On Thursday, one of the hottest golfers in the field went down when Cecil Belisle knocked off second-seeded Ben Sigel.
Then on Friday, it was the defending champion who faltered. Such is life in match play, and a Resorters field that looked pretty wide open in the Men’s Championship Division coming into this week played out just like that with a new champion sure to be crowned on Saturday.
Thomas Lehman, Miles McCarthy, Belisle and Andrew Lindberg are the last four standing. Lehman blew open his match with a torrid stretch after a bit of a slow start. Belisle, McCarthy and Lindberg all had a long fight on their hands before they could take a sigh of relief.
Here is a closer look at how all four reached the first tee box at 6:50 a.m. on Saturday when Lehman and McCarthy battle and Belisle plays Lindberg for the right to play for a title in the afternoon.
McCarthy def. Brian Choe, 2-1
McCarthy, a junior at the University of St. Thomas this fall, got the start he wanted against defending champion Brian Choe of Coppell, Texas.
McCarthy struck first with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 before his par win on three put him 3-up.
“I was focused on getting off to a good start,” McCarthy said. “I played with Brian (Thursday) and knew what he did last year. I knew getting off to a good start was big. I hit a really good tee shot on the first hole that got me going. Had a nice putt on the second, and then Brian kind of went into a lull and I kind of took advantage of it.”
McCarthy needed to take advantage of those opportunities because Choe came on late. McCarthy’s eagle on No. 11 put him 5-up, but then Choe got going. An eagle on the par-five 12th hole gave him a little momentum, and he followed it with a birdie win on 13. Another birdie on 15 for Chose, and all of a sudden the two were separated by just two holes with two left.
“On the back nine, he pushed hard,” McCarthy said. “I just stayed steady and knew it would be nice to win 5-4, but 2-1 is just as good. He’s a really good player. He didn’t have it, and he was telling me that, but he brought it together at the end. That just shows how good he is.”
McCarthy was calm and steady on 17 when he needed to be. After Choe stuck his drive on the green for a look at birdie, McCarthy did the exact same. It was all but over from there as both players two-putted to halve the hole and send McCarthy home a winner.
“I knew grinding out pars and getting a couple of birdie looks would get it done,” McCarthy said of finishing off the match. “That’s all I was really trying to do.”
McCarthy made some putts early on Friday that keyed his hot start, but it’s been his driver that has carried him much of this week.
“I was struggling with speed all week, but my driver has been pretty spot on,” he said. “It’s been nice knowing I’m going to be in the fairway and be able to get some of these par fives because Brian hits it far. Keeping up with him a bit and not feeling like I’m 40 yards behind was nice.”
McCarthy has played in the Resorters about seven times but never made it to a semifinals before. Now a little older and more experienced, he felt he was ready to do exactly what he’s done through three matches.
“My game has been feeling good this week, so I kind of felt like this could be the week to get to Saturday and keep pushing,” McCarthy said. “I’m really excited. I know a lot of the guys in the field, and it’s cool to have people out and watching you like this.”
Lehman def. Naylor, 6-5
McCarthy will play another player in the semifinals who fits a similar description to him -- someone who has played in the Resorters many times but is probably playing the best golf he has ever played in Alexandria this week.
Thomas Lehman of Scottsdale, Ariz. showed on Friday that when he gets going, he can really get going. Lehman and Dylan Naylor of Fargo were all square after five holes. That’s when Lehman caught fire. He eagled No. 6 by hitting a seven iron 220 yards to within five feet of the cup and then sank the putt.
“The eagle on 6 (was key) and then I hit a bad shot on 7 and we ended up tying the hole even though I made bogey,” Lehman said. “After that, I kind of went on a run.”
That’s an understatement. Lehman won the next five holes from eight through 12 with four birdies and another eagle on the par-five 12th hole.
“Today it was wedges, irons and putting is what worked,” Lehman said. “The driver at times was a little erratic, but overall I was able to put it close to the hole. The last seven holes I played really solid, and that’s kind of what did it.”
The win puts Lehman into a position to try to capture his first title at the Resorters. It’s a tournament that his dad, Tom, won in 1980 before going on to a long career on the PGA Tour. The Resorters is also an event that his uncle, Jim Lehman, won in 2009. That’s why a couple more wins on Saturday would mean a lot for Thomas and his family.
“It would mean so much to me,” Thomas said. “My dad won it all these years back. It would be huge. I’d be ecstatic.”
Belisle def. Boraas, 1-up
The closest match in the division belonged to Belisle and Alexandria’s Noah Boraas on Friday.
This one went to the 18th hole where both players ended up parring, and Belisle secured the 1-up win. The turning point came on 17 when Boraas three-putted for bogey, and Belisle got out of there with a par.
Both players graduated from high school this past spring, so the experience of playing in front of a big gallery as the last match out on the course on Friday was enjoyable for both.
Boraas liked the way he played for much of the day. His birdie on No. 2 gave him an early lead before Belisle used a birdie of his own on 5 and an eagle win on 6 to go 1-up. That’s where things stood until the 10th when Belisle again birdied to increase his lead.
Boraas had a rally in him from there. His birdie win on 14 and a par win on 15 pulled him even. Belisle had just a little more down the stretch as his three straight pars on 16, 17 and 18 were enough to get the win.
Lindberg def. Hoselton, 3-2
Andrew Lindberg of Coppell, Texas has been a regular at the Resorters over the years, and he went out and took his match against Jim Hoselton of Phoenix, Ariz.
Both golfers played well. Hoselton shot 35 on the front. His only problem was that Lindberg fired a 33 with birdies on 1, 2, 5 and 6. He had a 2-up lead at the turn and then used two more birdies at 10 and 11 to move to 4-up.
Hoselton rallied with his second eagle of the day on the par fives, this one coming on 12. That put some pressure on as Hoselton got his deficit down to as little as two midway through the back nine before Lindberg’s birdie on the 16th hole won the hole and the match.