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State golf: Balance has helped W-WG to first state boys golf berth

WESTBROOK -- The Westbrook-Walnut Grove Chargers have fielded good boys golf teams for a number of years. But there's nothing like qualifying for a first-ever state tournament to get people to really stand up and take notice. W-WG shot a two-day ...

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Cole Bunting of Westbrook-Walnut Grove putts on the ninth hole in Section 3A action at GreatLIFE Worthington. (Tim Middagh / Globe)

 

WESTBROOK -- The Westbrook-Walnut Grove Chargers have fielded good boys golf teams for a number of years. But there’s nothing like qualifying for a first-ever state tournament to get people to really stand up and take notice.

W-WG shot a two-day total of 725 strokes at GreatLIFE Worthington to make state for the first time in school history. But the Chargers have been close before -- they were second last year, in fact.

“I’m hearing from a lot of golfers who we’ve had here in the past,” said head coach Carter Ross. “They know that in the last 15 years we’ve been close. Our team has been very competitive. Our team has gone a stretch where we won about seven conference championships in a row. But we couldn’t quite get over the hump.”

Keeping W-WG from getting over that hump in recent years has been Murray County Central, which finally had to settle for second place in the 2017 Section 3A tournament, with a 754. Meanwhile, the Windom Area girls qualified for their second consecutive state meet with a 64-stroke Section 3A victory.

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The Class A state tournament will be June 13-14 at Pebble Creek Golf Club in Becker.

Cole Bunting led W-WG in the section tournament this year with a second-place 166 score. Teammate Kyle Kuehl, who was the Chargers’ only representative at state last season, placed fifth individually with a 181.

The Chargers are a balanced unit. Bunting has been the most consistent golfer this spring and has been averaging between 43 and 44 strokes per round. Kuehl averages 44 strokes. Anthony Ross, Jack Jorgenson, Andrew Quade and Nathan Ross are all in the 45-stroke range.

“We can count on all six. For a team of golf, that’s huge,” said the coach.

Coach Ross said he felt good about the Chargers’ chances going into the Section 3A meet, but he was a little bit wary of the Worthington course.

“Worthington is a tough course for the kids. Most of the teams in our section don’t play courses that are as tight, where a wayward shot can quickly turn into a double bogey. And our kids don’t play on greens that are that fast.”

To prepare his kids for championship golf during the season, Coach Ross used some of the “crappy” early-season days for classroom instruction -- talking about rules, helping his players understand that rules are meant to be a help, not a hindrance. They also worked on hand-eye coordination, where to land the balls.

At the Westbrook course, there is no driving range. So the boys went behind the middle school to work on a variety of special shots.

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Westbrook-Walnut Grove got off to a good start in the section meet.

“We posted our first round, we had five scores in the 40s, and Cole posted a 38. I think Slayton (MCC) noticed that and said, ‘Now we’ve really got our work cut out for us,’” said Coach Ross.

Will, Pigman lead way for Windom Area Paige Pigman is just a sophomore. Hallie Will had struggled for the early part of spring.

But together, they led the Windom Area Eagles back to the state tournament. Will, a senior, became the Section 3A individual champion with a 179 (after shooting an 84 on the first day). Pigman placed second with a 186.

WAHS head coach Ryan Squires is very pleased to have them leading his team.

“We kept telling (Hallie), it’s early-season, the putts are going to fall, and you hit the ball so well … We finally got her to swing through those mid-range irons.”

Pigman developed early in life as a golfer, which may have something to do with where she lives.

“She lives by the course. Since she’s been real young, it’s just been drive the family golf cart to the course and play,” Squires said.

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Last year at the state Class A tournament, Windom Area placed second to Fillmore Central. Emily Jackson (now graduated) led the Eagles with a 17th-place finish. Will finished 24th and Pigman 42nd.

Squires says the Pebble Creek course will provide his golfers with unique challenges -- several holes with fairway sand traps, other holes where they’ll have to hit over water hazards. The course can frustrate a lot of teams, but it’s fortunate that some of the Eagles have seen it before.

Even so, the Eagles are young and lack depth.

“It’s so much more difficult this year,” Squires said. “We only have five girls (grades) 7 through 12. Now we’re going to have two golfers who have never seen Pebble Creek.”

There is one senior, one sophomore, one freshman and two eighth-graders on the WAHS girls team.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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