Lakers are Class 2A state golfing co-champions
JORDAN - The quest for Minnesota state gold looked to be derailed for the Detroit Lakes boys' golf team as the Class 2A tournament was coming to a close, but those notions were extremely exaggerated.
Trailing by 13 strokes to tournament-leader Orono Friday after play was suspended due to thunderstorms Thursday, the Lakers made a memorable comeback for the golfing ages.
Even the most faithful -- the players themselves -- didn't think a comeback was likely after each of the six golfers came off the Ridges at Sand Creek Golf Course in Jordan.
"It's disappointing that we didn't come in here and win it," said a gloomy Josh Herzog, before the scores started getting tallied on the scoreboard.
It's a comment later recanted by Herzog, after the Lakers learned their 639 tied Orono for the Class 2A state boys' golfing championship.
The final ruling was Co-Champions as Orono and DL shared the state crown.
Frowns were turned into wide grins and trophy clasping hands, which eventually led to all six Lakers jumping into the frigid holding pond on hole 18.
"Throw away those comments I said before!" Herzog exclaimed after the Lakers hoisted the Class 2A championship trophy in front of an exhilarated DL fanbase. "I've never been that anxious before in my life, waiting for them to tally up the scores.
"This is what we've been working for all our lives."
The tournament looked to have ended with a five-foot par putt by Laker senior Mike Brodsho, but the dramatics were just beginning.
After several parents and onlookers stated DL lost by up to five strokes, another rumor started that the Lakers actually won by two strokes.
Then with the scores added up, it came down to a tie with Orono. The next discussion was about the tie-breaker, in which the Minnesota State High School state golf program stated the criteria for a tiebreaker was to use the fifth score on each team.
But in the end, the official ruling was sharing of the championship because "no ties are broken unless there is an advancement", and the state tournament is the last meet a team can advance to.
No matter, the goal of landing DL's first-ever boys' golf state championship was in the Lakers' pocket Friday evening.
"We just wanted this so bad," said Thielen, who decided to play golf again after going out for baseball his junior year. "We've gone through a lot as a team and this feels just so good."
The dramatic and rollercoaster of an ending was fitting for how the entire tournament played out.
On the opening day of play Thursday, thunderstorms ended all play for the boys, with the golfers in a variety of stages of play.
The tournament was resumed early Friday morning, with some of the Lakers having just four holes to finish for the first round and others having up to a dozen left - with the second round to be played in the afternoon.
When the morning session was finished, the Lakers were in fourth place with a 324, trailing first-place Orono which had a 311, while Hermantown and Benilde-St. Margaret each had a 317.
"You have to realize, 13 strokes is a big deficit to overcome," said DL head coach Bob Gorden. "But we went in with the attitude that we can't play the other guys in your groups and overplay yourselves, just go in and play your game."
Not only did the Lakers have three teams to contend with, but a whipping gale-force wind which registered speeds up to 35-40 mph.
It was a set up for disappointment for a team which dominated their way through the entire regular season and averaged an outstanding 296 on the season.
Ben Bergquist started things off rolling in the afternoon second round by carding four straight birdies, while Herzog had a par, birdie and par start.
Ryan Kuehne started out with an eagle and the Lakers were off and running.
Despite an ending in which the majority of Lakers struggled, like Bergquist, who shot a one-under par front nine, only to end with a 45 on the back an overall 80 -- it was an entire team effort.
On the tournament, DL's top four scorers were Brodsho's solid 155 and an emerging Ben Osowski's 159, who came up big Friday with his six-over par 78.
Each of Herzog and Bergquist had 165's, while being followed by Thielen's 161 and Kuehne's 169.
"I started out hot and made my putts early and got those four birdies, but then I couldn't find the greens the entire tournament or the speed of my putting," Bergquist said. "But as windy as it was, there was no big enough deficit which couldn't be made up.
"I was one of the first one's in and I was doing the calculations the entire time. When Mike Brodsho made his par on 18, I thought we might have a chance. Being state champions is a relief. Playing varsity for six years and getting one state championship, that doesn't happen too much."
The wind did play a big factor in Friday's play, with the gusts blowing several balls off greens.
But it was a contingent that the Lakers were ready for.
"We've played in the wind and were ready for it," Kuehne said, who made eagle on his first hole. "We knew coming in down 13 strokes, we had our work cut out. We really just wanted to go out and have fun."
At first glance after all the Lakers were in, the DL players were not happy with their scores or play in the two days.
But that showed how dominant DL was through the regular season and an "off" tournament was still good enough to win it.
"Heading into the first round, people probably were thinking we were a pretty powerful team," Bergquist said. "Then we finished fourth (after the first round) and they probably thought we weren't that good. But then we come back from 13 strokes and we showed that first round was just a little bit of an 'oops.'"
Osowski's game proved vital and this was coming from a player who didn't even have his spot on the team secured until very late in the regular season.
But he proved his worth in the section meet with his 78 and repeated his valuable play Friday with another 78.
"This was just too fun," Osowski said. "I wish I was a junior and do it again. Man, I couldn't even look at the board when we were done playing, I was just too nervous."
The state co-championship has been a work in progress ever since Gorden took over the golf program over nine years ago.
He started booking two-day tournaments on the schedule and made the Lakers' schedule a tough one.
"This thing was really started at the U of M tournament and after finishing second there, the guys realized they could compete with anyone," Gorden said. "Our lowest finish in a tournament was second place and that really showed our depth of the team.
"This golf program has some pretty dominant golfers and kids who have worked hard and spent tons of time playing golf. It feels great thinking these kids really deserved this."
Although things were helter-skelter through the two days, one constant was the play of Brodsho, who was a par-making machine and finished tied for fourth overall with his 155.
"With how the wind was, making pars and bogeys was good and anything else after a bogey was bad," Brodsho said. "I was just trying to hit the fairway and keep the ball low because of the wind. I just went out and tried to make pars."
It was a perfect storm brewing for the Lakers in 2008 -- one which produced lots of noise and most importantly, the rare state championship.
Class 2A state boys' golf meet at Ridges at Sand Creek Golf Course in Jordan, Thursday-Friday, June 5-6.
Team results: Detroit Lakes and Orono 639, Benilde-St. Margaret 645, Hermantown 648, St. Cloud Cathedral 650, Marshall 662, Red Wing 665, Waseca 682.
All-State individuals: Medalist - Robert Bell (Pierz) 151; Andrew Oakes (Hermantown) 154, Chace Sackett (Triton) 154, Joe Zimmerman (Becker) 155, Mike Brodsho (DL) 155, Jordan Priem (LP-GE) 157, Zach Barnum (Orono) 157, Myles Pfinsten (Fairmont) 157, Daniel Bidle (Virginia) 157.
DL results: Brodsho 155, Ben Osowski 159, Adam Thielen 161, Josh Herzog 165, Ben Bergquist 165, Ryan Kuehne 169.