BECKER, MINN. – Blooming Prairie’s Tommy Braaten came into the final round of the Class 1A boys’ golf tournament with a four-shot lead that ballooned to 10 in the end. But when he finished his final hole, he didn’t celebrate.
He hadn’t asked about his competitors’ scores while playing Wednesday, so until he returned to the leaderboard outside the clubhouse at Pebble Creek, he had no reason to be excited. If he won at all, he thought, he wouldn’t do so by such a large margin.
The senior, who posted an even-par 72 to win the individual championship with a two-round score of 140, suggested afterward, “We need scoreboards or something” on the course.
Or maybe not. Not knowing how he was faring in the competition, he said, he maintained focus. An awkward start to his round — a bogey, two birdies, then two bogeys — caused him to feel as if he couldn’t let up.
As a result, after an impressive birdie on the par-4 16th hole, his assessment of where he stood was simply, “I still had two holes left.”
Braaten drew on experience from twice playing in the same state tournament group as Mahnomen/Waubun’s Blake Kahlbaugh, including last year when Kahlbaugh, as a senior, won the individual title by 11 strokes. Braaten, who finished tied for fourth a year ago, figured that to win, he needed to consistently hit the fairway and make a few long putts.
“He put the formula out there,” Braaten said, “and I just tried to match it.”
Mounds Park Academy senior Matt Berning finished second with a score of 150.
Mahnomen/Waubun won the team title with a score of 653.
Big day for BOLD
Callie Wersal had spent the day focusing on Springfield’s standing in the team competition. The Tigers had come into the day with a seven-stroke lead, due in large part to Wersal’s par-72 score in the first round on Tuesday.
Her coach, Dillon Schultz, shadowed her during Wednesday’s round and told her to focus on herself, that her teammates had put the team in a position to win. So when Wersal completed her round and Schultz gave her a hug, the senior asked if her team had won the Class 1A girls’ golf team title.
The Tigers hadn’t. BOLD won, seven strokes ahead of Springfield, with a total score of 693. So Wersal asked why Schultz was hugging her.
“I think you won,” he said, referring to the individual competition.
Wersal’s 155 total score put her five strokes ahead of three players who tied for second place: Sophie Gray of Legacy Christian, Heidi Guttormsson of Minneota and Emily Doeden of Park Christian. A year ago, Wersal finished fourth in the state tournament.
Her driver gave her trouble both days this week, saying she “never knew what to expect off the tee.” But she relied on her putting to keep the lead and didn’t allow frustrations to linger from hole to hole.
When she returned to the clubhouse, her team’s third-place finish hurt. She and her teammates huddled together and cried before the awards ceremony began.
But a few moments later, with an individual first place medal around her neck, she couldn’t stop smiling.
“It’s hard not to feel happy about it,” she said with a laugh.