Grand Rapids native wins Nemadji InvitationalA trophy and a tournament record were Mike Christensen’s rewards Sunday afternoon as the Bill Law Nemadji Invitational ended at Nemadji Golf Course in Superior. No money, but plenty of satisfaction marked his return as an amateur player
By: By Kevin Pates, Duluth News Tribune , Superior Telegram
A trophy and a tournament record were Mike Christensen’s rewards Sunday afternoon as the Bill Law Nemadji Invitational ended at Nemadji Golf Course in Superior. No money, but plenty of satisfaction marked his return as an amateur player.
Christensen, 32, a native of Grand Rapids, competed on various mini-tours from 2000 to 2006, and played in one PGA event, before a career change. After waiting a required three years, the U.S. Golf Association restored his amateur status in April.
The Nemadji Invitational was his first tournament in three years, yet he hardly looked rusty, shooting 65-71-33—169, 10 under par for 45 holes, breaking the event mark of 8-under-par held by Duluthians Kevin Oswald (2001) and Reed Kolquist (2004).
“When you’re playing well as a pro, it’s fun, but when you struggle, you spend too much time thinking about your game,” Christensen said. “When you start basing your self-worth on how you’re doing on the golf course, then it’s time to start thinking about another job. Playing a professional sport looks glamorous, but when you’re by yourself and not playing well, it’s tough.”
Derek Rolle of Grand Rapids, a longtime Christensen friend and playing partner, called Christensen on Wednesday last week and mentioned the Nemadji Invitational. Christensen had nothing on his schedule and shot well despite having never been on the course. Rolle, 37, finished second for the third time at Nemadji, five shots back at 65-71-38—174, while home course player Steve Barschdorf was third at 69-72-34—175.
Winning isn’t new for Christensen. His titles include 1994 Minnesota Junior Boys, 1994 and 1995 Minnesota Class AA high school boys and 1995 Minnesota State Amateur.
“When he’s playing well, Mike doesn’t get into trouble, he hits the green and putts well,” said Rolle, who works in marketing for Paul Bunyan Telephone.
“If I’m going to a tournament, I want the best competition possible and that’s why I asked him to go along. The last two days he hit his driver the best I’ve ever seen, 295 to 300 yards per drive, and never out of play.”
Christensen got to 10 under par after 38 holes and parred the final seven holes to earn a silver bowl.
After his pro playing days on tours with names such as Hooters, Nationwide and Gateway, Christensen spent a year caddying on the LPGA Tour for Virada Nirapathpongporn of Thailand and 1½ years caddying on the PGA Tour for former Duke University teammate Kevin Streelman.
He has a residence in Scottsdale, Ariz., and has spent part of the summer in Grand Rapids as he sorts out opportunities ranging from the financial sector to commercial real estate. Being back on the golf course, even on a hot July day, felt good, he said.
“It had been a long time since I’ve been nervous about playing, but I played and felt a lot better than I thought I would,” Christensen said.
Christensen, a plus-3 handicap at Pokegama Golf Course in Grand Rapids, is considering playing in the 85th Birchmont Invitational starting today in Bemidji. Rolle, a plus-1 handicap, has won the Vern Fryklund Northwest Invitational at Mesaba Country Club in Hibbing five times and will be in the field Sept. 4.
Nemadji Invitational Results
Championship Flight – 1. Mike Christensen 65-71-33-169, 10 under par (45-hole tournament record, previous record 8 under par by Kevin Oswald in 2001 and Reed Kolquist in 2004); 2. Derek Rolle 65-71-38-174; 3. Steve Barschdorf 69-72-34-175; 4. Mark Anderson 76-70-33-179; 5. (tie) Brandon Kolquist 74-71-35-180 and Charlie Place 74-72-34-180; 7. Don McKay 70-76-35-181; 8. Kevin Noreen76-73-33-182; 9. (tie) Nate Anderson 69-79-35-183, Brian Moores 70-77-36-183, Terry O’Laughlin 75-73-35-183, Todd Pederson 74-74-35-183, Joel Pettingill 75-71-37-183; 14. Casey Hill 79-72-33-184; 15. (tie) Dan Bidle 77-72-36-185, Larry Cole 78-72-25-185; 17. Rob Mihalek 74-80-32-186; 18. (tie) Tyler Hill 79-72-36-187, Lynden Medlin 76-73-38-187, Scott Anderson 77-73-37-187.
D. Isaacson, K. Ness, 188s; K. Johnson, Steve Stojevich, B. Owen, W. Salo, 190s; J. Cole, S. Lundgren, M. Cocanour, 191s; T. Baron, A. Smith, 192s; L. Smith, S. McLeod, 193s; G. Cora, S. Steinback, J. Engelking, R. Fremont, 194s; Brian Crawford, R. Edmunds, 195s; S. Mathias, J. Kinney, C. Olson, Musich, R. Lundquist, 196s.
Senior Championship Flight
Rick Thrasher, 161; Gaylord Palm, 163; Dick Frank, 168; Jim Barschdorf, 172; Mike Murray, 175.
First Flight — 1. Edwin Evans; 2. J. Castonguay. Consolation — 1. D. Dunsmor; 2. M. Martin.
Second Flight — 1. Dave Quam; 2. Jeff McKay. Consolation — 1. Phil Angell; 2. Teak Kwon.
Third Flight — 1. Dick Allen; 2. Doug Venne. Consolation 1. Fred Tatting; 2. Jerry Engelking.