Boys and Girls Golf Preview
As the starting point guard for the Esko boys basketball team the past several seasons, senior Marc Peterson has spent plenty of time in the high school’s gymnasium.
As a right-handed golfer, perhaps a little too much time.
With a second straight season of slow spring weather, Peterson and his Cloquet-Esko boys golf teammates have been practicing indoors for weeks, taking to the artificial mats, hitting screens and using low-flight golf balls for far too long.
“It gets pretty boring,” said Peterson, who shows up for current morning practices before 7 a.m. each day. “There’s not much you can take from hitting a golf ball five feet in front of you. It’s a grind, but you take what you can get.”
Peterson, a 6-foot-3, 170-pound three-sport athlete at Esko, is looking to get further than ever in golf this spring, as the smooth-stroking hitter is hopes to add a state golf meet appearance in June to a prep career that already includes a state football trip and a state boys basketball title last March.
Marching toward that goal may not only be possible for Peterson — who made the last day of the Section 7AAA meet last year — but also for several other Cloquet-Esko returnees.
Along with Peterson, Cloquet senior Zack Strom also advanced to last season’s final afternoon, while Esko senior Nick Neve and freshman Carter Vork missed by several strokes. Cloquet seniors Dillon Johnson and Maxx Brenner and Esko sophomore Chase Bakken will also add depth to an experienced 16-man roster, according to Coach Jon Horbacz.
Horbacz, now in his second season with the cooperative program, admitted it’s been tough preparing inside, but he’s kept things fresh with staggered arrival times and regular rules-and interpretation-meetings away from the gymnasium.
“It’s been tough — much like last year,” said Horbacz, hoping the Cloquet Country Club opens soon. “From what I’ve been hearing, maybe the first weekend in May, or hopefully the first week after that.”
The Cloquet-Esko girls got their first day outside Monday afternoon at Veterans Park in Cloquet. The team of nine girls was readying for Tuesday’s season-opening meet in Pine City.
Seniors Arica Sheff, Kaitlyn Litke and juniors Libby Colt and Rachel Morrison — all of Cloquet — return for a team set to play with the boys this weekend in Grand Rapids.
“I don’t have to have my rubber boots on, so I’m pretty proud,” said Coach Sue Northey during Monday’s practice.
“It felt so good to get out there,” Morrison added. “Just to get the feel of the grass and take a divot, not on the mat.”
Looking to match his Class AA state individual berth from last spring, Moose Lake-Willow River junior Gabe Douglas returns to the Rebels along with his siblings, senior Grant and eighth-grader Gavin, making a brotherly trio that’s tough to equal.
“I’m looking for big things from all three,” said 11th-year Coach Steve Mokros after indoor practice on Monday.
Mokros noted both his 19 boys and five girls — led by junior Lindsay Loehlein — placed second in the Great River Conference and were each Section contenders last year. They are now seeking more success once getting outside of Riverside Arena.
Nearby Barnum has an outside chance to challenge for the Section 7A crown this spring as third-year Coach Cullen Franek welcomes back Class A state girls golfers from last season in junior Kelsey Timm and left-handed freshman Jamie Bird.
The Bombers, which returned to golf several years ago since for the first time since the early 1980s, are guided by sophomore Greyson Lekander for the boys, one of three returnees to a 12-man roster.
“We’ve been putting in my room, the library and fighting for space in the parking lot,” said Franek, noting Mahtowa’s 29 Pines golf course still has snow on it. “We’re five weeks from the Sections.”
Wrenshall has gotten a section of their school’s commons area to practice in thus far, as second-year Coach James Johnson’s group of five boys and girls — all senior-less and back from a season ago — wait for Carlton’s Pine Hill to dry out.
“It’s really gone fast,” Johnson said of the snow, “but it’s really wet.”