WILLMAR - The experience of winning the Section 3AA championship meet last year was a valuable asset for the Marshall boys' golf team on Thursday.
Looking to get back to the Class AA championship after a second-place finish last year, things looked dicey after the first nine holes. Hot on the Tigers' heels was New London-Spicer, which trailed by just two strokes at the turn.
"We definitely knew they were in it," said Marshall sophomore Matt Bennett. "It was fun. It was a good battle. After the first nine, it was close.
Photo by Joe Brown
The members of the Marshall boys’ golf team pose with the Section 3A championship plaque after the Tigers won the section meet on Thursday in Willmar. Marshall heads to state for the second straight year after finishing with a team score of 307, 12 strokes better than second-place New London-Spicer.
"Luckily," Bennett added, "we played well on our second nine."
With four golfers shooting in the 70s, led by 76s by Bennett and senior Marcus Holmberg, the Tigers clinched a spot in the state tournament by winning the 3AA championship with a team score of 307, beating the Wildcats by 12 strokes at Eagle Creek Golf Club in Willmar.
Following Holmberg and Bennett were Max Deutz (77) and Alex Buysse (78), and Brent Haukom and Matt Christianson each carded 81s. Following Marshall and NL-S in the team scores were Redwood Valley (331) and Montevideo (335).
Marshall's team score on Thursday was five strokes better than last year, when the team beat Litchfield by just two strokes. Coming in as the favorite was a different experience for the Tigers this time around, but that never changed anything once the team got onto the golf course.
"We still got to play good, you can't take that for granted," Holmberg said. "You have to take every stroke like it's the last. It's good being the favorite, but you still have to play."
One thing that did chance was the dynamic on the greens. After practicing on longer, slower greens throughout the week, Marshall head coach Allen Lucht said the pins at Eagle Creek were moved and the grass was mowed, making the greens much faster.
"I think a lot of kids were caught in that trap, I don't think we were the only ones," Lucht said. "I got to give all the respect to our kids for the way they held together and played."
The Tigers will begin the two-day Class AA state tournament on June 12 at the Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan.
Things were a struggle early on for Marshall, as four of the team's six golfers shot in the 40s in the first nine holes. Starting on the back nine, Bennett stood firm with a 38, and Holmberg got a late bonus to finish with one-under-par 35 after nine holes.
"I chipped in on 18, which really helped," Holmberg said.
Lucht added, "Marcus really picked us up on that first nine. That gave him a little cushion to feel comfortable, and he needed that confidence."
On the front-nine holes, the Tigers picked up their play, with Deutz, last year's Class AA individual champion, scoring a even-par 36 to close the round, and Buysse shooting just one-over-par.
"Max, he beared down and I'm glad to see him do that," Lucht said. "He needed that confidence.
"Alex Buysse stepped in and that was cool to see that confidence from a first-timer in that situation."
Playing at the Tigers' No. 1 golfer on Thursday, Bennett continued his strong string of play with 38s on both the front and back nines.
"Matt is becoming my 'Steady Eddie,' and I'm starting to lean on him now," Lucht said. "He held up with all the pressure."
Said Bennett, "This year, I wasn't quite as nervous as last year, so that helped. We had four of the six guys that we had last year, so we were ready."
Taking individual medalist honors on Thursday was Benson's Sam Peterson, who finished with a 72. Redwood Valley's Adam Hengel (74), Montevideo's Phillip Ward (75) and New London-Spicer's Joey Dreier (77) and Reid Johnson (77) qualified for state as individuals. Among other area players, Yellow Medicine East sophomore Mitch McCosh carded an 81.
Now for Marshall, the goal shifts to the Class AA championship, where the Tigers look to reach the top of the state standings after falling by three strokes to Detroit Lakes last year.
"Last year, we were all ready nervous," Bennett said, "but I think this year, we'll be ready. I think we're ready."
Section 3AA Championships
Boys Team Results: 1. Marshall 307; 2. New London-Spicer 319; 3. Redwood Valley 331; 4. Montevideo 335.
Marshall Individual Results
Matt Bennett 76, Marcus Holmberg 76, Max Deutz 77, Alex Buysse 78, Brent Haukom 81, Matt Christianson 81.
NL-S Individual Results
Joey Dreier 77, Reid Johnson 77, Corbin Schwartz 80, Ethan Bohlsen 85.
Redwood Valley Individual Results
Adam Hengel 74, Alec Koster 85, Mitch Fischer 86, Derek Bebeau 86.
Montevideo Individual Results
Phillip Ward 75, Mike Moritz 85, Ryan Knudson 85, Grant Tufto 90.
Sam Peterson (Benson) 72, Adam Hengel (RV) 74, Phillip Ward (Montevideo) 75, Joey Dreier (NL-S) 77, Reid Johnson (NL-S) 77.
YME Individual Results: Mitch McCosh 81.