MOORHEAD — The elements would have been a challenge even for a mail carrier. As it was, the Red River Valley Amateur golf tournament came down to a margin the size of a postage stamp.
Defending champion Van Holmgren overcame a two-shot deficit late in the round with birdies on 17 and 18 to force a playoff with former North Dakota State teammate Nate Deziel. Holmgren won on the first extra hole, No. 18, with about the same putt that got him there in the first place just 20 minutes earlier.
“Just play the course, that’s the easiest way,” Holmgren said of the playoff, which turned a stroke play tournament into match play. “You need all the energy you have to go toward your game and so today I’m thankful I could keep my head clear.”
Holmgren had to punch his approach on the playoff hole to stay clear of a bank of trees just off the right side of the fairway. It didn’t reach the green and his third shot left him a 15-foot putt.
Deziel had a similar shot after his tee shot, only from a closer distance. But his approach caught a branch and fell about 40 yards from the green.
“I don’t know what happened there,” Deziel said. “My initial game plan was to go low.”
After an almost two-hour rain delay that soaked the course late in the morning, officials gave players the right to clean and place, meaning they could pick their ball up anywhere and clean it off.
“I think I gave myself too good of a lie,” Deziel said, “and it came out high and right. I lost it from there, I didn’t know where it was and that wasn’t ideal.”
Deziel hit an almost ideal pitch shot from there and got inside Holmgren’s distance. But Holmgren sank his putt and Deziel’s putt danced with the edge of the cup.
“I gave myself a chance and just came up short,” he said.
Holmgren won the title in 2019. The tournament was canceled last summer because of the pandemic making him a back-to-back champion.
It was a bottle neck to the finish between Holmgren, Deziel and Matt Kulla. Deziel took a two-shot lead with an eagle on No. 15 when he hit his approach with a 6-iron to within two feet. Deziel parred his last three holes.
Kulla had a chance to tie on 18 but his birdie putt just rolled by the cup.
“I think what I've learned is worrying about what other people do doesn’t help you,” Holmgren said. “Just make birdies and as long as I made birdies on 17 and 18 I would be proud and that’s what I did.”
Holmgren played at Florida Gulf Coast last year after transferring from NDSU. He plans on turning professional in August.
He carded a 2-under 70 on Sunday. Deziel had a 68 and Kulla a 71. Ben Welle and Andrew Israelson finished three shots back.
“It was a long day, you had to stay in the moment,” Deziel said. “You had to keep it real and pars were a really good score and I was lucky enough to make a few birdies. Just tried to keep my head high, just pick away at the course. Anyone has a chance in this type of weather.”
Van Holmgren 69-70--139
Nate Deziel 71-68--139
Matt Kulla 69-71--140
Ben Welle 74-68--142
Andrew Israelson 71-71---142
Ethan Olson 75-70--145
Jonnie Miller 70-76--146
Dan Matheson 76-71--147
Joe Christianson, 76-71---147
Mason Opheim 75-72--147
Pat Dietz 74-73--147
Taylor Shuck 73-74--147
Nathan Anderson 75-74--149
Dylan Naylor 72-77--149
Lucas Johnson 72-77--149