A photo finish is normally reserved for a race, but that is what unfolded in the Section 5AAA boys’ golf tournament Thursday afternoon at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids.
Spring Lake Park made up a four-shot deficit to Blaine after the first day of competition to win the program’s first-ever section golf trophy by three strokes, with a senior-heavy group.
Blaine fired a 305 after the first day to lead the Panthers by four strokes.
The Panthers were propelled to the front by consistent team scores, including medalist Pete Sienko firing a second-round 70 for a two-day total 143 to help the team post a program-record score of 296 for 18 holes.
“It felt good,” Sienko said about the round that started with three birdies and one bogey on the East course before nine pars on the West course to finish the tournament for his first medalist honor of the spring. “I knew those guys came in with good rounds but I just wanted to keep going and felt well.”
Blaine didn’t struggle Thursday to lose the lead, but instead improved the team score by two strokes.
“We just wanted to play as good as we could’ve in this tournament,” Panthers coach Will Wackman said as they erased a four-shot lead over the final nine holes of the tournament. “Nobody threw it away. But Blaine played great too and we happened to play a little bit greater.”
“You can’t feel upset about leading a tournament,” Blaine coach Kevin Overgaard said. “You always feel like you leave a few shots out there but the kids played great, 305 was a really good score yesterday. Spring Lake Park is a really great golf team. We played better today with a four-shot lead and it was a matter of them having a career round. I felt good knowing where the guys were at with a 73 in the clubhouse.”
Blaine had five golfers break 80 and but the Panthers had four go even lower.
The seven-shot swing between the two 18-hole rounds isn’t the first close competition between the neighboring programs.
Spring Lake Park edged Blaine by one stroke to win the Bunker Hills Invitational earlier in May.
Thursday’s win allows the senior-heavy Panthers not only another chance to play competitive golf together but on a familiar course near home.
The Panthers were powered by five seniors including Sienko (73-70–143), Nick Turnquist (74-76–150), Tanner Ylvisaker (82-73–155) and Jack Hiemenz (80-77–155). Brett Bolf (86-81–167) and junior Zach Savageau (87-77–164) posted the team’s two extra scores. Savageau nearly had a hole-in-one on the second to last hole of the tournament, a 220-yard par-3. His tee shot rolled within 15 inches of the cup for the tap-in birdie.
“All our seniors, this is what we’ve dreaming for,” Turnquist said.
“The friendship is ridiculous,” Ylvisaker said. “We all love each other. You don’t get five seniors on varsity that shoot really low scores.”
Ylvisaker opened with a 49 but refocused on the next shot for the rest of the tournament and focused on himself till the end. “I knew our teammates would pull through. I trust all of them.”
Coming into the second day, Turnquist said the strategy was for each Panther to score better than their Blaine counterpart. “We worked hard and in the end it paid off,” he said. “We just played our hearts out and played with everything we had and thought shot-by-shot.”
Spring Lake Park lost out on the North Suburban Conference team title to Benilde-St. Margaret’s, despite three all-conference (Sienko, Turnquist and Ylvisaker) and two honorable mentions (Bolf and Savangeau).
“It’s amazing,” Turnquist said, after a first-round 74. “I never thought it would feel like this and now that its here, I’m speechless. I’m so proud of the team.”
He opened the second round with a 38 on the East Course and struggled but finished off strong for the second best score.
Turnquist is comfortable with the state course from so many competition rounds that they know where to hit the ball and more importantly not to hit it on the Coon Rapids course.
Specifically, Turnquist focused on putting early on in the season but leading up to sections switched that attention to driving accuracy. “If you miss a fairway, you’re in the trees so I got my driver working and hit many more fairways to make it much easier on myself.”
Blaine’s Joe Manthis was runner-up to Sienko with a team-best 148 with rounds of 73 and 75. He fired rounds of 36 on the East course each day with rounds of 37 and 39 on the West course.
Manthis was part of the final foursome on the course with Sienko.
“Flawless golf,” Manthis described it. “I’m thinking I’m playing good. He’s just killing me all over the course. It’s fantastic though. I was giving him (knuckles) if he made a good putt. I don’t want him to lose, I want him to win and not to wish anybody to play bad.”
Manthis, a senior, will regroup to make his first state appearance after losing in a section playoff as a freshman.
Overgaard said Manthis has improved the most on his course management. “He understands his game and plays to, especially over the last month maturing. Even handling his mistakes, he’s matured very nicely over the last season.”
Joining Manthis at state will be Aaron Jackson, who carded rounds of 76 strokes for a 152 total.
Josh Taylor had a 155 and Dakota Kretch added a 156 for the team total.
Anoka senior Max Savini tied Turnquist for third place overall (76-74–150).
Legacy Christian (644) repeated as Section 4A champion finishing 22 strokes ahead of Heritage Christian (666).
The Lions return to state after posting a third-place finish on the Pebble Creek course last spring.
Juniors Jake Hoschied and Caleb Johnson guided the Lions with rounds of 157 and 158 strokes, respectively. Hoschied’s rounds of 80 and 77 were the third-best individual scores and Johnson posted a first-round 75 for the best Lions round. Sophomores Jack Friedirch and Jake McDermott contributed scores of 163 and 168 to keep the team scores low.
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