Pine to Palm Golf Tournament


In recent years, the Pine to Palm also has had a division for play on the Lake View golf course, located across the county road from the Pine to Palm Course, which is an 18-hole layout that plays to a par of 31-33-64. The Pine to Palm course has a 36-35-71.

First held in 1931, the Pine to Palm is the youngest of the three “resort circuit” tourneys, which also includes the Birchmont International at Bemidji and the Resorters at Alexandria.

For the most part, the tournaments have been held in consecutive weeks, first the Birchmont, then the Resorters and then the Pine to Palm.

Pat Sawyer, on of Minnesota’s leading amateur players at the time, won the championship in the first two pine to Palm tourneys and defeated his brother (Dick) in the 1932 champion match. Sawyer bested Edgar Bolstad in the first Pine to Palm final in 1931 and Bolstad is also a familiar golf name in the state. Edgar’s brother (Les Bolstad) was a longtime head men’s golf coach at the University of Minnesota. 

McLean Wins...

In recent years, one of the best-known Pine to Palm champions is James McLean.

McLean, whose home is at Wahgunjah, Victoria, Australia, defeated Mike Podolak in the 1998 Pine to Palm final to complete an excellent season.

Earlier in the year, McLean had won the NCAA Division I individual championship at the University of Minnesota and then added the Minnesota State Amateur and the Minnesota State Open championship to his list of laurels.

Podolak, who lost to McLean in the finals, is one of the Pine to Palm’s all-time best performers.

Now playing out of Oxbow, N.D., Podolak has also won two Pine to Palm titles (1982-93), has been the tournament runner-up three times and has been the tournament medallist or shared the medal laurel seven times.

Winner of numerous North Dakota amateur championships, Podolak also won the United States Mid-amateur championship when the event was contested at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Duluth, Ga., in 1984.

That earned Podolak a berth on the 1985 U. S. Walker Cup team and Podolak helped the US golfers post a victory over the Great Britain-Ireland team at Pine Valley, N. J. By winning the U. S. Mid-amateur, Podolak also earned a spot in the field for the 1985 Masters Tournament at Augusta, Ga.

Podolak holds the best Pine to Palm win-loss record, which is 66-17.

Ken Pinns...

In detailing Pine to Palm history, the name Ken Pinns always comes up.

That’s because Pinns – in 1965- achieved a feat that nobody else has ever accomplished.

Pinns won the championships of the three “resort circuit” tourneys all in the same year. He scored 16 consecutive match play victories and defeated Keith Jorde of Hereford, Tx. (5 and 4) on the Birchmont final, topped Neil Croonquist of Minneapolis (1-up) to win the Resorters championship and capped his string with a 1-up win over Dave Hanten of Huron, SD at the Pine to Palm.

In winning the three titles, Pinns scored five victories each in the Birchmont and Resorters tourneys and six at he Pine to Palm. This is because the title flight is made up of 32 golfers at Bemidji and Alexandria and is made up of 64 at Detroit Lakes.

Three Timers...

Five golfers have the distinction of winning the Pine to Palm Tournament championship three times each.

They include Virgil Roby (1933-34-35), Jack Rule (1958-59-60), Bill Von Wald (1973-74-75), Bill Israelson (1976-77-80) and Jim Strandemo (1983-87-89).

Rule, who won his three titles when the championship flight consisted of 32 players, gained the finals in 1961 before losing to Dayton Olson and established a record of 19 successive victories.

That was ended in the next decade when Von Wald won three straight times, when the title flight consisted of 64 players, and reached the semifinal round in 1976 before losing. He won 22 straight title flight matches, a Pine to Palm record.

Strandemo, one of the three-time champions, holds the record for the most successive championship flight appearances at the Pine to Palm. He played in the tournament for the first time in 1973, qualified for the championship flight that year and made it every year until losing out in a championship flight playoff in 1999.

Pine to Palm Notes...

John Harris, winner of the Pine to Palm title in 1972, won the 1993 U. S. Men’s Amateur championship and has announced that he will play on the U. S. Senior Tour starting this year.

Tom Lehman, winner of the British Open championship in 1996, was the Pine to Palm medallist in 1980. He lost in the second round of the match play that year to Jeff Teal, who was a University of Minnesota golf team member with Lehman.

The Pine to Palm senior Division was added to the tournament in 1967 and has proven to be an increasingly more popular part of the tourney with each passing year.

Collegiate golfers have won the Pine to palm championship in six of the last seven years. They are mark Halverson (University of Minnesota) in 1995, Laine Brantner (University of Iowa) in 1996, Bill Thompson (University of Minnesota) in 1997, James McLean (University of Minnesota) in 1998 and Andy Doeden (Texas Christian University) in 1999 and 2001.