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Resorters: Upsets up and down the bracket; Top-four seeds advance in an otherwise wild day in Men’s Champs

Men's Championship Division first-round recap.

1stPhoto.Ben Strauman putt 5370.jpg
Ben Strauman rolls his putt toward the cup during his Men's Championship Division match on Aug. 4, 2021. Strauman entered match play as the 23rd seed but put together a good day on Wednesday in beating 10th-seeded Kyle Cox to advance. (Al Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press)

The Men’s Championship Division had a little bit of everything on Wednesday during the opening round of qualifying.

Top-seeded Donald Constable overcame an early one-hole deficit in his match to move to the sweet 16. But there were plenty of seeding upsets throughout the bracket as 28th-seeded Mitch Holm beat fifth-seeded Geoff Klein, 25th-seeded Alec Heinen beat 8th-seeded Zak Jones, 24th-seeded Lincoln Johnson beat 9th-seeded Brian Choe, 23rd-seeded Ben Strauman beat 10th-seeded Kyle Cox, and 22nd-seeded Jacques Wilson beat 11th-seeded Jerry Rose. Second-seeded and defending champion Austin Vukovits also survived a scare in a 2-1 final.

Here is a look at how all the matches went before these players vie for a spot in the quarterfinals with matches starting back up at 1:35 p.m. from the first tee on Thursday.

Constable def. Woodhull, 5-4

Alex Woodhull got off to a good start with a birdie win at No. 2 that gave him the early advantage against the 2010 champion in Donald Constable.

That just ignited Constable, though. He countered by getting birdie wins at 3, 4, 6 and 7. Both players were on their game as Constable shot a 31 on the front to lead by two at the turn after Woodhull made him work for it with a 33.

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Once on the back, Constable pulled away with three straight wins on 12, 13 and 14. Two of those came by birdies as Constable played a bogey-free round and shot 7-under through 14 holes.

Galvin def. Vanyo, 3-2

Josh Galvin will get the next shot at Constable as he beat Tony Vanyo in a 3-2 final.

Vanyo opened the door by shooting a 43 on the front nine on Wednesday. Galvin capitalized on holes 1, 5 and 6 with wins that took him to the turn at 3-up.

Vanyo got a birdie win at 11, but back-to-back pars for Galvin at 13 and 14 moved him to 4-up. Vanyo got a par win at 15, but it was too little, too late.

Heinen def. Jones, 2-1

Alec Heinen used birdie wins at 1 and 2 and a par win at 3 to build a quick advantage. He then held off a charge from Zak Jones to secure the 2-1 win.

Jones rebounded with a par and birdie win at holes 4 and 5. It was a 2-up advantage for Heinen at the turn after he birdied No. 7, but Jones pulled even with birdies on 10 and 11.

Heinen immediately responded with an eagle win at 12, and his birdie win at 14 was enough to end things after 17 when Jones and Heinen halved the final three holes.

Lincoln Johnson def. Choe, 3-2

Lincoln Johnson of Chaska came within one win of getting a Men’s Division championship in 2016 after falling to Nick Heinen in the finals.

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Johnson has been working to get a second chance at a title ever since in this division, and he took down a former champion in the opening round on Wednesday. He beat 2018 winner Brian Choe by a 3-2 final.

It started on hole 6 for Johnson as he grabbed a birdie win to move to 1-up. A birdie win at 7 and a par win at 8 moved him to 3-up as he shot a 2-under 34 on the front. Johnson wasn’t done as his par win at 10 and birdie win at 11 was plenty of cushion to secure the win down the stretch.

Meyer def. Tommy Brandabur, 4-3

Ian Meyer fell behind by two through the first three holes against Tommy Brandabur on Wednesday, but those were the only two holes he dropped all round.

Meyer won 4-3 as he took control after that early deficit. He tied things up with par wins at 4 and 5, and then added par wins at 9 and 14 around birdie wins at 10 and 12 to put the match away.

Joe Bigger def. Black, 2-1

A couple of Alexandria natives squared off in Joe Bigger and Bryant Black, and it was Bigger who held on for a 2-1 win.

Black led by two after par wins at 3 and 5, but Bigger controlled the back nine. He eagled the par-4 11th, and that ignited him to a birdie win at 13 that tied it. His pars at 15 and 16 gave him the 2-up lead he needed to end the match after 17.

Holm def. Klein, 1-up

Geoff Klein positioned himself well as the fifth seed through qualifying after finishing as the runner-up in the Men’s Executive Division a year ago, but a late surge against Mitch Holm was not quite enough to come back from a 3-hole deficit on Wednesday.

Holm won the match 1-up when both players parred 18. Klein had got it to within one with a par win at 13 and a birdie win at 16. Holm built a 3-up advantage with birdies at 6 and 8 and pars at 7 and 10. That was enough as he played steady down the stretch to hold off Klein despite Klein shooting 3-under over his final eight holes.

