:10 a.m. today.

Senior Championship

For the second straight summer Jeff Wiltse of Bemidji owns part of the Senior medalist prize. Last year he switched to the Senior Championship division after competing in the Men’s Championship. During the qualifying rounds Wiltse shot 148, earned the top seed and advanced to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Daniel Gilman of Centennial, Colo.

On Monday Wiltse picked up where he left off in 2013, shooting a 71 in the opening 18 holes of qualifying. On Tuesday he continued his stellar play, carding a 75 and finishing the 36-hole qualification ordeal at 146.

Sharing that score with Wiltse is Jeff Tweeton of Perham who followed Monday’s 79 with a sizzling 67.

Gilman is back to defend his title. Tweeton will be the No. 2 seed and Wiltse will be seeded third.

Claiming the fourth spot is Marc Redman of Bloomington who had a 150 after 36 holes. Ray Sauer of St. Cloud is fifth with 151 and Brad Castle of Pinewood is sixth with 156.

Don Dale of Bemidji and Curt Howard of Sapulpa, Okla. each finished at 157 and Dave Fox of Sanborn completed the top 10 at 158.

The match play portion of the Senior Championship begins at 12:15 p.m. and Gilman drew Kirk Werlein of Spring Hill, Kan. in his first battle. Tweeton will square off against Jack Larson of Clements while Wiltse will meet Derrik Clay of San Antonio.

Women’s Championship

Katie Sheetz of Grand Rapids is back to defend her 2013 crown and she is one of three women in the field of 13 who will have a bye in today’s first round of match play. Also having today off are Emily Israelson of Staples who qualified Tuesday with a 77 and Haley Tollette of Andover who shot 79 Tuesday.

Also carding a 79 was Jenna Palmiscno of Bemidji who lost to Sheetz in the 2013 final. Palmiscno will play Hannah Erickson of St. Cloud in today’s 7:50 a.m. action. Erickson shot 88 in Tuesday’s round.

The other Bemidji golfer in the Women’s field is Morgan Miller who shot 83 Tuesday and will tangle with Missy Tabery of Wadena who won the title in 2012.

Master’s Championship

Joe Mayer, who has won the past two titles, returns this year and will begin his match play at 1:35 p.m. Mayer is one of seven match play Masters participants who live at least part-time in Bemidji. The others include Ron Olson, Jim Twetten, Jim Kennelly, Ed LeBeau, Paul Welle and Rick Curb.

Jim Archer captured the Master’s medalist crown Tuesday with a round of 74. Olson finished at 76 and Richard Johnston of Goodyear, Ariz., Jack Seiberlich of Rush City and Twetten all shot 78.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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