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Prep golf: Tigers sweep Southwest Conference team titles

Will Mulder of the Worthington Trojans watches his putt during the Southwest Conference golf tournament Monday. Mulder won a playoff to finish third overall in the boys’ standings. (DOUG WOLTER/DAILY GLOBE)

WORTHINGTON — One bad hole can ruin a golf outing. One bad round can certainly do the job.

But since the Southwest Conference tournament consists of two rounds — not one — it aint over ‘till it’s over. Just ask Will Mulder.

Mulder, a tall, lanky junior on the Worthington High School golf team, opened the conference tournament Monday morning at a cold, windy Prairie View Golf Links on the back nine, where he finished with a seven-over par 43. The 17th hole was the worst. He carded a five-over nine on it, having gone out of bounds twice.

No matter. He rebounded nicely on the front nine, with a three-under 32, which allowed him to enter the clubhouse with a nifty 75.

Mulder won a playoff with Redwood Valley’s Mitch Fischer on the first sudden-death hole, No. 10, to capture third place in the boys’ individual standings.

Like Mulder, Jackson County Central’s Alison Benson struggled somewhat over her first nine holes. But on her second nine she totaled 39 strokes, finishing with an 86 that put her in a tie for third place with Marshall’s Kami Love.

Love won in a playoff, but Benson pronounced herself satisfied with fourth place.

“I feel pretty good. The first nine was not too good. I came back on the second with a 39,” Benson said. “The first nine, the wind played a factor for a couple of shots. Otherwise it was OK.”

While the tournament was a good one for Mulder and Benson, it was even better for the Marshall teams. The Tigers won both team portions of the conference tourney with room to spare.

Marshall’s Brent Haukom was the boys medalist with a 74 after winning a sudden-death with Redwood Valley’s Adam Henkel for the honors. Tiger boys also placed fifth (Matt Bennett, 76), sixth (Jacob Baker, 76) and seventh (Jon Wyffels, 77).

Marshall’s Jessica Blanchard was girls’ medalist with an outstanding 79 — three strokes better than her teammate, Hanna Peterson, who placed second with an 82. Besides Love’s 86, the Tigers had a fourth top-10 finisher in Kirsten Webskowski, who tied for eighth with a 93.

The Marshall girls totaled 340 strokes, 13 strokes ahead of runnerup Jackson County Central’s 353. Windom Area had 375 strokes, Luverne 412, Worthington 416 and Pipestone Area 475. Redwood Valley was incomplete.

With a total of 303 strokes, the Marshall boys prevailed over second-place Redwood Valley, which had a 314. Worthington carded a 317, Luverne 330, Jackson County Central 332, Windom Area 352 and Pipestone Area 353.

Luverne’s boys were led by Travis Frakes, with an eighth-best 79. Worthington’s Jake Weg turned in rounds of 41 and 39 for 80, tying him for ninth place with teammate Nathoe Vorasane (40-40) and JCC’s Kyle Christopher.

JCC’s Abby Brinkman and Abby Benson both had 87s, with Brinkman finally placing fifth overall due to a playoff. Redwood Valley’s Kenzie Mace had an 88, Windom Area’s Emily Jackson a 91, and JCC’s Emma Lilleberg a 93.

Mulder’s birdie on his very first sudden-death hole on No. 10 made short work of Fischer.

“Short and quick,” he said.

He was on the green on the par-five hole in two, then two-putted.

“Nice long drive. Made my second shot a lot easier,” said the tall junior.

Mulder continues to enjoy a good spring. He has improved since the start of the season he says, thanks in part to his coach, John Koller, who has worked with him on his short game — shortening up his swing and working on his putting alignment.

On Monday, Mulder said, “My back nine (his first nine) wasn’t too good, but I came back and got three-under on the front. Got my putter going. I just put myself in good scoring places.

“The back nine was definitely playing tougher today. The wind was just brutal,” Mulder said.

The day improved for Alison Benson in the afternoon.

“My drives were better. My chipping was better, too,” she said.

And she was satisfied with fourth place.

“I was going for the top six (the top six finishers earn all-conference honors). So fourth was definitely good,” she maintained.

As it turned out, Mulder’s 75 was just one of several positive outcomes for the Trojan boys. For teammates Weg and Vorasane, their scores of 80 were their best 18-hole scores of the year. Teammates Tyler Van Hove had an 82, Jaren Solt 87 and Ben Koepsell 96.

Koller was very pleased with the group’s 317.

“Excellent score under not easy conditions,” he said. “When your fourth score is an 82 under these conditions, I’m extremely happy with the boys,” he said.

Tyree Murry led with Worthington girls with a 100. Trojans Becca Christensen (101), Anneke Weg (103), Selina Hua (112) and Rachel Koller (128) followed.

Like the Trojan boys, the Windom Area girls performed well as a group. Behind the 91 Jackson struck were Eagles Maitland Vollan with a 94 and Kelsey Hanefeld and Marissa Cartwright, both with 95s.

The Luverne girls were led by Madison Crabtree’s 95. The Pipestone Area girls were led by Lorissa Derby, who had a 120.

For the Luverne boys, Blake Stegenga and Spencer Riphagen had 83 apiece to complement Frakes’ 79. Windom Area was led by Kyle Antes’ 84, and teammate Ryan Clark had an 86.

Joe Brinkman carded an 83 for JCC while teammate Jack Ringkob had 84 and Kyle Kapplinger 85.

Pipestone Area was led by Jaden Stahl with an 87. Teammate AJ Bucher had an 88.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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