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THE BIRCHMONT: Bemidji readies for huge field in 98th annual tournament

The Birchmont continues to expand. This year, a whopping 340 confirmed entrants will make up the field. That’s up from 303 last year and includes hopefuls from 17 states.

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Emily Israelson tees off on hole No. 9 on Saturday, July 31, 2021, during the 97th annual Birchmont Golf Tournament at the Bemidji Town and Country Club.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI -- It’s music to any golf lover’s ears: The Birchmont is back.

“The biggest thing for me is the energy and the atmosphere that the Birchmont brings. It’s a unique week for us,” said Rick Grand, the head professional at the Bemidji Town and Country Club. “The weekly routine kind of gets replaced with the excitement of a tournament and a really neat energy to our golf course.”

The Birchmont Golf Tournament returns on Monday, July 25, for its 98th consecutive edition. The annual gala of golf is nearing the century mark, and Grand is certainly proud of that legacy.

“The tournament grows year in and year out,” he said. “Not many events can sustain itself for 100 years, so it’s something we’re really proud of. It’s really special for our club and our community.”

The Birchmont continues to expand. This year, a whopping 340 confirmed entrants will make up the field. That’s up from 303 last year and includes hopefuls from 17 states.

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Golfers practice their putting on the third day of the 97th annual Birchmont Golf Tournament at the Bemidji Town and Country Club.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

The list of contenders includes most of last year’s champions. In the women’s field, headliner Emily Israelson will hunt for an unprecedented fifth consecutive title. It would also be her sixth overall championship, tying the women’s all-time record.

Reigning men’s senior champion Mark Lindberg is back in the field this year, as are defending champ Troy Johnson in the men’s executive division and Jeff Tweeton in the master’s division.

Luke Thompson won the junior 13-17 championship in 2021 and has graduated into the men’s division.

Missing from the men’s field is defending champion Andrew Israelson, who turned pro after winning his third title last summer, meaning this year’s chase is wide open.

“We have our regulars who have been coming forever, but there are always some new names that maybe you’ve heard about but haven’t had a chance to see,” Grand said. “Obviously, you could pick some favorites, and I think they’ll do well. But… part of the fun is that there are new names every year.”

The tournament officially opens on Monday, but Grand also noted that the action kicks off well before. Many participants flock to the course on Saturday and Sunday to sneak in a practice round or two.

“Sunday has turned into a huge day here with the number of people who want a practice round and come in a day early,” Grand said. “It’s almost become a tournament day.”

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Nate Adams lines up his putt on the seventh green on Friday, July 30, 2021, during the 97th annual Birchmont Golf Tournament at the Bemidji Town and Country Club.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

On Monday, July 25, qualifying rounds begin for the men’s, men’s senior, men’s executive and junior divisions.

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On Tuesday, July 26, qualifying rounds tee off in the women’s and masters fields, plus the second round of qualifying begins for the men’s, men’s senior and men’s executive divisions.

Match play also starts on Tuesday for the junior 10-12 field, while match play starts on Wednesday, July 27, in the other championship divisions.

Match play continues through the end of the week, all culminating in the championships on Saturday, July 30.

For complete tee times and brackets, visit thebirchmont.com.

“Come out and watch,” Grand encouraged the public. “Even if you’re not participating, even if you don’t play that much golf, it’s a really cool atmosphere. Come out and see what’s going on here next week.”

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Spectators make their way down the 18th fairway to watch the men’s championship on Saturday, July 31, 2021, during the 97th annual Birchmont Golf Tournament at the Bemidji Town and Country Club.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

The 98th annual Birchmont Golf Tournament schedule

  • Monday: Qualifying rounds for the men’s, men’s senior, men’s executive and junior divisions.
  • Tuesday: Qualifying rounds for the women’s and masters divisions; second round of qualifying 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 flights, men’s executive regular and junior 10-12 divisions do not play.)
  • Thursday: Match play continues for all championship divisions. (Senior regular, masters regular and junior flights do not play.)
  • Friday: Match play continues for all divisions. (Women’s regular flights do not play.)
  • Saturday: Match play finals for all divisions.
Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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