State golf: Cougars can’t overcome slow start

North’s Welch 5th in Class 3A girls tourney

Lakeville South’s Tanner Sperling chips during the first round of the state Class 3A boys golf tournament. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

Lakeville South’s goal was to win a trophy at the state boys golf tournament for the third consecutive year, but in the end the Cougars might have been just too young for that to happen.

The Cougars, with only two players who had competed at state before, had a rough first day at the Class 3A tourney last week at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids. Only one South player shot below 81 in the first round, and that left the Cougars with too much ground to make up. Their second-round team score was 10 strokes better than their first round, but they could move up only one spot in the final standings, to sixth place. South’s two-day team total of 626 was 35 strokes behind state champion Wayzata, which came in two strokes ahead of second-place Minnetonka and six ahead of third-place St. Thomas Academy.

One South player did leave with a state medal – senior Tanner Sperling, who had rounds of 72 and 73 for a 1-over-par 145 total, good for a tie for fourth place individually and just two strokes out of first place. It was the second consecutive state individual medal for Sperling, who tied for fifth place in 2016.

Sperling and William Moore, both of whom will play golf at Bemidji State University, were the only two seniors in South’s lineup. The Cougars had two ninth-graders (Gavin Cronkhite and Brandon Sperling) and an eighth-grader (Jon Langlois) in the state tournament lineup, along with junior Griffin Norcia.

Only Tanner Sperling and Moore had played in the state tournament before, and for the other Cougars “it’s a big step,” coach Kirk Reiners said. “There’s a banquet the night before, you play a practice round there. It’s different from a lot of the tournaments we play.

“Did I want to get on the podium (for a top-three team finish)? I sure did. But it was a really big expectation.”

South believed it could get into the top three because Tanner Sperling was expected to be steady. Cronkhite and Langlois both had broken par in competitive rounds this season. Reiners said Moore’s second-round 75 at state was a better indication of his ability than his first-round 87. But it didn’t come together for the Cougars, who had to count two 81s and an 84 in the first round of the team competition.

Reiners said Tanner Sperling putted exceptionally well both days of the tournament, including a putt for par on his final hole when a bogey could have knocked him several spots down the standings. Sperling was tied for first when he finished, but eventually was passed by several players that finished later.

A couple of off-line tee shots didn’t help, but Reiners said Sperling got just about everything he could out of his two rounds. Wayzata senior Van Holmgren shot 143 (1 under) over the two days and was the only player to finish under par.

“You can’t deny what Van Holmgren did,” Reiners said. “I didn’t know if anybody was going to be able to beat him.”

Moore and Langlois were part of a tie for 56th with 162 totals. Cronkhite shot 81-82–163 to tie for 59th. Brandon Sperling tied for 74th at 169 and Norcia tied for 79th at 169.

Rosemount girls

Rosemount had been scoring in the mid-350s in girls golf tournaments near the end of the regular season, but it would have required much lower than that for the Irish to have a shot at a trophy in last week’s state Class 3A meet at Bunker Hills.

A two-round total of 716 – 359 the first day and 357 in the second round – landed Rosemount in seventh place, one spot below where the Irish finished in their last appearance in the state team competition in 2014.

Edina ran away with the team championship, scoring 607, 36 strokes lower than second-place Red Wing. The Hornets did not have to count an individual score higher than 80 in either round. Chanhassen was third at 665, one stroke ahead of Buffalo.

Rosemount’s top player at state was junior Sydney Regalado, who had rounds of 86 and 83 for a 169 total and a tie for 34th place. Gretchen McDonald, a senior, shot 81 for the Irish’s low score of the first round and followed with 90 for a 171 total and a tie for 40th.

Also playing for the Irish at state were junior Megan Shandorf (66th, 95-88–183), eighth-grader Nidhi Sunkam (77th, 97-96–193), sophomore Renee Boldus (81st, 98-105–203) and senior Ellenor Westphal (85th, 106-104–210).

Class 3A individuals

Megan Welch of Lakeville North finished in the top five at the state Class 3A girls tournament for the second year in a row. Photo by Jason Olson

Lakeville North junior Megan Welch earned an individual medal at the Class 3A girls tournament for the second consecutive year. Welch placed fifth with a 150 total after individual rounds of 74 and 76.

Welch tied for second at the 2016 Class 3A tourney. She placed in the top 20 at state for the fourth year in a row.

Edina junior Joanna Kim and Red Wing sophomore Sophia Yoemans tied for the individual championship with 146 totals (the Minnesota State High School League does not conduct playoffs for individual championships). Grace Kellar of Edina was third at 148 and Buffalo’s Hanna Morin was fourth at 149.

Eagan ninth-grader Josalynn Abbott shot 84-79–163 to tie for 23rd. Her teammate, senior Sarah Rutzick, tied for 25th with 81-84–165.

Lakeville North eighth-grader Emma Welch tied for 27th with 84-82–166. Eagan senior Joleen Werden tied for 57th with 96-84–180.

Eagan resident and Cretin-Derham Hall senior Molly Ploetz qualified for the state tournament for the fifth consecutive year, tying for 13th with rounds of 78 and 80 for a 158 total. Ploetz played for Eagan in the 2013 state tourney as an eighth-grader before going to Cretin-Derham Hall. This year’s finish was her best ever at state.

Eastview sophomore Will Frazier tied for 30th in the Class 3A boys tournament at Bunker Hills, shooting 77 both days for a 154 total.

Rosemount senior Connor Humble shot 81-77–158 to tie for 43rd. Eagan teammates Steven Podratz and Joe Rohlf, both seniors, were in a tie for 50th at 161. Both players shot 80 in the first round and 81 in the second.

Eastview senior Luke Doolittle qualified individually for state but withdrew from the tournament.

Class 2A

Visitation senior Anni Heck won her second state individual championship – and the first she didn’t have to share – in the state Class 2A girls tournament last week at Ridges at Sand Creek near Jordan.

Heck, an Eagan resident, shot a 3-under-par 69 in the second round – the low round of the tournament by four strokes – to go with a first-round 75. Her 144 total was three strokes better than Minnewaska senior Ashlyn Guggisberg, who led after the first round.

Heck shot under par at Ridges at Sand Creek for the third time in her last four state tournament rounds. She shot 71 and 68 in the 2016 Class 2A tournament and shared the individual championship with Kate Smith of Detroit Lakes.

“It feels really good and I’m proud that I was able to come back from two strokes behind,” Heck told the Minnesota Golf Association. “It’s a great feeling – I’ve been working towards this for the past six years.”

Heck finished sixth at state as a seventh-grader and qualified for the Class 2A tournament every year since. She will play golf at Denver University in the fall.

Visitation, led by Heck, was third in the Class 2A team competition, Detroit Lakes and Lake City were first and second.

Lakeville resident and Minnehaha Academy junior Carter Bell tied for 23rd in the boys Class 2A tournament at Ridges at Sand Creek, shooting 76 both days for a 152 total.