COON RAPIDS — After opening a comfortable lead in the opening round, the Stillwater boys’ golf team played steady on Day 2 to capture the Section 4AAA championship on Thursday, June 1 at Bunker Hills Golf Club.
The Ponies, who are ranked seventh in the latest Minnesota Golf Association state rankings, posted a winning total of 622 (306-316) to outdistance runner-up White Bear Lake (323-321—644) by 22 shots. Cretin-Derham Hall followed in third with a score of 650 (325-325).
Stillwater, which will make its first appearance at the state tournament since placing eighth in 2009, returns several players from a team that finished second behind surprise section winner Cretin-Derham Hall a year ago.
“It feels pretty darn good,” Ponies coach John Scanlon said. “I think all the kids were pretty happy. We knew we were kind of ready last year and it was a matter of executing over the last 12 months. We knew we’d be good enough to win. It was like working on a project over a year-long time and it’s nice to see it come to fruition.”
The Ponies didn’t have to be great, just solid, after a solid opening round provided a 17-shot lead over White Bear Lake.
“I would say we didn’t have our best day scoring,” Scanlon said. “It was the second day of a qualifier and qualifiers are pressurized because there’s a finality to it — either yo make it, or you don’t. It doesn’t matter if you win by a shot or lose by 20. We did play a little bit of a prevent defense, especially coming down the stretch. I told Parker, as long as you don’t lose this hole by 15 shots, we’ll be fine. We were very conservative on No. 6, 7 and 9 on the West (second nine).”
Parker Anderson, who is the only senior in Stillwater’s lineup, shared medalist honors with a two-day total of 152 (74-78). North St. Paul’s Logan Xiong (75-77) matched Anderson at 152 to secure one of the five individual state bids. The other state qualifiers are Jack Peterson (77-77—154) of White Bear Lake, Gavin Reeder (78-78—156) of Cretin-Derham Hall, Re’Twan Balenger (81-79—160) of St. Paul Central and Isaac Dietz (81-79—160) of Cretin-Derham Hall.
Anderson becomes Stillwater’s fourth individual section medalist in the past nine years, joining a list that also includes Hudson Carpenter (2009), Drew Lynch (2011) and Lars Lillehei (2012).
“After Day 1, we knew we didn’t play our best, but we decided to play our own game and keep building the lead,” said Anderson, who tied for fifth in the individual standings at state a year ago.
It was also announced this week that Anderson is one of eight finalists for the Mr. Minnesota Golf Award, which will be presented on Sunday, June 11 at Windsong Farm Golf Club.
Junior Cole Jahnke (76-78—154) and sophomore Brock Winter (77-78—155) finished right on Anderson’s heels.
“Cole was kind of the hero of the section,” Scanlon said. “He got off to a rough start (in Round 1), but then had three birdies in a row. His three birdies, that was kind of the turning point of sections. We weren’t really sure who was going to play well and were sort of treading water, but Cole went from border line counting to a tie for third in the section.
“He and Parker are great captains. Cole is kind of the guy in the locker room who keeps everybody loose.”
Junior Joey Murphy shot a 79 in the opening round and followed with an 82 on Day 2. Wyatt Wasko (81-83) and Ben Corbid (80-85) were not far off the pace.
“A lot of years we would be really happy with those scores, but none of us were really happy,” Scanlon said. “We’re saving it for state.”
Stillwater’s lineup was in flux throughout the early part of the season, but the Ponies finished strong with back-to-back scores of 289 to pull away for their first conference championship since 1995.
“We had three top players and for those first month of the tournament season one of them was always out, so we were never at full strength until we got into May,” Scanlon said. “It was nice when we got to full strength, but it twas still hard because the next seven, eight or nine guys were all really good. Several of them would start on any other team in our conference. Other than for illness, we played the same conference lineup all year. Those last three guys Ben, Joey and Wyatt were all so consistent.”
The team expected steady play from Anderson, Jahnke and Winter, but equally important has been the strong performances throughout the rest of the lineup.
“Coming into the year we didn’t really have a set lineup for other three spots, but those guys put in a lot of work and are putting good numbers up there to help our team,” Anderson said.
The Ponies will return to Bunker Hills for the state tournament on June 13-14.
“Last year when I made it individually I was pretty happy, but the main goal this year was to go get to state as a team,” Anderson said. “Now we’re hoping to finish as one of the top teams in the state.
“The back-to-back 289s really helped our confidence that we were able to play our best golf and knowing we could compete with the top teams with those scores. We’re back into shape and everybody has gotten their tunes-ups and finally getting back to playing solid golf. We expect to be competing with the top teams.”
Anderson said he is hoping to match or exceed his strong showing from a year ago and has simple advice for his teammates competing at state for the first time.
“I told them, you can’t get nervous, because that’s how I felt last year,” Anderson said. “You can’t get down on yourself and mentally you have to be really tough.
“For team we expect to be in the final-four pairing for Day 2. Our goal is to shoot at par 288, which would put us in it. Individually, considering last year’s performance, I expect to do top five.”
“It’s just exciting to go to state,” Scanlon added. “We’ve got a great group of guys and we’re ready to compete with the big boys. We have to have a good couple of days, but we can compete with anybody.”
1. Stillwater 306-316—622; 2. White Bear Lake 323-321—644; 3. Cretin-Derham Hall 325-325—650; 4. Mahtomedi 323-346—669. Did not make cut: 5. Roseville 342; 6. North St. Paul 343; 7. Tartan 344; 8. St. Paul Central 360; Minneapolis South, inc.
Stillwater results (par 72)
Parker Anderson 74-78—152, Cole Jahnke 76-78—154, Brock Winter 77-78—155, Joey Murphy 79-82—161, Wyatt Wasko 81-83—164 and Bed Corbid 80-85—165. Medalists — 1, tie, Anderson (St) 74-78—152 and Logan Xiong (NSP) 75-77—152.
Contact Stuart Groskreutz at firstname.lastname@example.org