By STUART GROSKREUTZ
COON RAPIDS – Hoping to improve on its state runner-up finish from a year ago, the Stillwater girls’ golf team has some ground to make up following Tuesday’s opening round of the Class AAA state tournament at Bunker Hills Golf Course.
The Ponies remain in the hunt, but their Day 1 total of 344 trails leader New Prague (333) by 11 shots, with Red Wing (337) and defending state champion Wayzata (340) not far behind. Alexandria trails Stillwater in fifth place with a score of 354.
Scoring conditions were tough for everyone except New Prague sophomore McKenzie Neisen, who fired a 4-under-par 69 to carry a three-shot lead over Cretin-Derham Hall’s Celia Kuenster (72) into today’s final round. Stillwater senior Cassie Deeg, who shared the individual state title with Kuenster a year ago, ranks third after turning in a 75 on a day when just seven players shot 79 or better.
"They had it set up really tough," Ponies coach Mike O’Rourke said. "There weren’t a lot of really good scores other than Neisen and Celia, but I thought Cassie shot pretty steady. She bogeyed her last hole, but she came out of the trees to get it so it was a good bogey."
Hailey Boner, who joins Deeg is a six-year contributor at the top of Stillwater’s lineup, ranks 23rd after shooting an 85 and Erin Thiets followed with a 91. Anna Kaul completed the scoring for the Ponies on Day 1 with a 93. Alex Zeuli (95) and Amanda Wolf (107) filled out the lineup.
"They had really tough pin placements and Hailey couldn’t make a putt," O’Rourke said. "She finally figured it out the last few holes and finished better."
And while the Ponies were hoping to be closer to the top after the opening round, O’Rourke has been around long enough to know the tournament is won on the second day.
"I think we were 20 strokes behind Hutchinson when we won (state) in 1987," the coach said. "There’s really good teams there and when you’ve got four teams within 11 strokes it’s going to be a fun morning. Anything can happen the second day and we’ve come back from out of the pack before.
"They all know they can play better and I think they’re anxious to get back up there and do it again. It will be fun."
1. New Prague 333; 2. Red Wing 337; 3. Wayzata 340; 4. Stillwater 344; 5. Alexandria 354; 6, tie, Eastview 360 and Elk River 360; 8. Blaine 363.
Top 10 (par 73)
1. McKenzie Neisen (New Prague) 35-34-69; 2. Celia Kuenster (Cretin-Derham Hall) 39-33-72; 3. Cassie Deeg (Stillwater) 36-37-75; 4, tie, Brianna Cullimore (Wayzata) 37-40-77 and Lexi Bollant (Buffalo) 40-37-77; 6. Marisa Toivonen (Red Wing) 41-37-78; 7. Sierra Langlie (Andover) 40-39-79; 8, tie, Alex Schmid (Shakopee) 40-40-80, Sadie Martin (Elk River) 41-39-80, Sarah Burnham (Wayzata) 43-37-80 and Taylor Ledwein (New Prague) 39-41-80.
3. Cassie Deeg 36-37-75; 23. Hailey Boner 41-44-85; 49. Erin Thiets 45-46-91; 58. Anna Kaul 48-45-93; 68. Alex Zeuli 49-46-95; 87. Amanda Wolf 57-50-107.
Lillehei 70th after Day 1 at state tourney
The lone representative at state for the Stillwater boys’ golf team, junior Lars Lillehei is tied for 70th following Tuesday’s first round of the Class AAA state tournament at Bunker Hills Golf Course.
Lillehei, who shared medalist honors at the Section 4AAA tournament, carded an 83 on the par-72 layout.
Jon Dutoit of Chaska shot 69 to hold a one-shot lead over Moorhead’s Ben Welle (70) and a two-shot lead over Corey Muenzhuber (71) of Rogers in the individual standings. Only four players shot under 74 on Tuesday.
In the team standings, Moorhead turned in a score of 302 to lead second-place Minnetonka (304) while Chanhassen and Rogers totaled 309 to tie for the third spot.