Conquering heroes: Crowd turns out to greet state champion Cloquet golf team
About 50 people cheered as the van and its police escort arrived at Cloquet Country Club.
The people in the crowd milling about Cloquet Country Club Thursday, June 17, were quietly chatting when sirens began to roar in the distance.
Instead of an emergency, the noise heralded the return of the Minnesota Class AA state champion Cloquet golf team, who received an escort from the Cloquet Police Department.
The crowd of about 50 people cheered as the team emerged from the van with medals hanging from their chests and senior Brayden Tyman carrying the state championship trophy. Individual state champion Sam Baker exited last and elicited the biggest roar.
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Baker birdied No. 18 — a 496-yard par 5 — at the Ridges at Sand Creek to rally from a stroke down to win the individual title. The victory was the first individual state title for a Cloquet athlete since Kendra Kelley won the 200-meter dash at the Minnesota Class AA track meet in 2018.
“I’m still trying to process it all, it’s a lot to get through,” Baker said. “I mean it was the last day of high school golf for me, and to finish out on that kind of a high — it’s pretty special.”
While Baker's duel with runner-up Beck Erholtz from Staples-Motley grabbed headlines, the Lumberjacks dominated the team competition finishing 18 strokes ahead of second place Totino-Grace. The win was the first state title in history of the Cloquet golf program.
“When we were driving back home, I was able to comprehend what we were able to do,” Young said. “It was a total team effort — every kid put in a score for us over those two days. They all showed up when we needed them to show up.”
Eighth-grader Karson Young was one of the surprises of the tournament for Cloquet. The youngest Lumberjack golfer tied his career best with a 76 on the first day of the tournament and turned around and fired a 73 on the second day.
“I thought my putting was a really big step,” Karson Young said. “I really wasn’t putting great coming into the state tournament. Then the second day, I just clicked on the greens, and I made a lot of birdie putts and par putts.”
After Baker and Cloquet assistant activities director Matt Carlson hung the individual and team scores, Coach Young introduced each player individually to even more cheers from the crowd. He also noted that while Cloquet will lose a few players, including Baker, to graduation, the cupboard isn’t bare.
“We’ve got some youngsters waiting in the wings,” he said. “We’re going to rattle some cages next year. We won’t have a Sam on the team that can go low virtually every time, but we’ll have a lot of guys that can get into the 70s, and I think we’ll continue to make some noise for years into the future.”