By Matt Dahlseid
JORDAN - They entered the Class AA state golf tournament aiming for a title, but after making the turn following their first nine holes during Day 1 competition Tuesday, the Marshall Tiger boys were just battling to stay in contention.
Opening their round on the back nine at Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan, the Tigers had far from an ideal start. Junior Matt Bennett stayed his steady self with an even-par 36, but the rest of his teammates shot between 40 and 44 and the team was on the verge of having no shot at shooting for the first-place trophy on Day 2.
Photo by Matt Dahlseid
Marshall's Brent Haukom tees off on the par-3 17th hole at Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan during Day 1 action of the Class AA State Golf Tournament on Tuesday. Haukom shot a 36 on the front nine and finished his day with a 78.
In their third straight trip to state, the Tigers showed grit on the front nine and climbed to fourth place in the eight-team competition after shooting a 311. Bennett led the charge with a 1-under 71 and sits in a tie for second place, and fellow junior captain Brent Haukom shot a 36 on the front nine to finish with a 78 for his opening round.
Staples-Motley is the first-round leader with a 294, followed by two-time defending champion Detroit Lakes (299), Litchfield (304) and Marshall. The Tigers have quite a bit of ground to make up, but they didn't let their shaky start ruin their chances at a top-three finish.
"We had a good comeback," Haukom said. "Some of the other guys struggled on their first nine holes, too, but they came back and played well, which helped. We're going to be pretty far back and will have to play really well, but we'll see what we can do."
Making his first appearance at state, Marshall sophomore Jacob Baker added the third score to the Tigers' team total with an 80, and junior Alex Buysse added an 82. Matt Christianson and Jon Wyffels shot 83 and 91, respectively.
When the Tigers started their round they were greeted by soggy grounds and swarms of mosquitoes. Light rain started and stopped throughout the morning, but the conditions didn't present much of a problem to the players. Forty-four of the 88 competitors shot below 80.
Senior Jordan Peters, golfing as an individual for Delano, shot a 69 for the low round on the day.
Bennett finished in a tie for 26th last year after following an opening-round 81 with a 74. This is his third time competing at state, and he said the course has certainly grown on him.
"I used to not like it as much, but I've been talking to (2011 Class AA medalist) Max (Deutz) and (Marshall boys' head coach) Allen (Lucht) about the course," Bennett said. "I know there are holes that I can just rip it as hard as I can, and I know there are holes that I don't have to hit a driver that are tighter, but it doesn't affect me a lot. It suits my eye."
Bennett's 71 has him in contention to join Deutz as a Marshall individual champion. Lucht said Bennett's improvement this year has come from his ability to think his way through a round instead of relying on his superior length off the tee.
"He's becoming a better course manager," Lucht said. "He used to always try to do everything strictly by strength and now he knows he doesn't have to do that all the time. That was the only weakness that he had and he's getting stronger at it. He'll be a really good player as he continues to work on that, especially through the summer program that these kids play in."
Heading into Day 2 just two strokes off the lead, Bennett is trying to avoid putting pressure on himself to win the individual title.
"Hopefully I can just go out tomorrow and do my best," he said. "If I don't get it that's alright because I know I've tried my best. Hopefully I can pull it off, but I won't be too disappointed if I don't."
The Tigers will also be playing without much pressure since they're not playing with a lead. But the Marshall golfers feel winning is still within reach.
Lucht said the goal is to shoot 300 or better and have everyone shoot in the 70s. They've done it before this season, and now the Tigers are hoping they can do it again on the biggest stage to give themselves a chance at a championship.
"All in all, we're in pretty good shape. We'll be right there," Lucht said. "We'll be going after them, so hang onto your hat."
Blanchard records hole-in-one; Peterson comes in strong at 2-over
By Matt Dahlseid
JORDAN - For being just two golfers, Marshall sophomores Jessica Blanchard and Hanna Peterson sure made a lot of noise Tuesday during the first day of the two-day Class AA girls' state golf tournament at Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan.
For Blanchard, the noise was literal, as screams emanated from the par-3 17th hole in the mid-afternoon when she scored a rare hole-in-one. And for Peterson, the noise was from her sensational play. Surpassing her previous-best 18-hole score by five strokes, Peterson finished the first day alone in third place after shooting a 2-over 74.
Starting on the back nine, Blanchard had trouble on her first few holes and carded a nine on the par-4 12th after going in the water twice. She steadied herself as she neared the turn, and after back-to-back pars on 15 and 16, she jump-started her round with the ace.
"Hole No. 17 is my favorite hole on the course, even before I got the hole-in-one," Blanchard said. "I always hit it good. I saw it hit the pin and was in shock and I just started screaming. That kind of turned it around a little bit."
Using a 7-iron to fire at the front-left hole location on the 116-yard par 3, Blanchard lofted the ball onto the green and watched in amazement as rolled in. Her father, Paul Blanchard, was following her group and was unable to contain his excitement. And the other players in her foursome were hesitant to follow such a tough act.
"My dad started yelling and then the other girls in my group didn't want to hit after it," Blanchard said.
Blanchard will always remember getting her hole-in-one at the state tournament, but the ace wasn't enough to make up for a few rough patches. She finished with an 88 and is in a tie for 34th place. She said she played steady for the most part, but a few big numbers like what she put up on 12 prevented her from going as low as she would have liked.
While Blanchard had a memorable hole, Peterson had a memorable round by posting her 74. When she competed at the state tournament last year her best round was a 90. Entering this year's tournament she didn't have anything close to a 74 in mind.
"The competition is really tough and I knew the course would be tricky, so I thought the goal was to shoot in the mid-80s or somewhere in there," Peterson.
But after sticking her third shot within 10 feet of the hole on the par-5 first and sinking the birdie putt, Peterson's expectations gradually began to change. On the next hole she chipped in from about 30 yards away for another birdie, then just missed an eight-foot birdie putt on the third. She ended up firing an even-par 36 on the front nine.
"When I started off good I thought, 'OK, now just play average the rest of the way.' But then I just kept playing well," Peterson said.
It wasn't all smooth sailing for Peterson. She posted a triple-bogey on the back nine. But four birdies during her round helped make up for that blemish and now she's among sitting among the top three in Class AA.
Marshall head coach Nancy Blanchard was impressed with Peterson's consistent ball-striking and the rhythm she was able to find.
"With maturity comes patience. Hanna, she started out birdie-birdie and didn't get too high. She kept an even keel, she had some adrenaline going and her shots were going really well," Nancy Blanchard said. "Hats off to her, I'm very proud of her. She just played an awesome round."
Class AA State Golf Tournament
Top 10 Individuals: 1. Natalie Roth (Detroit Lakes) 70, 2. Kate Smith (Detroit Lakes) 72, 3. Hanna Peterson (Marshall) 74, 4. Maggie Heggerstron (Pequot Lakes) 75, t5. Savannah Stone (Pequot Lakes) 76, t5. Jenna Janu (Minnewaska) 76, t7. Alexis Guggisberg (Minnewaska) 77, t7. Trisha Hutchinson (Detroit Lakes) 77, t7. Anni Heck (Visitation) 77, 10. Sydney Busker (Detroit Lakes) 78.
Marshall Individual Scores: Peterson 74, Jessica Blanchard 88.