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Sladek def. Wills, 5-3

Alexandria’s Braeden Sladek will be a junior for Alexandria Area High School this coming season, and he’s hoping to continue a strong summer golf season by getting deep into this tournament. He took a good first step.

Sladek beat Dawson Wills of Chaska in a 5-3 final after finishing with a flurry. Sladek shot a 1-under 35 on the front to take a 1-hole lead into the turn. He put the match away with four straight wins that came from pars on 13 and 14 and birdies on Nos. 12 and 15.

Vukovits def. Pexa, 2-1

The defending champ had to sweat out a close match against Jack Pexa, but Austin Vukovits got the job done in a 2-1 final with the help of a strong back nine.

Pexa led by two early and was one up at the turn. That’s when Vukovits came to life with a birdie win at 10 and a par win at 11 that gave him his first lead. Pexa got a birdie win at the par-3 13th, but back-to-back birdies by Vukovits gave him 14 and 15 and ultimately the win after both players parred holes 16 and 17.

Adams def. Lukas Bigger, 6-5

Nate Adams of Maple Grove is another regular in this division looking for his first championship after plenty of junior success and a runner-up finish in Men’s in 2018.

Adams got off to a good start by beating Alexandria’s Lukas Bigger in a 6-5 final. Adams did not leave any doubt as he led by five at the turn with wins at 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8. Birdies at 10 and 12 were plenty to put things away around Bigger’s only win of the day with a birdie at 11.

Jarrett def. Walcher, 3-2

Conrad Walcher did everything right at the start with birdie wins on his first two holes, but it was the finish by Nick Jarrett that made the difference in a 3-2 win for Jarrett.

Jarrett shot a 34 on the front and birdie wins at 7 and 9 tied things up and gave him some momentum. He carried that into the back where a birdie win at 12 and par win at 13 gave him his first lead at 1-up. Both parred 14 before back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 for Jarrett put the match away.

Strauman def. Cox, 2-1

Ben Strauman found himself down two holes early on, but five wins over a seven-hole stretch from holes 11 through 15 helped him secure a 2-1 win over Kyle Cox.

Cox won 3 with a birdie and 6 with an eagle before a birdie win for Strauman on No. 7 started to swing the momentum. His par win at 9 took these two to the turn all square. A birdie win regained the lead for Cox, but Strauman responded with three straight wins -- an eagle on 12 and pars on 11 and 13. A birdie for Cox on the par-5 14th made it a 1-hole match again, but Strauman had an answer all day. His birdie win on 15 and back-to-back pars sealed the deal.

Boraas def. Justesen, 2-1

The 30th seed pushed third-seeded Noah Boraas on Wednesday, but Boraas did what he had to do down the stretch to beat Lukas Justesen in a 2-1 match.

A birdie win for Boraas on 15 broke the tie, and a par on 16 moved him to 2-up. That was the difference after both parred the par-3 17th.

It was a match that was never separated by more than one through the first 15 holes. Justesen led by one at the turn, but a couple of birdies at 11 and 12 helped Boraas get the wins he needed to hold on.

Brown def. Davis Johnson, 1-up

Kelly Brown build a 3-up advantage by shooting 35 on the front nine, and he held on to beat Davis Johnson in a 1-up final.

Johnson climbed all the way back with the help of birdies at Nos. 12 and 13, but Brown found a way to finish to secure his spot in the next round.

Sauer def. Nelko, 3-2

Jon Sauer beat Tristan Nelko out of the University of Nebraska by a 3-2 score.

Nelko led by one after nine holes when his back-to-back par wins at 8 and 9 erased a narrow deficit. Sauer turned the match around right away on the back when his par on 10 and birdies on 11 and 12 gave him all three holes to gain an advantage he never let go of.

Wilson def. Rose, 3-2

A battle of two former Men’s Division champions went to Jacques Wilson as the 2014 winner beat three-time winner Jerry Rose by a 3-2 final.

Rose led by two early on as he shot 34 on the front nine. But Wilson was not far behind at 35 as his par wins at 8 and 9 started a stretch of four straight wins for him. Wilson’s wins at 10 and 11 came by birdie. Rose got one back with a birdie win at 14, but it wasn’t quite enough to climb over the top.

THURSDAY MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP PAIRINGS -- 1ST TEE
1:35 P.M. - Donald Constable vs. Josh Galvin; Alec Heinen vs. Lincoln Johnson
1:45 - Ian Meyer vs. Joe Bigger; Mitch Holm vs. Braeden Sladek
1:55 - Austin Vukovits vs. Nate Adams; Nick Jarrett vs. Ben Strauman
2:05 - Noah Boraas vs. Kelly Brown; Jon Sauer vs. Jacques Wilson
Related Topics: GOLF
Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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