Over the hump
Luke Ehlers places 3rd in Section 3AA, advances to state tournament
BUFFALO LAKE — After finishing just shy the last two years, Marshall sophomore Luke Ehlers shot a 2-over 74 at day two of the 3AA boys golf tournament at Oakdale Golf Club Wednesday afternoon to qualify for the Class AA State Tournament.
“I just wanted the first day to come out here and just be a placement mound… then today was the moving day and I just wanted to play consistent golf,” Ehlers said. “It just fees really good to finally get over the hump after two years missing by about two shots. It feels awesome.
“I just wanted to get that taste out of my mouth. I definitely had [the previous years’ results] in the back of my head all day today.”
Ehlers finished the first round last Thursday at 3-over behind three birdies and no holes worse than a bogey. He finished even stronger on day two, finishing 2-over on the day. Like the first round, he had three birdies and no holes worse than bogey, but his finishing consistency was a difference-maker: he had a par on each of his last seven holes.
“Last year, he missed [the state tournament] by one stroke, the year before he missed in a playoff, so he’s certainly been gunning to make it to state. I’m really, really proud of him for keeping his nerves in check and just playing a really great two rounds of golf,” Marshall head coach Kari Ehlers said.
Morris Area-Chokio Alberta’s Charlie Hanson shot a 74 in day two to win the individual title and finish four strokes ahead of runner-up Owen Sudenga.
Jayden Manthei finished round one at 9-over and sat just outside the top 10. Rather than getting discouraged, however, he made the charge for one of the five individual state tournament berths. He was 2-under through nine holes with two birdies.
“He just played smart, but he also played aggressive when he needed to,” coach Ehlers said of Manthei. “He knew that he could take advantage of some situations. He wasn’t scared to be aggressive and it paid off for Jayden.
“Jayden has matured over the years so much and he played an amazing round today. He had a shot at going to state. He had kind of a rough day for Jayden on the first day and he really gave himself a shot today and I can’t discount Jayden for not trying his best.”
Despite a bogey on three of his last four holes, Manthei still put together an impressive 1-over 73 on the day, the third-best score of anyone in the tournament.
“I was just staying positive, playing with literally nothing to lose and just trying to have fun,” Manthei said.
His performance gave him a cumulative score of 154 lifted him up to eighth place in the tournament, two strokes shy of tying Minnewaska Area’s Riley Larson and West Central Area’s Mitchell Dewey for the last state tournament berth. Manthei, a junior, still has another year ahead of him to shoot for the state tournament.
Drew Parsons came up clutch for Marshall in the scoring department, particularly in the front nine. He had two birdies and an eighth-hole eagle to finish the front nine at 2-under. He finished the day at 6-over, putting him in a tie with teammate Joey Fossum and Redwood Valley’s Zachary Wilson with a two-day score of 168.
“I was just having so much fun today watching Drew Parsons. He’s normally like our number five or number six guy, he was under part on the front nine. It was just so much fun,” coach Ehlers said. “He was excited, I could tell, but at the same time he wanted to stay calm, which is great because he’s learning how to play competitive golf… I’m just so proud of him.”
While not scoring, Marshall seniors Sam Schwarz and Zach Kramer put together quality performances at day two of the tournament. Schwarz shot an 85 to place 31st while Kramer shot an 88 to place 40th. Both Schwarz and Kramer had a pair of birdies on the day.
“[Seniors Sam Schwarz, Joey Fossum and Zach Kramer] have had a lot of successful rounds in their time on the varsity boys golf team and have been really good leaders for our younger players to look up to,” coach Ehlers said. “We’re definitely going to miss their competitive edge… but we have a lot of JV guys that are ready there. They pushed our varsity guys all season long and they’re ready to make their mark. I’m hoping with some of them getting in in some tournaments this summer and playing golf in Marshall that they can really feel confident going into our season next year that they can make a mark too.”
The Tigers finished just short of a trophy as a team. Marshall’s team score of 634 put them in third place, six strokes behind runner-up Luverne and 11 strokes back of first-place New London-Spicer.
“I’m just so proud of these guys. Every shot counts and really committing to every yardage you might have, whether you’re going into 20 mile an hour wind, with the wind or against the wind, I really do believe that the guys overall did a really great job at just making every shot count and doing the best that they could and that’s really all I can ask,” coach Ehlers said of her team. “We were gunning to take [the team title] and we were close. It’s just disheartening a little bit, but we went and played awesome for two days and that’s what you have to do to make the state. One out of 16 teams, you have to play awesome for two days and we sure did that.”
After starting the day nine strokes behind NLS, the Tigers came as close as two strokes back of first place before sliding back.
Minnewaska Area placed fourth at 648 while Windom Area rounded out the teams qualifying for day two at 666.
The Class AA State Golf Tournament will be held at Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan on June 13 and 14.
“We’ll probably take a couple of days off right now, we’ve had a lot of golf, and then we’ll start next week,” coach Ehlers said. “Luckily, Luke is my kid, so we can kind of practice when we want, and he also practices with [Marshall assistant coach Scott Midtaune].
“I want to give my assistant a lot of credit because he has such an awesome relationship with the kids and they really find his presence calming. Sometimes in golf, when we’re having a bad hole or we just need somebody to walk with and talk about random things, he’s the guy. I feel really fortunate that he can really relate to all the kids.”