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Northland Invitational winners back to defend titles

Dan Moline tees off during last year’s qualifying round of the Northland Invitational. Moline, a four-time Northland Invitational winner, will be competing for the title again this weekend. File / News Tribune

When the 89th Northland Invitational golf tournament gets underway with qualifying today at Northland Country Club, the course will be “fast and firm” for the 160 competitors.

It’s exactly what Northland golf pro Jennifer Webster wants out of a course come tournament time.

“Our golf course can defend itself. We don’t need to trick our golfers,” Webster said. “Northland has always been an amazing test. From tee to green, our golf course is relatively fair, but when you get to the greens, it’s definitely a challenge. Local knowledge is a huge asset to our golfers. To members and those who have played in the event for a long time, it’s most helpful to understand our greens.”

Webster admitted the course had been getting a bit “crispy” after a summer dry spell, but rain on Sunday and Monday helped cure that.

There is a slight chance Northland could see more rain this weekend with storms forecast for Friday and Saturday as temperatures rise into the high 70s. The forecast for today’s qualifying round and Sunday’s championship matches calls for sunny skies with temperatures in the low-to-mid-70s.

“The course has been fantastic,” Webster said. “We came out of the winter excellent with no winter chill. Once the rain stopped, we hit the ground running.”

The 160 competitors are the “largest field in a number of years,” Webster said, with 80 golfers in the regular field, 72 in the senior tournament and eight competing in the 70-plus Super Senior Division.

Two-time defending champion Jordan Hawkinson is not back in 2014 to defend his title, but four-time Northland Invitational winner Dan Moline is competing this year, as is 2013 runner-up Frank Mertz.

Tim Anderson returns in 2014 to defend his 2013 senior title as well.

“There are a number of players here that can compete in the regular division and have the opportunity to get their first title,” Webster said. “There are probably a legitimate 10 to 12 players who have the opportunity to compete.”

Match play gets underway Friday and carries into Saturday. The semifinals are scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Sunday, with the championship match set to begin about 1:30 p.m.

The Travis Matthews Tour Van golf outfitters will be at the Northland Invitational today for qualifying and is open to the public.