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Carlson wins N.D. match play



FARGO — Bill Carlson and Riley Johnson have been golfing together since Johnson was in sixth grade and Carlson was a freshman in high school.

Normally, there’s chatter and joking on the golf course between the soon-to-be North Dakota State senior golfer and soon-to-be University of Minnesota freshman golfer.

Not Sunday at the North Dakota match play golf championship at Rose Creek.

“I’ve never really played Riley in a situation like this,” Carlson said. “Usually we’re talking and joking around the whole time. Today we kept to ourselves and played our own game.”

It was all silence and all business, as top-seeded Carlson made it back-to-back championships with a win over No. 2-seeded Johnson.

“I never really thought it would happen,” Carlson said. “I never thought about going back to back when the tournament started. I’d like to hear all the players who have done it because I bet it’s a select few and I’m sure a few legends have done it. It’s an honor to have done it.”

It came down to the 18th hole thanks to a 12-foot putt on 17 from Johnson. With Carlson up one and eying a par on 17, Johnson’s putt kept him alive for par and nearly killed Carlson’s heart.

“He got my heart racing,” said Carlson, a 2011 Fargo South graduate. “I thought he had a small chance of making that putt and I had it. When he made it, he crushed me a little bit.”

Still down one, Johnson’s magic was over on 18, as the West Fargo graduate hit into two bunkers and could never recover. With Carlson feet away from the cup, looking for par, Johnson missed on a putt for bogey and the championship went to Carlson.

“I was in a foot hole and wasn’t good the rest of the way on 18,” Johnson said. “I didn’t play too hot today. Every other day I was making putts, hitting every green and every fairway, but today was a different story. Shout out to Bill. He’s a great player and he loves to win.”

Carlson was up two through four holes and it stayed that way through 10. On 11, Johnson nearly got one back. After Carlson buried a 10-foot putt for par, Johnson was six feet away for birdie, but missed.

“I put it close and Bill made a long par putt,” Johnson said. “I was like six feet for birdie and it just didn’t drop. I was just stroking it bad today.”

Rather than rolling over, Johnson took the next two holes to even things up after 13, but ran into trouble on 14, overshooting the green.

“I drove it right and it just wasn’t good,” Johnson said. “I was 107 yards out and hit an 8-iron into the wind and it flew over. That caused me some trouble.”

Carlson took 14 and Johnson was never able to recover.

Even with the obvious NDSU-Minnesota topic to mock one another about, there was no boasting between the two on Sunday. There was just golf.

“We’re a close-knit group at Oxbow that golf together,” Carlson said. “We cheer each other on quite a bit.”

Dave Selvig

Selvig has been a sports writer at The Sun since 1999 and sports editor since 2009.

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