First-year combined Lumberjacks golf program playing hard, scoring lowArriving in Esko to meet his new teammates for the first time this spring, Cloquet junior golfer Brett Morrison said things clicked immediately.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Arriving in Esko to meet his new teammates for the first time this spring, Cloquet junior golfer Brett Morrison said things clicked immediately.
“From the moment we met, we all pretty much meshed well right away,” the right-handed Morrison recalled about their first practice this season. “We’re still meshing together. Honestly, I’m surprised how close we’ve gotten.”
One thing not surprising about the inaugural Cloquet-Esko cooperative boys golf program has been its competitiveness. Combining Cloquet and Esko-Carlton’s programs from a year ago, the now depth-laden Lumberjacks have been lethal on the links, scoring in the top half against their competition in almost all of their 13 meets this spring.
On Monday, Cloquet-Esko claimed runner-up to area-powerhouse Hermantown in the annual Cloquet Invitational at the Cloquet Country Club. The Hawks won with a 335 total team score, while the Lumberjacks were a stroke back at 336 according to first-year Coach Afton Pender.
“We have been playing really well,” Pender said Tuesday following the Lake Superior Conference meet at Lester Park Golf Course in Duluth. “Everyone has kind of had their day. It’s a really solid group of guys.”
Pender explained Cloquet golfers Morrison, lone senior Eric Fryc and sophomores Dillon Johnson and Zack Strom have knit well with Esko junior Mitch Carlson and sophomores Marc Peterson and Nick Neve. Pender said all seven have contributed throughout the season.
“We’re a young team, but I’ve been impressed by our ability and knowledge of the game,” Pender said. “We have had a few scoring errors that we are getting over and learning from, but that’s part of the game. We can play well.”
Morrison and Strom led the Lumberjacks at Monday’s Invitational – both carded 82s –while Peterson finished with an 84 and Fryc an 88. Peterson led Tuesday with a 79 at Lester, including a quadruple bogey on his final hole.
“It could have gone a little better,” Peterson said, dishearteningly.
Despite his snowman on the last hole Tuesday, Peterson has been Cloquet-Esko’s top average scorer this spring Pender said. The 6-foot-3, 165-pound right-hander said his grandfather, Bob Peterson, taught him the game.
“I was young when I got started with my grandpa,” said Peterson, who is a year-long member at the CCC. “But I probably began taking the game more seriously when I was in fourth grade. I love the game of golf.”
Morrison is similar. Like Peterson, golf lives in Brett’s family. His father, Shane Morrison, plays, while younger sister, Rachel, is a freshman on the Cloquet-Esko girls golf team. All three are members at the CCC.
“My mom doesn’t play,” Brett Morrison said with a laugh.
Their families’ love for golf was a link for Morrison and Peterson this season. Morrison recalled connecting with Peterson and others instantly at their opening meeting in Esko. Both said the transition has gone without a hiccup.
“We’ve gotten along together pretty well,” Peterson said. “We’re a pretty balanced team that definitely hasn’t shown our full potential yet, either. If we play our game, I think we should be sitting pretty well.”
Morrison agreed, explaining that making the jump from Class AA to AAA isn’t something they look at as intimidating, yet, challenging instead.
“I’m sure some teams are overlooking us, but I wouldn’t write us off,” Morrison said, confidently. “I mean, yeah, there are some tough teams out there in triple-A, but we have some guys who can all score low. We can all shoot fairly well and all have had our moments, but I’d say we’re pretty strong.”
Pender said she walks along with her team more often than not during meets. As the postseason looms just around the bend, she said keeping her players’ spirits up is important, while reminding them of positivity and focus.
“We’ve been right there in all of our meets,” Pender said. “On any given day, we have guys who can score in the high 70s and low 80s. It’s been really nice to mesh well together. We have a quality team, a competitive team.”