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Resorters Golf: Two AGC members to clash for Masters title

Randy Johnson steadily sends a putt toward the cup during the Men's Masters Division action on Friday. (Al Edenloff / Echo Press)1 / 4
Ron Way of Alexandria chips onto the green in his Masters Division match Friday. (Al Edenloff / Echo Press)2 / 4
Dan Elton, who was looking for a three-peat in the Masters Division, putts on the No. 11 green Friday. (Al Edenloff / Echo Press) 3 / 4
Gary Rolfzen of The Villages, Fla., watches as his ball drops into the cup during his Masters Division match Friday. (Al Edenloff / Echo Press)4 / 4

Do you believe in miracles?

How about giant killers?

That sums up the two finalists in today’s Masters Division.

On Thursday, Ron Way of Alexandria said it would be a “miracle” if he defeated fifth-seeded Gary Rolfzen of The Villages, Fla., in the semifinals.

Rolfzen, who, at 65, is 15 years younger than Way, the 15th seed, and has been ripping the ball well all week.

But on Friday, Way found a way to win, 1-up.

“I was three down and a little cloudy on the front,” Way said. “I played better on the back and he kept getting good shots. But I made a couple of putts…”

“You made more than a couple,” Rolfzen cut in.

And Way, reluctantly, seemed to agree.

Today, Way will go up against a fellow Alexandria Golf Club member, Randy Johnson of Alexandria, who knocked off a Resorters giant in Dan Elton, the division’s champion for the last two years.

An eagle on No. 15 helped him do it – a shot that Way was still raving about after his own match ended. “Randy hit a big drive and his second shot fell right in the cup,” Way said.

So it will be a battle between two AGC friends for the Masters Division title. The two will tee it up with the Men’s Senior Division finalists at 12:30 p.m. from No. 1.

Way had a one-word description for the match-up – “unbelievable.”

Here’s a closer look at yesterday’s matches:

Johnson def. Elton, 1-up

Johnson was having flashbacks to two years ago when he felt like he had Moorhead’s Dan Elton on the ropes in the Masters Division semifinals.

Johnson was leading by three at the turn in that match, but he stepped up to No. 10 and sent his drive out of bounds. Things snowballed from there as Elton took the next four holes and put things away on hole 17.

On Friday, with the shoe on the other foot, Johnson returned the favor. It was Elton who led by three at the turn this time around. He upped that to 4-up going into 11 after a par win at No. 10. That’s what Johnson caught fire to shoot a 32 on the back. It included a birdie win on 18 to storm back and win a 1-up contest.

“He’s the best in the field,” Johnson said of Elton. “In our field, he’s the best. To beat someone who’s won it twice, and to do it with a birdie and shoot 32 on the back, that means a lot to me.”   

Johnson carded six bogeys and a double bogey on the front nine. It allowed Elton to take a seemingly commanding lead, but match play is a different animal. It’s hole-to-hole, and Johnson slowly chipped away.

It started with back-to-back par wins on Nos. 11 and 12. A birdie by Elton at 13 moved him back to 3-up, but it was the last hole Elton would take.

Johnson started a torrid stretch over the last five holes by taking No. 14 with a birdie. His round really changed on 15 when he stuck an eagle from 100 yards out with his approach shot to negate a birdie by Elton.

“It just told me that I’m going to be able to hit the next shot and I’m only one down now,” Johnson said.

No. 16 ended with a par win that brought him all the way back to even with Elton. Both parred 17, setting up a winner-take-all 18. Johnson had the momentum, and it carried into a beautiful approach shot to about five feet after his drive.

Elton parred, and Johnson wanted nothing to do with a playoff. He stepped over the ball and lipped in the winner before throwing his hands in the air.

“What was going through my mind was I’ve been trying to do this,” Johnson said. “Never been to the finals ever, and I’m just ecstatic. Just ecstatic because I played like crap on the front. Finally, I got some things to happen by hitting some solid shots.”

Johnson has been playing in the Resorters Tournament for about 20 years. He didn’t pick up golf until he graduated dental school, but his wife’s family has been playing AGC for more than 70 years. Johnson developed a passion for this game, and this tournament. He can’t wait to see what a Saturday at the Resorters feels like when he takes on Way for a title.

“I hope both of us play well and we have a great match,” Johnson said.

Way def. Rolfzen, 1-up

Rolfzen ruled the front, collecting four big wins on Nos. 2, 4, 5 and 7 with par, a couple bogeys and another par. Way, meanwhile, won just two holes, Nos. 3 and 8, with par and trailed by two at the turn.

After swapping bogeys on No. 10, Way cut into the lead with a par on No. 11. But Rolfzen hung tough, taking the next hole with par to go 2-up again. Way kept plugging away, winning No. 13 with par and No. 14 with birdie to tie the match.

On No. 15, Way was looking at an easy par, but Rolfzen chipped it in the cup and regained the lead.

After they both parred the next hole, Way’s tee shot on No. 17 ended up in the bunker, but he was able to get up and down to save par and deadlock the match for the third time.

On No. 18, Rolfzen pushed his approach shot and had a very difficult sidewinder lie on the green that he ended up three-putting. Way two-putted and took the match.

“This kid (Rolfzen) is one hell of a player,” Way said. “And I say kid because he just turned 65.”

Way also has a lot of respect for Johnson. “He playing so well now,” Way said. “I’ll be the underdog again...I can’t make any mistakes. Randy is a tough, tough competitor.”

SATURDAY PAIRINGS - 1ST TEE

12:30 p.m. - Randy Johnson vs. Ron Way

Eric Morken contribued to this story.

Al Edenloff

Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  

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