Last time Spring Lake Park junior Pete Sienko golfed for the Panthers was in eighth grade.
It was also the last time he participated in the boys’ state golf tournament.
After two years at Totino-Grace High Schoo, Sienko returned to Spring Lake Park and earned Section 5AAA medalist honors firing an even-par 72 on the Bunker Hills Golf Course, site of the Class AAA state tournament June 11-12.
Sienko shot a 34 on the west course with five birdies, one par and one bogey. “It was fun. I enjoyed it a lot,” he said.
One notable shot came on hole nine which he cleared two trees to get up and down. “I had this little window, five feet wide and I hit it,” Sienko said. “It was nice.”
He followed with a 38 on the east course.
Teammate Charlie Glasser carded one stroke better (37) on the east course, but shot a 46 on the opening nine holes of the west course.
Panthers coach Will Wackman said what sets Sienko apart is his ability to accept a shot. “He’ll chip out instead of trying something he shouldn’t,” Wackman said. “Half of the time hits it close enough to the pin it doesn’t matter. He’s a special player.”
Wackman said the bar has been raised for Sienko to compete for an individual state title.
Accuracy and two-putting have been two goals this spring in addition to a strong showing at state.
“I’m trying to win it. That’s my goal,” Sienko said. He has played the last three summers in junior PGA events without recording a win.
On the team side, Spring Lake Park continued to make progress from accepting a third-place finish to realizing it had a strong shot of winning the section title.
“Our goal was to win this thing, but Rogers played great,” Wackman said. “Credit to them, but for our program that is such a good thing.” “We’re disappointed with third, but we have four of our five section guys back.”
Joining Sienko as the top individuals to move on to state are Blaine senior Frank Lundquist and sophomore Dakota Krech. Both earned All-Conference honors.
Krech fired the meet-low score on the west course 33 to earn his first trip to the state meet after making the section team for his second season.
Krech, who fired a 36 earlier this season, admitted he was nervous standing on the first tee but that anxiety grew standing on the 10th tee, knowing what he accomplished on the opening nine holes.
To help reach that low score, Krech said he hit his spots all over the course, including a 40-foot putt on the ninth hole. “It just stopped right before the hole and went in,” he said.
His short game has helped him go low all season, according to Krech.
This was Lundquist’s third time on the section team for Blaine so he had a better idea of the pressure and how to deal with it.
“I felt it before,” he said. “Basically I take deep breaths and just focus on the moment.”
Lundquist said he really helped guide Krech through sections last spring. This time both had a better idea of what to expect.
Lundquist had a few memorable shots on the day, but recalled hole two on the east course. After a bogey on the first hole, Lundquist stuck his wedge shot next to the pin and converted the short putt for a birdie.
The course was in great shape and the greens were somewhat bumpy, but still in fantastic condition, similar to when he placed sixth in the Northwest Suburban Conference standings, he said.
The sun tucked behind the clouds at times, but the rain stayed clear of the Coon Rapids course.
With the delayed start to the season, Lundquist felt good about grouping so many rounds together. “It was tough to miss a lot of school, but as a senior my teachers understood,” he said. “But it was kind of nice because if you got on a good string you got to play a lot.”
Lundquist said he hopes to walk on to the golf team at Minnesota State University, Mankato, but is undecided on a major. He, like most of the top-tier players, plans on participating in the Minnesota Golf Association summer events.