BEMIDJI -- Golf carts whirred by, voices hushed to whispers and the occasional melody of a club striking a ball off the tee sang out on Monday.

That symphony of sounds in late July means only one thing in Bemidji: The Birchmont Golf Tournament is back.

The Bemidji Town and Country Club welcomed in masses of golfers for its trademark annual tournament, and the week-long action kicked off with qualifying rounds on Monday, July 26.

The golf itself was accompanied by the customary senses of the Birchmont: the sweet smell of the water off Lake Bemidji, the familiar voice of KBUN’s Joel Hoover broadcasting near the clubhouse and hordes of golfers ready to step up to the first tee box.

Brandon Nelson tees off at hole No. 1 on Monday, July 26, 2021, during the first day of the 97th annual Birchmont Golf Tournament at the Bemidji Town and Country Club. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
Brandon Nelson tees off at hole No. 1 on Monday, July 26, 2021, during the first day of the 97th annual Birchmont Golf Tournament at the Bemidji Town and Country Club. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

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This year’s edition of the tournament also drew in other sea creatures, like paddle boarders and kayakers on the lake and a family of loons drawing close to scope out the competition.

And then there was the camaraderie that complements the intensity on the links.

“Three birdies in a row!” someone announced proudly to a group of spectators near the 18th hole.

“It’s time for you to win one,” one junior golfer encouraged another on the practice green.

Threats of impending storms swarmed the radar and even sparked anxious murmurs throughout the crowds. Nevertheless, all the scorecards were turned in and the leaderboards fully assembled after day one.

Bemidji Town and Country Club head professional Rick Grand writes scores on the leaderboard on Monday, July 26, 2021, during the first day of the 97th Birchmont Golf Tournament at BTCC. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
Bemidji Town and Country Club head professional Rick Grand writes scores on the leaderboard on Monday, July 26, 2021, during the first day of the 97th Birchmont Golf Tournament at BTCC. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

The men’s, men’s senior, men’s executive and junior divisions all had qualifying rounds on Monday, while the women’s and master’s divisions sat out.

In the men’s division, Nate Adams of Fargo, N.D., and Cody Cook of Hawley tied for the best score of the day, each carding a 6-under-par 66. Five others shot 67s: Brandon Nelson, Chris Curb, Nate Deziel, Jacob Skarperud and Jim Foss.

Curb’s 5-under performance was the best of the day by any Bemidjian, while two eagles helped Cook lead all Bemidji State alumni.

Mark Lindberg of Coppell, Texas, turned heads in the men’s seniors division, matching the best of the men’s division with a 66 of his own to beat the rest of his field by four strokes.

In the men’s executive division, Joe Burgess of Woodbury shot a 4-under 68 to top the leaderboard.

Tony Carlin of Fosston (2-over 74) and Graham Fish of Bemidji (1-over 37 on nine holes) topped the Junior 13-17 and Junior 10-12 divisions, respectively.

The Bemidji Town and Country Club is a buzz of activity on Monday, July 26, 2021, for the first day of the 97th annual Birchmont Golf Tournament. Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
The Bemidji Town and Country Club is a buzz of activity on Monday, July 26, 2021, for the first day of the 97th annual Birchmont Golf Tournament. Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Although the 2020 champions have an automatic bid to match play, all four still chose to partake in their qualifying rounds on Monday, as well. Johnny Larson, the men’s division defending champ, fired a 1-under 71 on Monday to tie for 22nd. Defending men’s senior winner Paul Court tied for second with a 2-under 70, and Joe McKean is right back near the top of the men’s executive field after shooting a 1-under 71 to tie for third.

Rylin Petry, who won the Junior 13-17 division last year, moved into the men’s division this summer and shot a 72 to tie for 29th. Preston Miller won the 10-12 division a year ago and now sits 25th in the 13-17 division after a 17-over 89.

The Birchmont resumes Tuesday, July 27, with tee times as early as 6:45 a.m. The women’s and masters divisions will have their qualifying rounds, while the second round of qualifying takes place for men’s, men’s senior and men’s executive divisions.

Match play begins for the Junior 10-12 division on Tuesday, while match play for all other divisions starts Wednesday.

For complete leaderboards and results, visit thebirchmont.com.

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.