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Resorters Golf: Semifinals set in Men’s Championship heats

Nate Adams eyes his chip shot toward the pin during the Men's Championship Division action on Friday. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)1 / 6
Andrew Israelson holds his follow through while tracking a shot during the Men's Championship Division action on Friday. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)2 / 6
Brian Choe lines up a putt on the fourth green on Friday. Choe won his match 4-3 to advance to Saturday's semifinals. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)3 / 6
JJ Svac sends his putt toward the cup on the fourth green on Friday. Svac advanced to Saturday's semifinals in his first time every playing in the Resorters. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)4 / 6
Ben Sigel (front) cracks a smile as he and Lincoln Johnson read the No. 3 green during the Men's Championship Division action on Friday. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)5 / 6
Dawson Wills watches his putt roll toward the cup during the Men's Championship Division action on Friday. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)6 / 6

Things got a little tighter in the Men’s Championship Division on Friday.

That’s what’s supposed to happen the further a player gets into the tournament. The best of the best are the only ones left standing, and the best through this week have been Andrew Israelson, Nate Adams, JJ Svac and Brian Choe.

Those are the four who will step to the first tee on Saturday morning at 6:50 a.m. The winners will face off in the title match at 12:45 p.m., looking to cement their spot in the history books in now the 97th running of the Resorters.

Whoever wins will be a first-time men's champion at the tournament. Here’s a look at how all four survived and advanced on Friday.

Israelson def. Johnson, 20 holes

Through 18 holes, Staples’ Andrew Israelson didn’t have a lead over Lincoln Johnson of Chaska.

But Israelson did just enough to chip away at his deficit, ultimately forcing extra holes and taking the quarterfinal matchup with a birdie win on No. 20.

Johnson, a future Gopher with the University of Minnesota, built a lead in the early goings as he posted a birdie win on No. 1. Israelson, who plays for North Dakota State University, used a par win on No. 3 to return to all square, but a double bogey on No. 4 and a bogey on No. 5 allowed Johnson’s pars to create a 2-up advantage. When Israelson lost another hole with a No. 8 bogey, Johnson brought a 3-up lead into the turn.

That’s when Israelson started chipping away, though. He birdied No. 10 for his first back-nine win. Then, when Johnson triple bogeyed No. 12, an Israelson bogey was enough to return within one.

Israelson eventually evened the match with a birdie on No. 15, but it was brief because he bogeyed one hole later to drop back behind.

Johnson bogeyed No. 18, however, unable to clinch the round by matching Israelson’s par. It brought on extra holes, and both birdied on No. 1. They then went onto No. 2, where Johnson’s drive went out of bounds to set up a birdie win for Israelson.

Adams def. Sigel, 1-up

Nate Adams is the youngest player left in the men’s field as the 17-year-old from Maple Grove has proven this week that his game is up to par with Division I players.

He faced off on Friday against Ben Sigel of Deephaven, a sophomore for the Kansas Jayhawks this coming year. Adams never wavered against his older counterpart, and closed things out in the end with a 1-up victory.

“It’s very surreal,” Adams said. “Playing with (Sigel, Lincoln Johnson and Andrew Israelson), they’re all Division I golfers, great players. Just to put myself in that competition is a lot of fun and serves me well.”

Adams knew it would likely take birdies to beat Sigel, and he went out and got them throughout the round. Both players birdied No. 1 before Adams struck for back-to-back birds on 5 and 6. Sigel matched him on No. 6 and used a par win on No. 7 to even things back up.

Sigel led by one at the turn, and the two exchanged punches throughout the entire back nine. Neither led by more than one as both birdied No. 11 ahead of a birdie win at 12 for Adams that moved him to 1-up

Again, Sigel answered. This time it was a par win on 13. From there, both players got wins over the next two holes to make it all square heading into 17.

On that par three, Sigel went deep behind the green off the tee box, while Adams stuck his drive in the center of the green. He two-putted for a par win and went to the 18th tee box with a 1-up lead and a decision to make.

“My caddie originally said hit 4-iron and just get it into the fairway and you’ll get a smooth wedge into the green,” Adams said. “I was thinking, well, if I hit driver I can get it past his because I had been all day. Make him hit first and see what I have to do after that.”

Sigel was positioned well in the fairway off his drive, but his second shot landed short of the ridge on the front of the green and rolled back down into the fairway.

“I knew I just had to get it to the top level and two-putt from there,” Adams said.

That’s what he did. Adams calmly put his first putt within a foot of the cup. Sigel missed his birdie putt and gave Adams the gimme four that secured his win with a par.

“I hit my driver a lot better today,” Adams said. “I putted well and made a couple of key putts on the front nine that kept me in it and led me to the victory.”

Svac def. Wills, 2-up

JJ Svac lost a 3-up lead within five holes on Friday, but he didn’t give in during his match with Dawson Wills.

“I hit a couple good wedge shots and made a couple decently long putts that kind of kept the match going,” said Svac, a Maple Grove native. “They were good momentum builders.”

Svac posted a par win on No. 4 and birdie wins on Nos. 5 and 6, but then his lead started to dwindle. Wills, of Chaska, birdied No. 7 for a win, keeping within two at the turn.

Svac’s lead was gone after No. 11, as Wills carded back-to-back birdies on the first two holes on the back nine. And after Svac won No. 12 with a birdie, Wills came right back with a birdie win of his own on No. 13.

That’s when Svac buckled down, breaking from the all-square tie with a birdie to win No. 15. He then closed out the match with a par on No. 18, while Wills bogeyed to make for Svac’s 2-up win.

The victory moved Svac into Saturday’s semifinals, where he hopes to continue his success in what has become a marathon week during his first time playing the Resorters.

“It’s kind of new to me playing so many rounds,” he said. “This is the most rounds I’ve played in one tournament. You just have to play solid golf all the way through. You can’t really have a bad day.”

Choe def. Belisle, 4-3

With a quick win on Friday, Brian Choe is entering into uncharted territory.

Choe, who plays at Kansas State, defeated Cecil Belisle in 15 holes behind a 4-under round of bogey-free golf, coming out with a 4-3 victory to advance to his first Men’s Championship semifinal in now his third time playing the Resorters.

“It wasn’t great,” Choe said of his round. “It wasn’t bad, but I just did everything I needed to do to tie a hole, win a hole and did enough to win a match.”

Choe started out on the right foot, using birdies on Nos. 2 and 3 to grab a 2-up lead. Belisle bogeyed both Nos. 5 and 9, as well, which aided Choe’s cause. However, Belisle kept within three at the turn by matching Choe’s birdie on No. 6 and adding a birdie win on No. 7.

Choe played it steady on the back nine, picking up a par win on No. 12 and riding the 4-up lead through No. 15 for the 4-3 victory.

“I can say today wasn’t the best ball-striking day,” Choe said. “It hasn’t been these couple of days, but I’ve done everything I needed to to win my matches.”

He’ll now enter into his first-ever semifinals, but don’t expect him to change up anything.

“I treat every match the same,” Choe said. “I think any player can beat any player out here, so that’s my mentality. I’m just going to go out there, do my thing and see where it goes.”

SATURDAY’S PAIRINGS - 1ST TEE

6:50 a.m. - Andrew Israelson vs. Nate Adams; JJ Svac vs. Brian Choe (semifinals)

12:45 p.m. - Israelson/Adams winner vs. Svac/Choe winner (championship)

Micah Friez contributed to this story.

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

(320) 763-1229
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