EAST GULL LAKE — It pays to know The Classic at Madden’s.
At least it did for Nick Christenson.
The former intern of the East Gull Lake golf course, secured the No. 1 qualifying position after a two-hole playoff during Tuesday’s final round of the United States Golf Association’s U.S. Amateur Public Links qualifier.
Christenson, from Stanchfield, Minn., tied with Casey Vangsness of Alexandria and Nick Olsgaard of Moorhead with a 148 after 36-holes. That sent the trio into a playoff to determine the first two qualifying positions and the No. 1 alternate.
After all three parred the first hole, Christenson carded a birdie two on hole two to secure the No. 1 qualifying spot.
“Out here this course is so difficult that you have to know where to miss it,” said Christenson, shot two rounds of 74. “Playing it all last summer, I figured that out. My lowest score out here is a 68 and that felt just like a course record so I’m just grateful to play well in a tournament, too.”
Vangsness, who shot 76 and 72, birdied the par 4 third hole to secure the No. 2 spot.
University of Minnesota’s Robert Bell, formally of Pierz, was one shot out of the playoff with a 149. He is the second alternate.
“They threw a lot of good flags out there today,” said Bell. “They were really accessible, but they were on slopes so if you weren’t on the right side, the putts got quick. That was difficult to adjust to.”
Bell opened the tournament with a 77, but came back with a 72 in Tuesday’s windy conditions. He birdied his first hole and was 2-under after 13 and had a lip out on the 14th hole for another birdie.
“I was two under going into 17 and my ball hit a hazard stake and bounced back into the hazard instead of bouncing onto the green,” said Bell. “Looking back if I just would have parred I would have been in the tournament, but it happens. That’s golf.”
Shawn Chambers of Pequot Lakes shot 75 in Monday’s opening round to find himself in the final group Tuesday. The former NHL player didn’t disappoint as he shot a two-day 151 to tie for sixth.
“This was in our backyard and that’s the only reason why I’m here,” said Chambers. “My game was a little shaky out there. This was a different format for me playing with all these young guys who can hit it a mile. But it was fun. It was a fun experience and like I said, it was in our backyard and that’s the only reason why I did it.”
Chambers said the wind was a major factor to the scoring conditions as the course was in great condition. Nerves might have had something to do with it, too.
“I don’t pretend to be as good as these kids playing in college, but I play a lot of golf and so I said, Yeah, I can go play with these guys. It’s fun for me to see that I can play with these guys. Had I qualified that would have been really fun. I think the nerves hit me. I took a double on No. 2 right away and then I righted the ship there for a long time. It would have been a lot of fun.”
Christenson and Vangsness will play at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort June 27-July 2. For both, it will be a dream come true. For Christenson, it will also be a career stepping stone.
“My dream is to go pro and I haven’t turned pro yet because I wanted to play in one of these amateur tournaments like this one or the U.S. Amateur. Now I’ll fulfill my dream. I’m just going to go back to school and I’ll probably turn pro in a year and a half now.”
USGA Amateur Public Links qualifier
Classic at Madden’s
Qualify: Nick Christenson 74-74 — 148, Casey Vangsness 76-72 — 148
Alternates: Nick Olsgaard 77-71 — 148, Robert Bell 77-72 — 149
Top 10: Tyler Ekenberg 72-77 — 149, Shawn Chambers 75-76 — 151, Greg Werner 75-76 — 151, Jonathan Hanner 77-76 — 153, Shang Zhi 77-79 — 156
Area players: Brndon Meyers 80-82 — 162, Tyler Monda 80-83 — 163, Nick Forsberg 83-81 — 164, Zach Israelson 83-86 — 169, Brad Holland 90-77 — 167
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.