Past articles on Mike's Golf

Christensen still dreaming of PGA Tour
Mike Christensen is working hard to make a lifelong dream come true.
Ted Anderson

In the world of professional golf, the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) is top dog. While there are many less prestigious professional golf leagues scattered around the world, playing in the PGA is the equivalent of making it to "the big time."
Mike Christensen, director of golf at Sugarbrooke Golf Club, located at Ruttger's Sugar Lake Lodge, about 15 miles southwest of Grand Rapids, is a well-recognized golf name in the Grand Rapids area. As a fabled high school player, he won state individual golf championships in both his sophomore and senior years, and placed fifth during his junior year after leading after the first day. He also was a key member of the lone Grand Rapids High School boys golf team to ever win a state team championship.
Christensen started out playing at Pokegama Golf Course, competing in the junior programs offered by the golf course. With his father, Buzzy Christensen, being an accomplished golfer and later the head high school golf coach, golfing was a natural sport for him to learn.
Christensen was an all-around athlete growing up, lettering for four seasons in hockey while attending high school. He also played the other summer sports as a youngster, to include running track, playing baseball and tennis.
"I played a lot of sports until I was about 13, when I kind of caught on to golf and had some success, so I decided that was the sport I wanted to do," Christensen said. "I was out at Pokegama pretty much from sunup to sundown with my dad or who else would bring me out there. I had older people like Jeff Nielsen, Derek Rolle and Chris Carlson who took me under their wings and I learned a lot from them early. And the fact that Bob Cahill (director of golf at Pokegama Golf Course) allowed kids to be out there playing golf, he helped us as well.
"That opened doors not only for myself, but for Kelly Kirwin (a 1996 GRHS graduate and former state individual champion) and other golfers who have had success in Grand Rapids. You learned more than just golf. You learned how to deal with adults, and to respect sports and to respect others. It was a great experience. I couldn't imagine growing up in a better environment to give me an opportunity to succeed at that level."
When Christensen played high school golf, he said that while the individual element of the sport was important, the team element was at least equally important. Being a member of a state championship team was definitely a highlight of his career.
"In high school, we had a team that won a lot of events, and we won a state title," Christensen said. "And having Kelly (Kirwin) being the same age as me was nice because it is fun to have a girls team doing well. We pushed each other during that time. And, having Jeff Nielsen, who is older than me, and Clint Cornell (the third male Grand Rapids state champ), who is younger than me, we are good friends. We play a lot with each other and we feed off each other. And very rarely does the fact that each of us won a state championship come up. In this area, where there are so many good golfers, you learn that if you are not practicing hard, if you are not playing a lot, other people are going to pass you."
After winning a state championship as a sophomore, there was obvious pressure for Christensen to repeat in the following two years. He led after the first day of the state tournament during his junior year, but fell to fifth place after the second round that year. He redeemed himself as a senior by claiming his second state individual title.
"Having a team do well, it took a little pressure off because I just wasn't focused on my individual results, I was focused on doing well for the team," Christensen said. "Probably my best of the three years (in high school) was my junior year as far as the season went, and then I had one poor round in the state tournament. I was leading after the first round and had a poor second round."
As a senior, the Grand Rapids boys team did not qualify for state. Thus, Christensen was allowed to focus on his individual game in an attempt to repeat as state champion.
"I remember that the pressure wasn't all that high to repeat," Christensen said. "Jeff (Nielsen) won one. I did want to win two. I did want to surpass Jeff as winning two from Grand Rapids. That was one of my goals."
After his high school career, Christensen, 27, a 1996 graduate of Grand Rapids High School, attended Duke University where he was an important member of the Blue Devils, playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference, probably the best collegiate men's golfing conference in the country.
“We had good teams, and the things about our teams is that we had well-rounded athletes,” said Christensen of his teams while playing for Duke. “I am happy with my choice. I considered going to Stanford, and that was up in the air until the end. But I am happy I went to Duke. It was a great environment for golf.”
Each year since graduating from Duke in 2000 with a major in sociology and minors in marketing and management, he has attempted to qualify for the PGA Tour by taking part in the PGA's qualifying school, and each year he has failed to make the grade. And, each year, he works on his game to make his childhood dream of playing on the PGA Tour a reality.
He has played on minitours for the National Golf Association, on the Asian Tour, and has played in one PGA event, the John Deere Classic in 2001.
“It’s competitive and there are times where you wonder if you can make it on the PGA Tour, but at the end of the day you have to realize that I am relatively young when it comes to professional golf. If you look on TV, there are very few players who are younger than me out there playing,” Christensen said. “And those players are phenoms such as the Sergio Garcias, the Adam Scotts, and Tiger Woods.”
Christensen said he continues to work hard on his golf game and will play in some tournaments to get himself ready this fall for the PGA Tour Qualifying School. Golfers need to qualify in three stages to get their PGA card. He has qualified for the second state of the school, but has yet to make the final stage. The school consists of two four-round tournaments and one six-round tournament spread over two months.
“There is a fine line between my level of golf and the PGA level of golf,” Christensen said. “It is hard to put a finger on what helps you make the jump from one level to the next. But all you can do is work hard and hope that things fall in place.
“I think deep down, I do believe that I can make the tour and that is why I am still pursuing it. Right now, I am going through a tough time with my competition. But I believe strongly that my hard work and my experiences are going to lead to a situation where I can play at that level.
“At some point, the ultimate goal is to not just make the PGA Tour, but to play well out there. It probably would be impossible to put into words the relief or the emotion that I would feel if I made the tour. It is like a lifelong dream and to have that dream achieved and get to a level where you feel that you belong, it would be great.”
Sugarbooke Golf Club
Christensen said Sugarbrooke Golf Course came through the winter in excellent condition. He said early golfing conditions at the golf course are good.
Christensen is in his second season as director of golf at the golf course. He said he enjoyed his first season at his position, but that it was definitely a learning experience.
"We had a good year last year, and the golf course is only 10 years old," Christensen said. "We are happy with the way things are going. I think the course is selling itself because it has improved year by year. As time goes on, the course will become a better name of the area."
Christensen said Sugarbrooke is very playable for golfers of all levels, with extremely playable greens. He said it is a relatively flat course that will not eat up many golf balls. With the lake and the woodsy atmosphere, he said it is a great course to golf.
Sugarbrooke will host a junior league later in the season on Tuesdays. A Ladies League also is planned.
"Most of our clientele is from the Cities or from wherever," Christensen said. "But we enjoy it when local people come out here."
Those who wish to golf at Sugarbrooke can call the golf shop for a tee time at 327-1462.
Sugarbrooke has 70 golf carts, so there is no need to book golf carts in advance. In the golf shop, a great line of resort and golf items are available. It is open from 7 a.m. until dark. A gift shop also is available.
Jack's Grill is located in the clubhouse complex at Sugarbrooke. It is open Friday through Sunday until May 27, when it is open daily from 11 a.m. until the bar closes down. It offers a dinner and lunch menu for golfers this season, with the lunch menu also available during dinner hours.
"We are really excited about our course," Christensen said. "We want people to come out and take a look at the course. We think they will be impressed at what they see."

