Alexandria girls put away Brainerd to grab 15-shot lead after round one of the CLC championship
Sophomore Aisling O'Connor leads a 1-2-3 finish for the Cardinals with her personal-best round of 76 in round one of the two-day Central Lakes Conference championship.
The Alexandria girls golf team would already have the Central Lakes Conference title wrapped up by now if the format was similar to what it has been in recent years.
The CLC has determined a team champion in the past by using a point system that was based on a program’s whole body of work throughout all the conference meets. Alexandria had won five of the six CLC competitions coming into Monday, but the Cardinals have to prove it all over again by winning the two-round CLC championship tournament now.
“We mentioned at the beginning of the season that the first conference meets counted toward individual scores toward their all-conference placing,” Alexandria head coach Tim Zupfer said. “Individually, there was importance that way, but I think it’s kind of a good thing to have these championship meets count a little bit more as a team. That should help with the postseason.”
The Cardinals hosted the first 18 holes of the championship at the Alexandria Golf Club on Monday and won with a 314. That sends them into the final round on May 24 at Blackberry Ridge in Sartell with a 15-stroke lead over Brainerd after the Warriors shot a 329 at AGC.
“I love that course, and we’ve done good there in the past,” Alexandria sophomore Hannah Boraas said of Blackberry Ridge. “We know the one nine is a little bit tighter and the one nine is a little more open. We’ll really enjoy it knowing that we have a little bit of a lead.”
Boraas was part of a 1-2-3 finish for Alexandria at AGC. She shot a 77 (40, 37), and junior Cora Larson shot a 78 (41, 37) to finish third. The round of the day came from sophomore Aisling O’Connor, who shot a personal-best 76 (37, 39) to take first after needing just 28 putts.
“I was making a lot of like 8-foot putts for par, and that was really helpful,” O’Connor said. “My greens in (regulation) and irons weren’t great, but I was able to pull it together on the greens and my chipping was really good too. It’s great. I was having a rough patch last week, so I’m happy that I’m kind of peaking at the right time.”
Boraas and Larson frequently shoot in the low-to-mid 70s, but O’Connor and junior Lauren Rebrovich have an ability to go low like that on any given day.
Rebrovich shot an 83 (sixth place, 41, 42) on Monday to finish off the team scoring, while 8th-grader Rachel Bowen (t-22nd, 52, 47 - 99), 7th-grader Ellie Sticha (26th, 50, 50 - 100) and junior Isabella Hagen (t-43rd, 58, 52 - 110) rounded out the lineup.
“It feels great to know that your teammates can cover for you, but it doesn’t feel great to shoot a bad round when you know that it matters,” O’Connor said. “It’s amazing to just be able to perform well because it’s not just for you anymore. It’s for your teammates too.”
Brainerd and Alexandria have been the two teams vying for the top spot in the conference and section fields all season. The Cardinals won the first five head-to-head matchups in CLC play until the Warriors won on May 13 by three strokes with a team score of 315.
Brainerd was within striking distance through much of the day at AGC. The Warriors held a nearly 5-stroke lead in the team scoring before Alexandria closed the gap through nine.
“Then through about 12, we had jumped up by about 10 shots,” Zupfer said. “Then we leaked a little bit about holes 14 and 15, but we finished strong. We’ve got the live scoring now. You really kind of know what’s going on. It ended up being a whole lot more comfortable than it actually felt for most of the round out there.”
Both Boraas and O’Connor said they have developed a good friendship with these Brainerd golfers through playing so many rounds together. That’s what makes the rivalry fun.
“They have an ability to go low that does scare me a little bit,” O’Connor said. “We definitely do too, but with golf it’s just different every day...I like all the Brainerd girls. They’re great, and it’s fun to have that competition. It would be boring otherwise.”
Alexandria won the Pre-Section 8-3A meet by 10 strokes over Brainerd on May 14 at the Headwaters Golf Club in Park Rapids. Boraas paced four Alexandria players in the top 12 that day by shooting a medalist round of 73.
“After pre-section, I’m confident in all of us,” Boraas said. “For sure we can always do better on the short game. That’s really where it adds or subtracts strokes for you.”
There are things everyone can clean up, O’Connor said, but there is time to do that before the two-day section meet on June 3 and 4.
The Cardinals will try to put away a CLC championship at Blackberry Ridge next week before turning their attention toward securing the program’s 21st state tournament appearance.
“Every day is a little bit different with the course you’re playing as far as the green speeds and the wind,” Zupfer said. “It really does come down to each time out managing the course. Then No. 2, it’s when you’re out of play, being able to get yourself back in position and trust the short game. For the most part, we did that (on Monday).”
CLC CHAMPIONSHIP - ROUND ONE TEAM SCORES - Alexandria - 314; Brainerd - 329; Sartell - 370; Fergus Falls - 372; Moorhead - 390; Willmar - 399; Bemidji - 405; Rocori - 460; St. Cloud Apollo/Tech - 461