Area golf teams enter the postseason
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Despite being one of the smallest schools in Wednesday’s Section 7AA boys and girls golf meet, Moose Lake-Willow River golfers approached the Giants Ridge tee boxes like champions.
Perhaps that’s because both Rebels programs have already collected titles this spring. On May 14, the ML-WR boys split the Great River Conference championship in Isle with the Huskies and the girls won it outright.
“It’s been a while since the boys have won the conference,” Rebels Coach Steve Mokros said Tuesday night. “And I don’t know the last time the girls won it, if ever. Some years we don’t even have a full girls team.”
That wasn’t the case for either squad this season. Mokros noted the ML-WR girls have lost only to Pine City, while the boys fell only to Isle. He said both teams are section contenders, despite a challenging course and their small enrollment size in Class AA.
“I believe we’re the smallest team in double-A,” Mokros said. “We’re right on the cut-line for that fourth and final spot to make the second day of sections. It’s a very difficult course where you can see some high numbers if you’re just off your game. We’ll see what happens.”
Mokros highlighted Rebels All-Conference selections Lindsay Loehlein, Alexis Babcock, Samantha Schaumburg and Kayla Larson, along with boys Nathanial Koeck, Stephen Gassert and Gabe Douglas. All were significant contributors this year.
The 15-team section meet concluded for the girls Wednesday in Biwabik as this edition of the Pine Journal went to press. The boys finals will be held Friday at Giants Ridge, possibly sporting Mokros and the Rebels.
If not, their coach said he’s still happy with his program.
“Golf can be a frustrating sport, but it’s been a good experience for both the boys and the girls,” Mokros said. “I’m really proud of them all.”
Cullen Franek could say the same about his Barnum program that was resurrected for the first time this season since shortly after the disco era. The first-year coach couldn’t remember the last Barnum golf program, let alone one that was as competitive as his this spring.
“As far as I know, the last team we had was in 1981, over 30 years ago,” Franek said Wednesday morning. “It’s been an all-around success. We didn’t play in terms of wins and losses, but got kids interested in golfing. I’m sure we’ll have a bunch next year.”
Franek said 17 golfers comprised the Bomber’s program, which held its meets and practices at 29 Pines Golf Course in Mahtowa. A young Bombers girls squad placed third at last week’s Section 7A meet at Giants Ridge, as sisters Jamie and Jessica Bird, Kelsey Timm and Brandi Lekander all scored competitively. Brother Greyson Lekander also finished 20th overall for the Barnum boys.
Polar League foe Wrenshall also closed its year at the Section 7A meet last week, as Coach Rick Herman sported both a boys and a first-ever girls team.
First-year cooperative program Cloquet-Esko made the leap from Class AA to AAA this spring. Both the boys and girls programs capped of their seasons at sections in Hinckley on a sunny-then-rainy Memorial Day Monday.
Esko’s Nick Neve led the Lumberjacks boys, while Esko’s Marc Peterson, Mitch Carlson and Cloquet’s Eric Fryc and Zack Strom all followed.
“We had quite a few scores in the hunt,” said Cloquet-Esko boys coach Afton Pender. “We had a solid group of guys, but we just couldn’t get over the hump that day. That happens. But we had a great building year.”
The boys graduate only one senior (Fryc), while the girls dismiss two: Esko’s Cori Pelletier and Sarah Juntunen. Both paced the girls at sections, while Esko’s Emily Gustafson and Cloquet’s Arica Sheff, Katelyn Litke and Rachel Morrison all contributed to a program Coach Sue Northey said improved throughout the season.
“I think all of the girls exceeded their personal bests and have that fire now to go out and play a lot,” Northey said, crediting their home course in the Cloquet Country Club. “For a first-year program, I thought the girls did an excellent job together as a team. I know we’ll have some girls out there golfing this summer.”