FOREST LAKE — A solid performance was not enough to overtake a historic effort from White Bear Lake in the Section 4AAA girls’ golf tournament on Friday, June 2 at Forest Hills Golf Course.
The Ponies were seeking their third straight trip to state and 16th overall, but White Bear Lake intervened to claim the program’s first-ever section championship.
The Bears held a one-shot lead after the opening round on May 30 and improved by seven shots on Day 2 to outdistance Stillwater 707-715. Cretin-Derham Hall followed in third place with a score of 741.
“White Bear just went out and beat us,” Ponies coach Peter Deeg said. “We played better the second day and we played right at our average for the year. Going in I thought 720 probably wasn’t going to get it done, but I thought it would be close and were five under that so we played average and White Bear played really good.”
It marked just the second time in the past nine seasons Stillwater failed to advance to state, though freshman Catherine Monty qualified as an individual after placing in a tie for fourth overall with a two-day total of 166 (84-82).
“She just played solid golf,” Deeg said. “She navigated around the course like she should have. She had a couple mistakes and some three-putts, but she played solidly.”
The top five individuals not on the qualifying team also advance to state.
Hanna Bruns of Roseville was the individual medalist with a total of 163. In addition to Bruns and Monty, individual state qualifiers from Section 4AAA include Iyanna Hutchinson (165) of St. Paul Central and Molly Ploetz (165) and Audrey Hapka (176) of Cretin-Derham Hall.
The Bears, who led Stillwater 356-357 after the opening round, placed three individuals in the top eight with junior Belle Hage (81-85—166), who was fourth, and seniors Claire Rau (92-84—176) and Dani Menk (89-88—177) — who placed seventh and eighth.
Sydney O’Neal, the only senior in Stillwater’s section lineup, shot 88 and 91 to finish at 179. Eighth-grader Savannah Vincent was steady for the Ponies while shooting 184 (93-91), despite a slow start.
“As an eighth-grader playing that well was a highlight,” said Deeg, noting Vincent shot in the upper 40s on her first nine. “She only played varsity for half the year so it was her first varsity season and first at sections, so that was definitely a highlight.”
Freshman Anna Lindeberg (93-108) and junior Amy Foss (94-98) each played well in the first round while sophomore Caitlyn Garrity (100-93) provided the team’s all-important fourth score in the second round.
“We played kind of exactly like I would hope we would play, but I just think each day we were missing that one score,” Deeg said. “We just were missing that one score that really popped. White Bear had that one wild card score each day that we didn’t have.
“In the past for us, average typically got it done. I thought at our average we still could have beat White Bear Lake, but they went out and played great.”
Stillwater finished one spot ahead of the Bears in the Suburban East Conference standings after a strong final week of the regular season.
The Ponies finished just 23 shots lower than their total a year ago after replacing four key members from that squad, but White Bear Lake improved by a whopping 55 shots over their runner-up finish a year ago.
“I really just tell the girls you have to go out and play your game time after time and there are going to be days you get beat,” Deeg said. “Those days make you want to go out and work harder. It doesn’t feel as bad when you don’t beat yourself.”
The coach is hoping the Ponies can get back on track with a strong cast of players expected to return next spring.
“White Bear and Cretin both head at least three seniors and we have a very young team,” Deeg said. “The other half of their team if not all juniors, was half juniors, so we’re very young and they’re very seasoned. It should make you want to work hard, becuase that’s the difference between average teams and good teams.
“I’m very happy with the core group of kids and I think we’ve got a good thing going for many years to come. We’ve got a deep team and I think golf is very much a follow the leaders sport and our seniors and juniors are doing the right things, which promotes to the younger kids to want to work that much harder and follow in their foot steps.”
The state meet will be held at Bunker Hills on June 13-14.
1. White Bear Lake 357-350—707; 2. Stillwater 358-357—715; 3. Cretin-Derham Hall 379-362—741.
Stillwater results (par 72)
Catherine Monty 84-82—166, Sydney O’Neal 88-91—179, Savannah Vincent 93-91—184, Amy Foss 94-98—192, Caitlyn Garrity 100-93—183 and Anna Lindeberg 93-108—201. Medalist — Hannah Bruns (Roseville) 163.