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Duluth golf: Fifth Northland title a close one for Moline

Dan Moline hits onto the fourth green during the championship round of the Northland Invitational Golf Tournament Sunday afternoon. (Steve Kuchera / / 2
Taylor Sundbom hits out of a bunker and onto the green on the fourth hole during the championship match of the Northland Invitational Golf Tournament on Sunday. (Steve Kuchera / / 2

At 28 years old, Dan Moline of Duluth won his fifth Northland Invitational championship on Sunday at Northland Country Club, defeating 20-year-old challenger Taylor Sundbom 1-up over 18 holes in the final of the match-play tournament.

And just like his previous four titles in 2006, ’09, ’10 and ’11, the fifth was a close one, in many more ways than one.

“I’ve had some close ones coming down the stretch for sure,” Moline said. “It’s the championship match. You expect it to go all the way.”

Sunday’s final was delayed for about an hour because of a heavy downpour, and close to restarting at 8 a.m. today with Sundbom 1-up on Moline on the 10th fairway after the challenger won the eighth.

Both golfers elected to restart the championship just after 6 p.m. on Sunday with daylight fading, rain subsiding and the course sopping.

Moline squared the match for a second time after the restart on the 10th — Sundbom was 1-up after four holes before Moline won the sixth — and then took the lead on the 11th.

“For me, I came out of the rain delay just not feeling right, and it took me a few holes to get back into it,” Sundbom said.

From the 12th tee box on, Moline and Sundbom watched close calls both go for and against themselves.

Moline’s tee shot on the par-4 No. 14 went into the woods, landing in bounds by only a few feet. He punched out into the rough, then landed his approach within about a foot of the hole, where he tapped in to save par.

Sunbom found the fairway on No. 14, bounced his ball off the green on his approach, and then made a long putt to save par, keeping himself within one of his opponent.

“The up and down that I made on 12, 13 and then 14, those three pars, I feel were huge momentum keepers for me,” Moline said. “The one out of the bunker on 12 was big, the up and down on 13 when he was already in for four, and obviously the four I made on 14.

“He made a great a great up and down on 14, so it was nice I was able to make that putt and still stay ahead.”

Moline, who won his first Arrowhead Invitational earlier this summer, nearly holed his approach shot on No. 15. It would have put him 2-up with three holes to play, but he ended up halving the hole with Sundbom, whose ball rested just as close to the pin as Moline’s finally did.

On No. 17, Moline had a chance to go 2-up again and clinch the match, however, his short putt rolled over the edge of the cup on a slow, soft and soggy green, forcing a decisive 18th hole.

“These greens are so difficult to read, no matter how many times you play here,” Moline said.

Monline’s tee shot on No. 18 – which went through a flock of sea gulls – landed inches from the cart path. After a drop, he left his ball what seemed like miles from the hole compared to Sunbom, who was only a few feet away following his approach from the fairway.

Sundbom —  who drove over a family of deer on No. 18 —  was unable to make the short birdy putt to force another hole, though, and Moline two-putted for par to clinch his second win of the day, having beaten Dan Luther in a semifinal that started 12 hours earlier at 8 a.m.

“Obviously I’ve had a lot of good success here,” Moline said. “I really enjoy coming back. I feel confident when I come here. I grew up playing here. Just the tradition of the tournament and the people that have won it in the past, I really enjoy playing in this atmosphere and on this golf course. I’m fortunate I was able to play as good as I did.”

  • Bob Mullan won the 70-plus Super Senior title, while the Senior Division championship is still undecided. Playing in a foursome with Moline and Sundbom, Tim Andersen and David Whittaker were also halted on No. 10. They decided not to resume play, and will restart at a date yet to be determined in September.
Matt Wellens

College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

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