Talent trumps experience as young nucleus helps Alexandria boys win a fourth straight Section 8-3A championship

Sophomore Braeden Sladek and 8th-grader Carver Larson both finish in the top six individually. They combined to shoot 1-under over the final two holes as the last players in for Alexandria to secure a 1 stroke section-championship win over Moorhead.

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Alexandria boys golf team members (left to right) Jack Holtz, Ashton Sladek, Grant Rebrovich, Braeden Sladek, Bennett Olsen, Carver Larson and head coach Brady Swedberg won the program's fourth straight Section 8-3A championship on June 2, 2021. The Cardinals shot a two-day score of 611 at the Rich Spring Golf Course in Cold Spring, fending off Moorhead by one stroke to advance to the state tournament. (Contributed photo)

If there was a year that another Section 8-3A boys golf program was going to rise to the top of this field it should have been this spring.

Alexandria, winner of the section championship in 2017-2019, has a young roster that it leaned on by season’s end. Eventually, talent won out over experience as the Cardinals captured a fourth straight section title on Wednesday by holding off Moorhead by one stroke at the Rich Spring Golf Course in Cold Spring.

“We are such a young team, and there were four teams who could win this section. Usually it’s only two,” Alexandria head coach Brady Swedberg said. “I knew this would be our toughest one. We just have a bunch of athletes who know how to compete. They grind no matter how it’s going. They fight to the finish, and that’s pretty amazing because we have such a young team.”

The Cardinals had two 8th-graders in Carver Larson and Ashton Sladek and two freshmen in Jack Holtz and Bennett Olsen on the section team. Around them were two steady veterans in senior Grant Rebrovich and sophomore Braeden Sladek.

Alexandria was tied for first with Brainerd after day one when both teams shot a 305. Not far behind was Moorhead at 307, and the Spuds came out firing on Wednesday morning.


“We got off to an OK start, but Moorhead got off to a very hot start,” Swedberg said. “All their guys were really solid early on, so we were down three or four shots. That kind of stayed the same the whole day until the very end.”

Braeden Sladek, who shot rounds of 71 and 70 to finish with medalist honors at 3-under par, brought the win home with Larson down the stretch. Alexandria shot a two-day score of 611 after a 306 in round two. The Spuds’ 305 on Wednesday left them a stroke short.

“(Braeden and Carver) were playing one and two today, so they were the last two to come in,” Swedberg said. “Carver made a great par on 17 and a great birdie on 18, which tied it up. Braeden was our last guy in, and he parred the last two. The Moorhead guy made one bogey, and that was it.”

The Cardinals expect this kind of performance from Sladek. He has been near the top of this lineup since 7th grade and played in many big tournaments at this level. Larson showed his ability too by pushing aside any nerves and playing his best in the biggest moments.

“It reminds me a bit of when Braeden did it as a 7th-grader out here at this same golf course,” Swedberg said. “Conditions got pretty tough. It was pretty windy out here today. Carver made a couple bogeys early and then made a birdie and kind of got into a groove. To be able to finish the way he did, it shows he’s played a lot of tournament golf. He’s played a lot of sports. He’s an athlete. He’s a competitor, and he got in a groove and knew he was going to finish well.”

Larson’s two-day score of 150 (77, 73) put him sixth individually in the tournament. Rebrovich was Alexandria’s third scorer with a 161, while Ashton Sladek (162), Olsen (163) and Holtz (164) followed right behind him.

There was a time early this season when the Cardinals were not winning tournaments against a lot of these same teams, but scores can sometimes be deceiving. Conditions vary so much during the spring in Minnesota, and learning to play in poor weather is part of the process.

Alexandria persevered, trusted its talent and eventually played its best golf at the right time against a deeper section field than some prior years.


“It is fun knowing there were three or four teams that could have won this tournament,” Swedberg said. “A lot of these kids are so young that they don’t really know any better. They were just coming out to play golf and try not to focus on that other stuff.”

The Cardinals rose to the occasion when the stakes were at their highest this week. They are excited for the chance to do it again when they join the rest of the best teams in Class 3A at the Bunker Hills Golf Club June 15-16 in Alexandria’s 20th state tournament appearance.

“We’re going to have to be very, very good to win a state title. We know that,” Swedberg said. “We’re young and there’s going to be some teams there that have lots and lots of experience. We have the ability to do it. We just have to get prepared the best we can and get the mindset to where they know and believe they can go out, play well and win. It’s going to be tough, but I think they’re all buying into this fact that we can play well and compete and beat anybody.”

SECTION 8-3A TOP-SIX TEAM SCORES - 1. Alexandria - 305, 306 - 611; 2. Moorhead - 307, 305 - 612; 3. Brainerd - 305, 320 - 625; 4. Sartell - 315, 323 - 638; 5. Buffalo - 328, 331 - 659; 6. Bemidji - 331, 335 - 666

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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