Birchmont’s championship fields set after qualifying-round suspense
Plenty of hopefuls are in contention for championships at the Bemidji Town and Country Club.
BEMIDJI -- Qualifying play of the Birchmont Golf Tournament wrapped up on Tuesday, and plenty of hopefuls are in contention for championships at the Bemidji Town and Country Club.
Lucas Johnson of Moorhead fired an 8-under-par 64 on Tuesday to soar atop the men’s division leaderboard. He carded a two-round total of 134, good for 10 under par in qualifying. Litchfield’s Brandon Nelson was 9-under for second place, while Jacob Skarperud of Fargo, N.D., and Chris Curb of Bemidji were both 8-under to tie for third.
In all, 27 individuals in the men’s division finished under par over the two rounds of qualifying -- compared to just 10 last summer -- including defending champion Johnny Larson. The Springfield native tied for 12th in a crowded field of others who were 4-under after Tuesday.
The cut was highly contested, as well. Seven players tied for 28th at even par, leaving five final spots up for grabs in a playoff for the 32-player championship bracket. Matt Haugstad, Brennan Hockman, Tim Skarperud, Zach Hinschberger and Rylin Petry came through and snuck into the championship field.
Johnson drew Skarperud for the opening round of match play on Wednesday, while Larson will clash with another 2020 champion in Petry -- who won last year’s Junior 13-17 crown. Both pairings will tee off at 12:15 p.m. as the field gets slashed in half to 16 by day’s end.
In the women’s division, defending champion Emily Israelson of Staples was 1-under with a 71 to best the field by four strokes. Riley Crothers of Bismarck, N.D., and Lily Bredemeier of Grand Forks, N.D., tied for second at 3-over.
Israelson will start her attempt to become just the second four-peat champion in Birchmont history when she opens match play against Albertville’s Claire Haakenson at 8:10 a.m. on Wednesday. The rest of the women’s field tees off between 8 and 8:40 a.m.
In the men’s senior qualifier, Mark Lindberg built up an eye-popping 12-stroke difference against the rest of the field. The Coppell, Texas, product shot an 11-under-par 133 over two rounds, good for the Birchmont’s best qualifying score. Paul Court, last year’s winner, tied for third at 4-over 148.
Lindberg meets Jason Novak of Grand Forks in the opening round of match play, and the two tee off at 7:20 a.m. Wednesday. Court and Bemidji’s Thomas Daman are in that same grouping.
Maple Grove’s Troy Johnson topped the men’s executive field with a 3-under total. Joe Burgess of Woodbury (1-under) also finished below par with a two-day score of 143. Last year’s champion, Joe McKean, tied for fourth with a 4-over score of 148.
Johnson and Patrick Arnason of Ham Lake are set to square off with an 8:50 a.m. tee time in the first round, while McKean battles Bemidji’s Mitch Deere in the same group.
Mike Antonovich was the masters division’s lone golfer under par. Coleraine’s finest was 4-under on Tuesday during the single round of qualifying. Defending champion Jeff Tweeton did not participate but earned an automatic bid into the championship field thanks to his 2020 victory.
The Junior 13-17 division was idle on Tuesday, while the Junior 10-12 field kicked off match play. Junior 10-12 match play results were not available late Tuesday night.
Tee times on Wednesday begin as early as 7 a.m. and run until 2:35 p.m.
The 97th annual Birchmont schedule
Monday: Qualifying rounds for men’s, men’s senior, men’s executive and junior divisions.
Tuesday: Qualifying rounds for women’s, masters divisions; second round for men’s, men’s senior, and men’s executive divisions. Match play begins for Junior 10-12 division.
Wednesday: Match play begins for all championship divisions. (Men’s letter C, D, E flights, men’s executive regular and Junior 10-12 divisions do not play.)
Thursday: Match play continues for all championship divisions. (Men’s letter A and B flights, senior regular, masters regular and junior 2nd and 3rd flights do not play.)
Friday: Match play continues for all championship divisions. (Women’s regular, junior champ, and junior 1st flight do not play.)
Saturday: Match play finals for all divisions.