Resorters golf: Lunden Esterline becomes two-time junior champ at the Resorters
Esterline wins Junior 13-15 championship, Alexandria’s Carver Larson earns second.
ALEXANDRIA — Coming into Saturday’s Junior 13-15 division finals, top-seeded Lunden Esterline had already won one junior title at the Resorters, the Junior 10-12 title which he won in 2020.
But he was hungry for more, and with five birdies and no bogeys in his round, he secured the Junior 13-15 title over Alexandria’s Carver Larson, the No. 2 seed in the bracket, with a 5-4 victory.
“I just think I struck the ball really well,” Esterline said about his final round. “My irons were great and I made a lot of putts.”
Esterline had his short game going early with a chip-in birdie on the par 4 1st hole.
“It was honestly a pretty lucky birdie,” Esterline said. “If that ball didn’t go in, it probably would’ve rolled off the green.”
Larson responded with a birdie of his own on the par 4 2nd hole to tie the match.
On the par 4 5th hole, Esterline sank a long birdie putt to go 1-up and he never looked back. Esterline won holes 9 and 10 with birdies and holes 11 and 15 with pars.
On the back nine, Esterline and Larson birdied the par 5 14th hole and Larson birdied the par 5 12th hole to secure his second of two hole wins.
Esterline, who is from Andover, Kansas but spends the summer in the Alexandria area, said that making key putts helped him win this division.
“Putting is probably one of my strengths,” he said. “I think that’s a big part of my game that comes in at this course. I think that is what it comes down to, who makes putts.”
Larson had a strong final round, as he was sitting at even par through 15 holes played, but the deficit was too much to overcome.
Esterline’s five-birdie round comes off of a 2-1 win over No. 4 seed Carson Boe, who was the runner-up in the 2021 and 2020 Resorters tournaments, in the semifinals on Friday.
Esterline hit a shot of a lifetime in that round as he scored a hole-in-one on the par 3 7th hole, otherwise known as the “Minnesota Hole.”
“Oh goodness that was unreal,” Esterline said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Esterline said that was his first hole-in-one at Alexandria Golf Club and the second that he’s made in his life. That ace proved to be pivotal for him as it put him 3-up. Boe came back a bit with wins on holes 9, 10 and 11, but Esterline iced the match with wins on holes 14 and 17.
That semifinal round was the longest match that he played in the tournament. He also birdied the 7th hole in his 7-5 victory over No. 16 Landon Stennes in his opening match.
Larson’s path to the finals was just as decisive as Esterline’s, if not more. The closest of Larson’s first three matches was his quarterfinal match against the No. 7 seed, Charlie Hanson of Morris, which was a 3-1 win for Larson. Larson had five birdies in his win over Hanson.
Larson is heading into his sophomore year at Alexandria Area High School and is coming off of a top 35 finish at the MSHSL Class AAA State Tournament, where Alexandria placed third as a team.
In the semifinals, Larson defeated the 2021 Junior 10-12 Division champion, Will Hacker, 4-2.
Larson was the second seed in this year’s field, and Esterline earned the top seed in the bracket by shooting even par in the qualifying round.
Esterline said that the biggest challenge with his own game was his iron play but that he was able to manage his iron shots well enough. He took advantage of some good course conditions at AGC to win his way through the week.
“It’s always in such great shape and the greens are all really nice,” he said.