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State Class AAA girls' golf: Cardinals save their best for last

The Alexandria girls' golf team posed with the second-place trophy on the West's ninth green at Bunker Hills on Wednesday. Pictured from left to right are assistant coach Mark Storhaug, Bridget Amundson, Emily Thul, Brynn Novotny, Shelby Iverson, Amanda Bigger, Natalie Amundson and head coach Tim Zupfer. The Cardinals finished 11 strokes off Edina with their two-day score of 655 at the 3A state meet. (Eric Morken, Echo Press)

Members of the Alexandria girls' golf team might have surprised even themselves with a second-place finish at the Class 3A state tournament at Bunker Hills.

The Cardinals found themselves just four strokes back of Edina after Tuesday's season-low round of 325. It was an indication of exactly how far this group has come after finishing seventh with five of the same players at last year's state meet.

"I kind of [thought we could be in that position] because of what I heard and my coach saying stuff," junior Amanda Bigger said after finishing ninth individually on Wednesday. "But it never really set in until [Tuesday]. I never actually believed it, but I was happy."

The Cardinals knew being that close meant anything could happen going into the final round. They didn't back down from the pressure, shooting another solid round of 330 to finish at 655. That would have won every other Class 3A state meet that has been held since they moved to three classes in 2008. Edina was just a little bit better as the Hornets shot a 3A record 644.

"I'm so proud of my team," senior Shelby Iverson said. "We played so well. We have so much depth from 8th grade to seniors. It's just amazing. I'm going to miss all of them next year. It's hard to let them all go, but I'm excited to come back and watch them, and I have a feeling that they're going to be on top next year."

Iverson epitomized the kind of depth that this team has been about all season. She was playing in the sixth spot for Alexandria but came in with the Cardinals' third lowest score on Wednesday at 86. That was a career best for Iverson, who said she simply wanted to enjoy the final round of her career after shooting a 96 on the opening day.

"It was really fun, especially since I didn't play very well [Tuesday]," she said. "It was nice to come out and show everyone that I actually know what I'm doing and can play the game of golf."

The Cardinals got a little bit from everybody through the two days. Bigger finished with a 156 after shooting a 76 on Wednesday. Natalie Amundson wasn't far behind at 161 after an 81 and 80. That was good for 17th. Emily Thul was Alexandria's low scorer on Tuesday with a 79 and finished at 168 (32nd).

Senior Brynn Novotny was her team's fourth lowest scorer in round two with an 88. She finished 43rd with a 173, while Iverson and 8th grader Bridget Amundson tied for 64th at 182.

The Cardinals cut 57 strokes off their final score of 712 from the 2012 state tournament. They know it takes improvement from everyone to shave off those kinds of numbers from one season to the next.

"We have a lot of depth," N. Amundson said. "That shows when our number six had her personal best. She really brought it in and had a great way to end her season. It shows how we could take our number six player when we needed it. We had nobody in the 100s, and I think we were one of the only teams who did that, so that was really exciting."

That's why members of this team could smile as they posed for pictures on the West's ninth green on Wednesday night. Sure they wanted to bring home a team title after being so close, but it didn't take long to appreciate all they accomplished this year. After winning conference and section championships, they now have a runner-up trophy to display, as well.


TEAM STANDINGS - 1. Edina - 321, 323 - 644; 2. Alexandria - 325, 330 - 655; 3. New Prague - 332, 328 - 660; 4. Red Wing - 337, 336 - 673; 5. Blaine - 347, 341 - 688; 6. Eagan - 347, 361 - 708; 7. Andover - 350, 366 - 816; 8. Stillwater - 363, 361 - 724

ALEXANDRIA SCORES - Bigger - ninth place, 80, 76 - 156; N. Amundson - 17th place, 81, 80 - 161; Thul - 32nd place, 79, 89 - 168; Novotny - 43rd place, 85, 88 - 173; Iverson - 64th place, 96, 86 - 182; B. Amundson - 64th place, 90, 92 - 182

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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