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Holland lands spot in Pine to Palm's sweet 16; Kretchman defeats Cavanagh

Connor Holland of Fargo watches his drive on the par-5 12th hole during Friday’s Pine to Palm match play in Detroit Lakes, Minn. Brian Basham / Forum News Service

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – When Connor Holland won the Pine to Palm in 2011, he became just the third 17-year-old golfer to do so in its 79-year history.

Flash forward to the 82nd Pine to Palm at the Detroit Country Club, and Holland appreciates how difficult it is to win the elusive golf title.

“I haven’t made it past the first round since 2011,” Holland said. “It’s a super-tough tournament, one in which any of the 64 players can win it.”

But Friday saw Holland back in the Pine to Palm sweet 16, after he had to earn a hard-fought 1-up win over Mike Balzer.

Holland shot a 3-over 145 qualifying score, and he finally was able to break a two-year drought of making it out of the first round with a 2-up win over Fargo’s Andrew Passanante.

But this year’s run is much different than his championship trail from 2011.

“In 2011, I was playing very well all week,” Holland said. “This year I found I can grind out some rounds. I am drawing off those experiences.”

Friday’s round against Balzer was an even match, with Holland building a

2-up advantage, but seeing it dissipate back to square by hole 15.

Both notched a birdie on 16, with the turning point coming on an eight-foot par putt on 17 to give Holland the lead.

He went up and down on 18 to secure the victory and his second trip to the field of 16.

Holland, who plays for the NDSU men’s golf team, will face Moorhead native and University of Kansas sophomore Ben Welle in the morning round. Welle was a 3 and 2 victory over John Sund on Friday.

One golfer who is the epitome of grind has been Fargo Davies graduate Tanner Kretchman.

The newest guard for the Minnesota State University Moorhead men’s basketball team had to scratch back into his match on the back nine, much like Thursday’s match in which he drained five straight birdies to erase a three-hole deficit for the win.

But this time around, Kretchman needed 20 holes to finish off Perham, Minn., native Taylor Cavanagh, who held a 2-up lead at the turn.

“I wasn’t playing that bad on the front nine. He was just playing that good,” Kretchman said. “I was in the fairway for the most part and gave myself an opportunity. I just played well down the stretch.”

Kretchman kick-started his momentum by almost greening hole 16 off the tee, where he made birdie to even the match.

The two went halves on 17 and 18 to force extra playoff holes, where each had eagle putts on the first hole, but settled for birdie.

On the second extra hole, both were in the trees off the drive, but Kretchman was sitting better. He took advantage of his advantageous shooting lane, whereas Cavanagh had to shoot twice for the green to finish with bogey.

Kretchman was able to chip on and sink his par putt for the win.

“It’s been tiring and stressful the last two days,” Kretchman said. “That takes a lot of out of you. I know getting off to a good start is always good and I’d prefer not have to come back on the back nine always.

“But if that’s the way it has to be, that’s fine, too.”

The No. 64-seeded Kretchman will face Michael Kosiek, who beat Adam Gronaas 1-up Friday.

The local connection for the Pine to Palm is down to one, with Detroit Lakes High School senior Ben Mallow playing his way into Saturday’s round.

Mallow controlled his match against Dylan Baker on Friday, winning 3 and 2.

“It seemed I made a lot of up and downs to save holes, and I don’t know if that frustrated (Baker) or not,” Mallow said. “I didn’t play anything special today. I got away with some stuff, but I did make a few sands shot to save par, though.”

Mallow’s opponent will be Coy Papachek, who plays on the Concordia College men’s golf team.

Papachek defeated Erik Weiss 2 and 1.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.