By STUART GROSKREUTZ
COON RAPIDS – Becoming the third Stillwater player to claim medalist honors in the last four years, junior Lars Lillehei helped the Ponies to a third-place finish at Tuesday’s Section 4AAA tournament at Bunker Hills Golf Course.
Lillehei shot a 3-over-par 75 in windy conditions to share medalist honors with Patrick Conroy of Mahtomedi and Deion Kelly of Tartan. Stillwater also produced the medalist a year ago when Drew Lynch won the section title and Hudson Carpenter took top individual honors at this event in 2009.
Stillwater placed third in a tight battle for the team title, which was won by Roseville with a score of 321. Tartan followed in second place at 323 and the Ponies were third at 324.
Sammy Sicard followed Lillehei with an 82 for the Ponies while Bennett Anderson and Charley Clements completed the scoring at 83 and 84. Jeff Carstens and Anthony Johnson each carded 86s.
"We gave it a good shot as a team, but came up short," Stillwater coach John Scanlon said. "The top four of six scores count in team golf, but if it was a six-score event the Ponies would have won easily. I’m really proud of the guys, especially the seniors Anthony, Jeff, Charley and Bennett, who overcame a lot of adversity this year. They were solid all year, alternating positions on the team. I wish they had another year of eligibility at SAHS. Led by Sammy and Lars, we have a strong group of underclassmen so we are already building for replacing our great seniors."
Lillehei, meanwhile, will compete at the state tournament back at Bunker Hills on June 12 and 13 to cap what has been an up-and-down season. One of just four players to break 80 on Tuesday, Lillehei, who hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation and reached two par-5s in two shots, credited Ponies assistant coach Kyle Scanlon and Dellwood Hills PGA professional Jay Norman with helping him play well at sections.
"Kyle really helped me with course strategy, having played Bunker many times in competition, and Jay gave me some good practice drills to work on and my putting has definitely improved," Lillehei said.
n There was some drama surrounding the outcome of which team would advance to state from this section after Mahtomedi turned in an initial score of 320, which would have clipped the Raiders by one shot. The Zephyrs later had a player – and the others in his group – disqualified for turning in an incorrect scorecard after two players hit the wrong golf ball on a hole.
Instead of a two-shot penalty for playing the wrong ball, which also would have dropped Mahtomedi out of the top spot, the rules violation was not disclosed until the cards had been signed, resulting in the disqualification of the player and a six-shot difference for the Zephyrs.
1. Roseville 321; 2. Tartan 323; 3. Stillwater 324; 4. Mahtomedi 326; 5. Cretin-Derham Hall 327; 6, tie, Hill-Murray 337 and White Bear Lake 337; 8. North St. Paul 359; 9. St. Paul Como Park 374; 10. St. Paul Johnson 394; 11. St. Paul Central 414; 12. St. Paul Harding 418.
Individual state qualifiers (par 72)
Lars Lillehei (St) 75, Patrick Conroy (Mah) 75, Deion Kelly (Tar) 75, Brett Gaustad (H-M) 79 and Brian Schepperle (Mah) 80.
Lars Lillehei 75, Sammy Sicard 82, Bennett Anderson 83, Charley Clements 84, Jeff Carstens 86 and Anthony Johnson 86. Individual medalists: Lars Lillehei (St) 75, Patrick Conroy (Mah) 75 and Deion Kelly (Tar) 75.