by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
David Christensen had been away from Elk River Golf Club many years, but was very familiar with his 21-year-old rival for the ERGC title Sunday.
“It’s nice to see how Nate has matured into a great golfer,” said Christensen after edging Nate Varty in a playoff. “I know the (Varty) family very well.”
Christensen, 34, picked up his second ERGC title almost 15 years after his first, which came in, he guessed, 1997 or 1998. After that the 1995 ERHS graduate played D-I golf at East Tennessee State and pro golf for seven years. He recently moved back from Colorado.
Varty, the son of longtime ERGS course superintendent Guy Varty, was a three-time all-conference golfer for the Elks and has improved markedly with two seasons for North Dakota State. He made the Bison lineup for all 10 tournaments this past season, averaging 77, and was a big factor in his home club tourney for the first time.
Christensen shot 68-71 and Varty 71-68 to tie at 139 in what turned into a two-man race as Mike Bodnar and Cory Pike finished seven strokes behind them in third place. Christensen then parred the first playoff hole while Varty bogied.
“It was a lot of fun, and I played well,” said Varty “I got a new putter three weeks ago and I couldn’t be happier with it …. I was driving a lot better today, about 280 yards, 300 downwind.”
Varty made a couple 20-foot putts each day, although putts hurt him on the last three holes including the playoff.
“Things would have been a lot different, had not Nate putted off the green on No. 17,” said Christensen.
Varty, out-driving his foursome that included Christensen and past champions Steve Johnson and Matt Smerdon on Sunday, surged from three strokes behind after Saturday’s round to take a one-stroke lead on two occasions on Sunday.
However, on 17, putting downhill 25 feet to the cup, missed by a couple inches — and then watched in dismay as the ball which had almost stopped a couple feet past the hole, started rolling again, all the way down a bank and about 25 feet from the cup again. He needed three more shots for a double-bogey six.
“I didn’t think I hit it that poorly, either,” said Varty. “It (the green) was just faster than I thought it would be.”
Christensen had his own trouble with that bank under the hole, as his nine-iron approach hit the lip of the green, then rolled back down just like Varty’s putt did minutes later. But Christensen coolly recovered with a nice pitch shot and three-foot putt for a par four to take a one-stroke lead.
Varty still almost snatched back the victory with a booming drive and clutch nine-iron shot that put him eight feet from the cup on No. 18. Christensen took a five — his only bogie of the day after 15 pars and two birdies — and Varty had a chance to win with a birdie putt. But he came up a foot short and tapped in. Playoff.
On the No. 1 playoff hole both men got on the green in three but Varty missed a six-foot putt and took a five, after which Christensen steered in his put from 3 1/2 feet away for the victory.
On Saturday, Christensen earned himself a cushion with an unorthodox 68 for a three-stroke edge over Varty, Johnson and Smerdon. “I played easy holes not so well, but played hard holes well,” he said. “I birdied 9 and 18, and 15, and I think 7.”
The charge by Varty was fine with the champion.
“You always want a close match. It was fun,” he said.
1. David Christensen 68-71–139, won playoff
2. Nate Varty 71-68–139
3. Mike Bodnar 74-72–146
Cory Pike 75-71–146
5. Steve Johnson 71-76–147
6. Mat Smerdon 71-77–148
7. Justiin Varty 77-75–152
8. NIck Andrican 78-80–158
Andy Lee 81-77–158
10. Jody Freeman 81-79–160
Tim Gordon 76-84–160
12. Frank Carlson 80-83-163
13. Morgan White 78-86–164
First flight leaders (net)
1. Jesse Ende 138
2. John Kochis 140
3. Chris Miller 142
4. Bob Deiley 144
Second flight leaders (net)
1. Tim Grill 132
2. Joe Whalen 138
3. Denny Hutton 140
4. Jim Kalupa 142
Third flight leaders (net)
1. Bruce Smith 132
2. Craiig Walz 138
3. Steve Smith 141
4. Charles Laugen 149