Rubado column: Big crowds and big wins; Alexandria high school golfers thrive in pressure packed moments
Braeden Sladek and Bennett Olsen add to the list of accolades the Alexandria golf teams have earned over the last five months. The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member, Jared Rubado.
There are moments unrelated to the actual competition that you know will stick with you in this job.
I'll never forget Jordan O'Kane and Ella Westlund taking a knee at center ice following the Alexandria girls hockey team's double-overtime loss to Minnetonka . I can still picture JJ Foster's face through my camera lens when Gannon Lueck won the match point to send the Alexandria boys tennis team to state for the first time ever.
I'm certain what I saw on the Alexandria Golf Club No. 14 fairway on Saturday at the 100th Resorters is one of those moments.
I had just finished my last interview of the day, which meant after a long week, I was finally done. But the story of the Men's Championship final was so intriguing that I decided to stick around. I saw the final group was on the No. 14 tee box, and I would wait to see if the match was close.
With Alexandria's Braeden Sladek in the match, I knew the crowd was going to be big. But when I saw the number of carts flying across the fairway, I was slightly underwhelmed. Then I realized the golfers hadn't teed off yet.
I've never seen a crowd like that covering golf. I've never been to a professional golf meet, and the state tournaments don't see galleries like that often. I can't begin to guess how many carts there were watching a 16-year-old play in one of the more memorable Resorters championship matches in recent history.
Big crowds in high school sports are rarely centralized on one person. But anybody familiar with Sladek knows he has the chance to do something special any time he steps on the golf course, including his teammates.
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"Braeden is one of the best golfers I've ever seen," sophomore Bennett Olsen said. "He's up there. He could be as cocky as he wanted to, and he's just the most humble kid. He doesn't show any emotion. He could be down three in a match, and it won't get to him. He'll come back and win, and it won't phase him."
Sladek had to beat Donald Constable , the tournament's top-seed and favorite to win, in the semifinal just a few hours before beating Kelly Brown in the championship. As Olsen said, matchups and moments don't phase him.
"Constable played in the freaking U.S. Open," Olsen said. "Braeden is 16-years-old out here beating that guy. You talk to him after, and it's just like nothing even happened."
Sladek turned heads of all ages on Saturday, including Troy Johnson. Johnson played alongside Sladek for the Men's Executive championship en route to his fourth-consecutive Resorters win.
"He's very impressive," Johnson said. "Looking forward to just following him. He's played in some big tournaments that I've played in this summer, and he's solid. It will be fun to watch."
Sladek is the Alexandria boys golf team's top player, but success by committee is what makes the Cardinals so talented.
Olsen won the Junior 13-15 championship –his third Resorters title. Both Olsen and Sladek play on the Alexandria boys golf team with Ashton Sladek, Carver Larson and Drew Swedberg, who also competed in the 100th Resorters. On the girls side, Hannah Boraas and Cora Larson went deep into the Women's Division's championship flight bracket a few months after winning a state title .
"We are fortunate enough to have a really special group that are within three or four years of each other," Olsen said. "We are out at Geneva playing every single day. We're all close. It's not like we're one of those teams that has a bad apple and is bumping heads with each other. There's no stirring the pot or anything."
Olsen wasn't kidding when he said they play at Geneva every day. Less than 24 hours after competing in the Class AAA state golf tournament, Sladek broke the Geneva course record at 11-under-par.
Over the next two years, the Cardinals are looking to cash in. Potential only goes so far until it's time to put up results.
"Now that Grant (Rebrovich) is gone, Braeden is the anchor of our team," Olsen said. "Then you got us, and we need to do our part too. I think what makes this a special group is none of us get out of line. We are competitive, but we know what we have to do to win."