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Section offers a clean slate

Junior Cole Haugen watches his chip shot onto the 12th green at the Alexandria Golf Club last Thursday. Haugen shot a 75 to lead the Cardinals at the CLC championship meet. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

The Alexandria boys’ golf team had its ups and downs through the Central Lakes Conference season, and the Cardinals hope to finish the postseason on one of those high notes at the Section 8AAA tournament today.

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Alexandria went into the first day of the two-day section meet on Tuesday believing it had the pieces to compete for a state berth. The Cardinals simply had to play better from top to bottom if it was going to happen.

“It’s one of those things,” head coach Rick Larson said after the Cardinals finished tied for fourth at the CLC championship on their home course last Thursday. “Are we going to go in there and shoot the 330, 340 or are we going to go in there and shoot 315 and be right in the mix of things? I don’t know really what to put [the inconsistency] on, if it was a rough spring. We didn’t have a lot of practice, but everybody is in the same boat. Going into the section meet, anything can happen if they put two days together.”

Larson said there are a handful of teams that could come away with the Section 8AAA title. If it’s going to be the Cardinals, they are likely going to need their top two players in Cole Haugen and Lukas Bigger to lead the way.

“Every team can point to where they need to have their strengths,” Larson said. “When you have a team like we have right now where we have two pretty good players who have been up and down this spring, they have to go really low, when I say really low I mean in the mid-70s. Then the other guys have to shoot right around 80 to do that.”

Haugen did that last Thursday as he shot a 75 in the final tune-up at the CLC championship. Beautiful weather conditions greeted golfers at the Alexandria Golf Club, and Haugen took advantage by shooting par over his final 15 holes.

The junior had been trying to get back on track from a rough stretch where he shot 88, 81 and 87 in recent meets. He did that on his home course and hopes that carries over into section play.

“Distance control was a big thing, trying to just figure out my game,” Haugen said of those struggles. “I hit a lot of shots deep of the green that cost me a lot of strokes. Then my putting too had always been costing me strokes, but I think I have that figured out a little bit more toward the end of the season.”

Bigger said he struggled finding the fairways on Thursday, which made it tough to hit greens in regulation. That limited his birdie opportunities as the junior finished with an 81. He was sixth in the final individual standings to earn all-conference honors.

Brandon Bistodeau had two triple bogeys and two double bogeys that he worked through to post an 85. Dan Hennessey was one shot higher with nines of 43 to finish with an 86. Aaron Johnson and Kagan Foster each shot 92s to round out the lineup at the CLC championship.

“We’ve had a different team almost every meet this year,” Bigger said. “So it’s just finding out who’s going to shoot low and who’s going to pull it through and hopefully help out the team [at sections].”

Larson has tried to mix and match this season with more than 10 players working their way into a varsity meet. The hope was that a couple guys would stick, but almost all of the golfers have followed low rounds with higher scores.

“I normally would have seven, eight or nine because they’re so consistent,” Larson said. “But this year without any consistency, it’s been all over the board.”

Other teams in the league struggled with getting into a flow this season too. Perhaps it is partly because of the weather that these teams have had to play through.

Fergus Falls came into last week’s CLC title meet with a lead in the conference but shot one of its worst scores with a 329. That was sixth best at the meet and dropped the Otters into second place overall as St. Cloud Tech came away with the season championship.

The Cardinals were ready to work on their games in a practice setting with four days off between the CLC and section meets. Those chances to practice have been few and far between this spring with so many postponements.

“Do to the weather we haven’t had much practice with all the meets getting crammed in,” Haugen said. “I think it’s finally nice that we can go out and work on what we need to work on individually and get better at that. Then I think we’re heading off to Greystone on Monday to hopefully get ready for sections.”

That was the focus now with the CLC season behind them. The Cardinals felt they were capable of finishing higher than sixth in the conference but didn’t put together the scores that allowed them to do that.

With the section meet comes a clean slate as Alexandria tries to play its best golf at the most important time.

“Just forget about what happened,” Bigger said. “Now just stay focused on the next couple rounds and hopefully play a lot better and make it to state.

CLC CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM RESULTS – Sartell – 309; Willmar – 315; 3. St. Cloud Tech – 323; T-4. Brainerd – 327; T.4. Alexandria – 327; 6. Fergus Falls – 329; 7. Rocori – 346; 8. Sauk Rapids – 356; 9. St. Cloud Apollo – 358

ALEXANDRIA – Haugen – 75; Bigger – 81; Bistodeau – 85; Hennessey – 86; Johnson – 92; Foster – 92

FINAL CLC STANDINGS – 1. St. Cloud Tech – 72; 2. Fergus Falls – 70; T-3. Willmar – 64; T-3. Sartell – 64; 5. Brainerd – 61; 6. Alexandria – 59; 7. Sauk Rapids – 26; 8. Rocori – 20; 9. St. Cloud Apollo – 14


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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