|6/5/2014 4:47:00 PM|
Three area golfers going to state meet after rain-shortened Section 7AAA tournament
North Branch's Regan Nelson and Jon Buboltz qualified, as did CL's Bryce Thompson
by JEFF NORTONIt had been a bit of a drought since multiple golfers went to the state tournament from the Chisago County area.
Last year, North Branch’s Nick Kress earned a spot at the prestigious Bunker Hills meet, but he was the lone representative from North Branch and Chisago Lakes.
This year, a trio of golfers, two from North Branch and one from Chisago Lakes, will take the trip out west to Anoka County to compete against the best golfers in the state, but it wasn’t without challenge and pressure.
The first round of sections, which typically determines who qualifies for the finals, was rained out. Raining out hundreds of golfers on a round of 18 holes makes it next to impossible to make up, so they played 18 holes on Monday, June 2 for all the marbles.
For the Wildcats, Bryce Thompson was on point from the beginning of the day. He was two under after nine holes, which was a career-best nine hole score for him.
“As I was walking the golf course with our players, coaches from other schools were approaching me and telling me how ‘on’ both Bryce and Eric Chambers were shooting,” Chisago Lakes Head Coach Bryon Rogers said.
Rogers didn’t think Thompson had a par putt outside of three feet on the front nine.
As the day wore on, the wind started to pick up and Thompson and the rest of the field began to have a bit of trouble on their approaches.
Through the first eight holes of the back nine, Thompson was three over, putting him at one over for the day.
He knocked his approach shot on the 18th hole into the water, though, and had to make some tough shots to keep his state dream alive. “He knew he had to get up and down for a legitimate shot at the state tournament,” Rogers said. He placed his next shot, a 50-footer within three feet of the of the pin and sunk his par putt to lock in his spot in the state tournament with a round of 73. “It was awesome. His teammates were surrounding the green and cheering him on,” Rogers said. “If Bryce can play at the level he is capable of, he can definitely finish under par and give state a run. This will be a fun week, and I couldn’t be more proud for a kid that definitely deserves this opportunity.”
On North Branch’s side of the coin, they had a handful of guys with legitimate shots at the state tournament. Buboltz and Nelson were both threats, as well as Kress, who went last year.
Buboltz and Nelson both ended up shooting matching 74s. A 74 is a good score for Buboltz, but being an experienced senior, he’s shot in the low 70s before, so it wasn’t necessarily new for him.
Nelson, on the other hand, turned in his career best round of 74. “He really picked the right day to have his best round,” North Branch Head Coach Ryan Minke said.
After the initial 18, Nelson and Buboltz were tied with a golfer from Forest Lake and a golfer from Duluth East, and there were only three more state spots available, so the four of them participated in a playoff round.
The Forest Lake golfers notched a birdie, so the pressure was instantly on the other three during their final shots. Buboltz made an impressive par on the hole and Nelson had to sink a surprisingly difficult three-foot putt to also pen a par on his card.
The Greyhound golfer succumbed to the pressure, however, and missed his par putt, sending the two Vikings and Ranger to the state tournament.
“The biggest key for both players was staying in the moment, not worrying about previous shots, or start looking ahead at what their score will be,” Minke said of the two competitors. “They just played one shot at a time. They both did a great job of controlling their emotions during the playoff hole. They were both nervous, but never let it show.”
Minke is looking forward to coaching the pair at Bunker Hills on Tuesday, June 10 and Wednesday, June 11.
“Bunker Hills is a long and tight course, I hope they play well, and have fun,” he said. “This is something they will remember for the rest of their lives. They are both great kids, and I know they will be great representatives of our school and community.”
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