Luke Johanson brought an aching stomach and troubled mind to the course for Wednesday’s final round of the Class 1A boys’ golf state tournament.
Johanson, a junior at Southwest Christian School in Chaska, said he ate something that disagreed with his system. He felt likewise about the back-nine collapse that knocked him from title contention last season.
But Johanson, who entered the day in second place, excelled on the back nine at the Pebble Creek Golf Club in Becker and won the individual title with a two-day score of 141. His 35 over the final nine holes was the day’s best score.
Carding a bogey and double-bogey on his first two holes, Johanson worried about another slide from the leading pack. He placed seventh as a sophomore last season.
Things improved when Johanson made a 30-foot birdie putt on the 13th hole in the pouring rain.
“That’s when I felt like I was in the driver’s seat,” Johanson said.
Mille Lacs boys win title
It was all Raiders after day one. The team held a 20-stroke lead and senior Grant Exsted led the individual field. Both slipped just a little off their pace in Wednesday’s final round.
“We didn’t play our best golf,” Exsted said. “A lead in the state tournament adds a little extra pressure.”
Exsted placed second but carded the top score for Mille Lacs’ inaugural state championship team. The Raiders, a co-op of Isle and Onamia high schools, shot 652 to win by 19 strokes.
Youthful Legacy Christian triumphs
The frequent, high-pitched giggles coming from the Pebble Creek practice green postmatch belonged to the youthful state champions from Legacy Christian Academy of Andover.
“We never would have imagined it earlier this season,” sophomore Anna Cleveland said.
The Lions got precocious and poised performances from eighth-grader Kayla Ruf, Cleveland, seventh-grader Sophia Gray and sophomore Jillian Johnson. Ruf’s score of 185 was good for 18th, with Johnson just five strokes behind at 25th.
Coach Dan Nelson said Ruf and Cleveland were “probably 10 strokes better than they have been all year.” The duo helped Legacy Christian shoot a 376 both days to set and tie a school record.
Nelson admitted thinking the Lions’ best days are ahead. “I keep telling the girls, we haven’t even started to tap into your potential,” Nelson said.
Kruger makes third time the charm
Russell-Tyler-Ruthton senior Hannah Kruger said she “got in my groove” during the first seven holes on Wednesday. More importantly, she persevered through any and all trouble spots to win the Class 1A state title.
“I had to work on my mental game because that was what I struggled with last year and the year before,” said Kruger, who placed 19th as a sophomore and moved up to 11th last season.
She took a three-stroke lead into Wednesday and “cleared my head of negative thoughts” en route to shooting an overall score of 163, four strokes ahead of the field.