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Jack Hittinger / Forum News Service, Published July 27 2013

NDSU's Carlson claims Birchmont golf tournament

BEMIDJI, Minn. – By the time he won the 2013 Birchmont men’s Championship, Bill Carlson was exhausted.

The Fargo native and North Dakota State junior golfer defeated future Bemidji State golfer A.J. Oster 1-up to claim his first-ever Birchmont golf tournament title Saturday afternoon at Bemidji Town and Country Club.

“I felt like I was under stress for 10 hours today,” Carlson said. “It will be nice to sit down.”

Carlson couldn’t do that until the dramatic final hole. With Carlson 1-up, Oster hit the green on his second shot just 12 inches from the pin while Carlson overshot the green and had to settle for par.

“I hit my driver really good on that first shot then hit two really bad ones,” Carlson said. “The last putt I made was a lot better.”

It ended up being the championship-winner, but not before Oster missed the putt that would have sent the match to overtime.

The strong winds coming off Lake Bemidji made putting difficult all day, but No. 18 – right along the lake – was particularly troublesome.

“Yeah, that was rough,” Oster said. “I just couldn’t make a putt today. I didn’t putt well all week, really.”

The two needed to win intense semifinal rounds to reach the final.

Oster defeated Jeff Peltier of Bemidji 3 and 1 earlier Saturday morning to reach the final.

Carlson needed 19 holes in a sudden-death overtime semifinal round, besting Zach Israelson 1-up.

So during the final round, it was understandable that both golfers had some trouble sinking their putts to put the match away.

“They sped up the greens and made them a lot quicker,” Carlson said. “The wind made a lot of difference on those downhill putts, so it was hard to keep them below the hole.”

Oster agreed.

“I think we both had trouble reading putts today,” Oster said. “Their greens didn’t come back all the way so the grass was moving in a different direction. It’s hard to judge down-hillers because they’re fast. They look like they move but they don’t.

“It’s a mental game,” he continued. “You have to get yourself to hit them straight but you can’t.”

The two golfers were even for most of the way as neither led by more than a hole.

Oster went 1-up on hole No. 2 but Carlson evened the score on No. 5. The two went back and forth until No. 11 when Oster pulled even.

The score stayed that way until No. 15, when Oster hit a ball into the reeds on his second shot while Carlson placed the ball close to the pin and birdied the par-5 hole.

“That hurt me,” Oster said. “I knew he was going to two-putt so I had to get up and down.

“There were reeds right behind ball, so I couldn’t get good contact with it. I had to give it a whirl but it was going to be tough.”

Oster ended up with bogie, giving Carlson the 1-up lead with three holes to play.

“I thought I played well on Nos. 16, 17 and 18,” Oster said. “I just didn’t make a putt. That was rough.”

On Nos. 16 and 17 both golfers shot par, which set up the dramatic finish.

Carlson, who won the Junior Championship in 2008, was glad to get it over with and finally taste victory in the men’s Championship division.

“I haven’t really done that much (in the men’s division),” he said. “This is the first year I’ve played well.

“There was a lot of pressure on me this time around. It’s the championship match so you put a lot of pressure on yourself. There are a lot of people watching. So I was nervous, but I was able to keep myself calm enough to win.”

Carlson said he plans on returning next year to defend his title.

Hittinger writes for the Bemidji Pioneer