COON RAPIDS — After contending for state titles with a more experienced lineup the past few years, the Stillwater girls’ golf team finished eighth at the Class AAA state meet on Wednesday at Bunker Hills Golf Club.
The Ponies followed up Tuesday’s score of 363 with a 361 on Wednesday for a 724 total that left them eight shots behind seventh-place Andover. Edina outscored Alexandria 644-655 to capture the team title while defending champion New Prague finished third at 660.
In the chase for individual honors, Wayzata’s Sarah Burnham and Kenzie Neisen of New Prague tied for first with matching 140s and two-time defending state champion Celia Kuenster of Cretin-Derham Hall followed in third at 144.
Heavy graduation losses put the Ponies in a different position for this year’s tournament, but with no seniors in the lineup it was nevertheless a positive experience according to coach Nate Schwarz.
“I don’t think anybody is disappointed,” Schwarz said. “We played well, 363 and 361 are more than respectable and that does not finish last in most of the tournaments. It was a deep field and we don’t have anything to hang our heads about, we just ran into seven teams that are maybe a little better than we are.”
Sophomore Erin Thiets led the Ponies on both days, closing with an 83 on Wednesday for a two-day total of 167 to tie for 26th place overall. Even after undergoing knee surgery and rehab all winter, it was a tremendous improvement from last year when she shot 183 and placed 60th for the state runner-ups.
“She’s just been steady the whole year and she keeps getting better,” Schwarz said. “Her best golf is ahead of her. She’s more savvy now, where in years past — and she doesn’t get into trouble often — she understands how to make a bogey instead of a seven or eight.”
Leah Kroening finished 54th for the Ponies at 178 while Anna Kaul placed 68th with a score of 183 after turning in a 90 in the second round, which was Stillwater’s second best score on Wednesday.
Maddie Luoma carded a 97 to complete the scoring on Day 2 and finished 78th overall with a two-day total of 196.
Amanda Wolf, who joined Thiets and Kaul as the only holdovers from last year’s state lineup, finished in 85th with a 208 total and Katie Clark followed two spots back in 87th with a score of 217.
Heavy rains in the morning pushed back the start times by about two hours and that made for a long day on a wet course.
“The girls were physically tired,” Schwarz said. “You could feel it in your legs, especially with it being so wet, and you could see the girls running out of gas. We knew it was going to be a physical and mental grind.”
The coach was pleased to get the newcomers some state tournament experience and optimistic it will pay dividends the next few years when the Ponies hope to return to state.
“Our top 10 players are all underclassmen and even the girls who didn’t play there were four or five who were at the tournament watching,” Schwarz said. “It’s even more so for the girls who played, but that’s huge.
“They were happy and they enjoyed it. Some didn’t shoot what they wanted and they made some big numbers on the last three holes, but they’re going to remember that. All in all, it was a terrific experience for them.”
1. Edina 644; 2. Alexandria 655; 3. New Prague 660; 4. Red Wing 673; 5. Blaine 688; 6. Eagan 708; 7. Andover 716; 8. Stillwater 724.
Individual results (par 73)
1, tie, Sarah Burnham (Wayzata) 140 and Kenzie Neisen (New Prague) 140; 3. Celia Kuenster (Cretin-Derham Hall) 144; 4. Alex Schmid (Shakopee) 146; 5. Brenna Lervick (Chanhassen) 149; 6. Emily Romanow (Edina) 150; 7. Sierra Langlie (Andover) 151; 8. Lexi Bollant (Buffalo) 155; 9. Amanda Bigger (Alexandria) 156; 10, tie, Dani DelGreco (Grand Rapids) 157, Kenzie Sexe (Prior Lake) 157, Taylor Ludwein (New Prague) 157 and Stephanie Herzog (Red Wing) 157.
26. Erin Thiets 42-42-40-43—167; 54. Leah Kroening 43-44-43-48—178; 68. Anna Kaul 46-47-47-43—183; 78. Maddie Luoma 50-49-46-51—196; 85. Amanda Wolf 54-54-48-52—208; 87. Katie Clark 54-53-56-54—217.
Contact Stuart Groskreutz at firstname.lastname@example.org