Cloquet-Esko girls golf making gainsCooquet-Esko girls golf making gains
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
In middle school, Sarah Juntunen joined golf and ran track. As a freshman she experimented with softball instead. Come springtime sophomore year, she returned to the links... and she was home.
“I love golf,” the Esko senior said with a laugh, noting that she took her first lesson in sixth grade. “It’s been a definite process over the years, but I decided golf was my favorite.”
Juntunen is one of the top swingers for the inaugural Cloquet-Esko girls golf program this spring.
“I quit my freshman year, but came back as a sophomore,” said Juntunen, who fired a team-leading 94 at Monday’s annual Cloquet Invitational at the Cloquet Country Club. “Things have been going up ever since.”
A member at the CCC in the summertime, the right-handed golfer said she enjoys playing the lifelong sport with her father. Likewise, fellow Esko senior teammate Cori Pelletier does the same with her mother and grandmother at the privately owned Cloquet course in the summer.
“I love it,” said Pelletier, who carded an even 100 on the sunny Monday afternoon. “I’m out there quite a bit in the summer. My whole family golfs.”
Pelletier and Juntunen center a first-year Cloquet-Esko program that is co-coached by Sue Northey and Mary Weets. Out of town recently, Northey referred comments to Weets, who has been watching the duo most lately.
“Sarah and Cori are definitely our number one and two,” Weets said of the team’s lone seniors, who also play competitively in summer tournaments with their family members. “They’re our strongest players, for sure.”
Yet, Weets explained fellow teammates – Esko’s Emily Gustafson, CJ Stoyanoff and Cloquet’s Arica Sheff, Rachel Morrison and Katelyn Litke – are close behind. With nearly half a dozen meets behind them, Weets is impressed.
“Our three, four, five, six and seven golfers are right there, just strokes behind,” Weets said. “We’re a young team, but they’re on their way up.”
A year ago, Esko-Carlton and Cloquet sported separate programs, but the two school teams have consolidated this spring. That move has gotten a lot of support.
“It’s been super fun getting to know all of the girls,” Juntunen said.
“It’s been great to have more depth,” added Pelletier, a right-handed player like Juntunen. “It’s been good for both sides, I think.”
Weets agreed, explaining each of their squads is developing more.
“It’s been a great combination,” Weets said. “We have 15 girls total on our varsity and junior varsity teams. We have a lot of first- and second-year golfers who are improving quickly and eager to get better.”
Tuesday, Weets said that eagerness was so evident that she has to send a number of their golfers home, while they hit putts in the pouring rain.
“We have a good group of girls here,” she said. “They enjoy the game.”
Although Pelletier was out of the top-10 individually Monday, Juntunen placed ninth overall at the Invite, scoring just a stroke away from her career-best 93 she posted this spring.
Both players admitted their faults Monday.
“It was definitely not a good day for me,” Pelletier said.
“I think I played well, but I definitely left some shots out there,” added Juntunen, who helped paced Cloquet-Esko to a 396 total team score.
Cloquet-Esko tied for third with Duluth East, while Grand Rapids won, Hermantown followed and Virginia placed last, in fifth.
“There were some strong teams there,” continued Juntunen. “Grand Rapids and Hermantown are a couple of real tough programs.”
Juntunen and Pelletier have yet to qualify for state action, but both said they are hoping for the best. Juntunen plans to continue to play golf competitively in the summer. Pelletier will be a collegiate swimmer a year from now.
“Golf is tied with swimming,” Pelletier said. “If that doesn’t work out, maybe I’ll try out golf. It’s always fun to go out there and have a good round.”
“It’s the most frustrating sport,” Juntunen added honestly, “but for some reason, it just keeps me coming back for more.”