Duluth golfer Taylor Sundbom said he has looked at the list of Arrowhead Invitational winners in the Ridgeview Country Club clubhouse, and it’s a who’s who in the history book of Duluth golf.
Sundbom continues to put his stamp on the latest chapter.
“There’s a lot of names on that list that are pretty recognizable in Duluth, so it feels great to be among those,” he said.
Sundbom, 27, captured the 95th annual Arrowhead Invitational Sunday — his fourth — on a windy day with temperatures in the upper 80s, winning the match-play final 2-up over upstart Dan Anderson. He is now second only to five-time champion Reed Kolquist in Arrowhead titles and has a lot of rounds left in him.
Sundbom, playing his home course, seems to know every nook and cranny at Ridgeview and played like it, never giving Anderson much opportunity to make a run. Cruising with the lead, he played conservative, and few people seem to play so well, look so relaxed, doing it.
“Just stay patient, try not to get too aggressive and make him beat me,” Sundbom said of his strategy. “Get it on the green and force him to try to make a birdie putt. This isn’t your typical straightaway golf course. Here, there are a lot of places you cannot hit it. So it helps knowing that.”
Sundbom, who captured his fourth Cloquet Invitational earlier this summer, still has the Northland Invitational coming up and is first alternate for the U.S. Amateur, saying he’ll find out in the next few weeks if he is in or not.
Sundbom, a 2012 Hermantown grad who grew up in Pike Lake, works for Jamar Co. He has hopes of playing professionally but said it’s a far-off thing, “If it happens, it happens.”
Sundbom said his birdie putt on the Par 4, 335-yard No. 9 helped settle him down, but it was his drive on that hole that turned some heads.
“That’s the longest drive I’ve ever seen on that hole … hitting the bunker?” remarked longtime local golf fan Paul Erickson of Duluth, who caddied for the legendary Leo Spooner at the ’72 Arrowhead.
Granted, equipment is better than it used to be, no doubt, but Sundbom, who plays the course two or three times a week, often with friends who can really drive it, said he has even hit the No. 9 green a couple times off the tee.
Up two holes a short time later, Sundbom started feeling it. His tee shot on the par-3 No. 12 could have easily gone over but stayed on the edge of the green, and Sundbom did the rest, draining a putt he estimated at 35 feet to go 3-up.
“That was big,” Sundbom said. “I saw the line, and I felt if I could hit it with the right speed, it was going to go in.”
After Anderson got a hole back with a birdie on No. 13, Sundbom took it right back with a birdie on No. 14. His approach on the par-5 485-yard hole wasn’t fair. It’s not the biggest green, and Sundbom stuck it to about 20 feet from the pin.
“Spectacular. Hats off to him,” Anderson said. “Whenever he needed to make a big shot, he did it.”
Anderson is a great story in his own right.
After Sundbom nailed his approach and was looking at eagle, Anderson airmailed his third shot, going from the bunker just in front of the green to the rhubarb well beyond it. Rather than give up, Anderson came back and nearly holed his fourth shot with a silly-good effort.
“That just goes to show, never give up,” Anderson said.
While Sundbom looks like a golfer — he just has that look — Anderson is an athlete who happens to play golf, really good golf, and it’s no wonder.
Anderson, 30, works in sales for Life Fitness and Hammer Strength and lives in Centerville, Minnesota. Growing up in Moose Lake, he played football, hockey and baseball in high school. He just played golf with his buddies in the summer for fun. But as he has gotten more into golf, he has gone from a 12-handicap six years ago to a 1-handicap today.
“To finish second in my first time ever playing, this is a victory in my book, and to go to No. 17 with a golfer like Taylor Sundbom was a real treat,” Anderson said. “After high school, you want to keep that competitive edge, while at the same time have some camaraderie, too, and when it comes to that, I don’t think there’s better sport out there than golf. It’s something you can do the rest of your life. You’ll probably be seeing my name around here more.”
And that’s good. Local golf needs a little new blood vying for titles, and this weekend was certainly good for that.
In Sunday’s semifinals, Anderson knocked off Mark Anderson 3 and 2, and Sundbom defeated Scott Pavelski 3 and 2. On Saturday, the veteran Mark Anderson, whom Dan jokingly called “Mark the shark,” knocked off defending champion Alex Kolquist.
But in the end, it was an all-too-familiar face with victory in hand after Dan Anderson left his tee shot short of the green on the par 3 No. 17 while Sundbom stuck his. Anderson was hoping for the wind to carry his shot, but with trees and hills and everything else on this course, sometimes, the wind doesn’t blow, or at least not as much as you expect it.
Sundbom could have walked up to the No. 17 green in style, soaking it all in like a make believe No. 18 at Augusta, but nope, he took the cart.
“It was a long weekend,” he said, laughing.
Gary Carlson defeated Mark Koquist 4 and 3 to win the senior championship.
New this year, the seniors played in a foursome with the men’s finalists, and while not everyone was a fan, Carlson loved it. No more an afterthought, no more getting rolled over or passed by.
“It was fantastic,” Carlson said. “To me, it’s the best decision they’ve made.”
Carlson, 53, works in insurance for the Marsh and McLennan Agency. He has been in the men’s semifinals before but had never won an Arrowhead title. Last year was his first year playing seniors. He lives in Woodland and is a member at Ridgeview, saying that experience helped considerably. And despite the dry conditions the area has had this year, the course was in remarkably good shape.
“The greens were just rolling,” Carlson said. “Not outrageously fast. Just nice and playable.”
Mark Kolquist, Reed’s cousin, rallied in the semifinals to defeat Bob Seitz, 1-up, while Carlson defeated Tom Kero 2 and 1.
“I didn’t play well this afternoon, but this is my second tournament in 30 years,” Mark Kolquist said, laughing. “I quit golfing 40 years ago, and I came back about 20 years ago. For a year, I tried it, didn’t play enough, so I quit it again. I just started up again a year and a half ago.”
The Kolquists are naturals. Mark Kolquist, who is retired and lives in Pike Lake, got knocked out of last year’s tournament by Carlson but did defeat his cousin Reed.
“I couldn’t believe I actually beat him,” Mark Kolquist said. “I told Reed, ‘No wonder you quit.’”
One person who hasn’t quit is Carlson. He even looks younger than a senior. He finished in style Sunday, nailing a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 15 to finish it.
“It didn’t even occur to me until it went in … now wait a minute; I just won,” Carlson said. “That was a good putt, and a good feeling. It was a long day, and a great way to end it.”