Q School 2005  (Esplendor Resort, Rio Rico, Ariz.)

Mike made it through the first round of qualifying for the 2005 US Open Championship.

Article in Minneapolis Star Tribune 
(sorry you will have to set up a user name and password for the newspaper to read this -
I have cut and pasted the article below)    

Golf: Five move on to sectionals for U.S. Open

The Star Tribune Article - May 17, 2005  

Michael Christensen of Grand Rapids, Minn., led a group of five players who advanced from Monday's 82-man U.S. Open local qualifying at Olympic Hills Golf Club in Eden Prairie.

Christensen, head pro at his hometown Sugarbrooke Golf Club, shot a 1-under-par 71 under cloudy, chilly conditions that turned into afternoon rain. Hazeltine National pro Mike Barge shot a 72 to earn the second of the five places in next month's sectional qualifying play. Gophers golfer Ben Greve, Burl Oaks Country Club pro Scott Spence and Elk River's Eric Johnson also advanced by surviving a six-way playoff of golfers who shot 1-over 73s.

Greve made a 40-foot birdie putt, and Spence made par on the first playoff hole to earn invitations. Johnson made it by making par on the third playoff hole. Rochester's David Morgan, former MGA Amateur champion Kane Hanson and Phil Eich of Maitland, Fla., also reached the playoff.

The next step for the five is sectional qualifying, at 14 sites in the United States, England and Japan. Those who advance will play in the 105th U.S. Open in North Carolina on June 16-19.

Jerry Zgoda

This Week Mike will be playing:

Q School  (Esplendor Resort, Rio Rico, Ariz.)

and then the Hooter Tour Events

Hooters Tour    

 Mike's previous links

 Tarheel Tour

 2005 Minnesota Golf Champions Tournament (Mike Finished 8th )

 2005 Minnesota Golf Champions Tournament (Mike Finished 8th )