by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Alex Kline can’t remember a time when he didn’t play golf. “My grandfather, Bob Kline Sr., got me started when I was maybe 3,” said the Elk River senior. In grade school, he had dual passions of golf and hockey, but when he surprised himself by making the Elk JV in seventh grade, he made a choice.
“After that, I started to think I could go somewhere in golf,” said Kline, who remains an avid hockey fan.
After two JV seasons, Kline has been a remarkably efficient and consistent varsity golfer for four years. He won his very first tournament in ninth grade, shooting 71 in a conference meet at Northfork. “I remember making a lot of putts … I lipped out on the last hole and thought I’d lost, but found out I’d won by one stroke.”
Kline has made all-conference and qualified for state each season so far and always placed in the top half at the state. He’s helped the Elks win three conference titles and two section team titles.
Coach Dave Conley appreciates Kline as a self-starting, eternally dependable, highly-skilled competitor.
“Alex does things correctly because he puts in the time to work on them,” said Conley. “He is very serious about golf, but he is also very relaxed. He is one of those kids who can turn it on when he has to, but not be stressed out.”
Kline, at 5-foot-7 and 130 pounds, is a modest driver, usually 260 to 270, but “very good at getting the ball to the hole. He is the guy to follow because he knows how to play.”
Kline averaged 80.4 as freshman, shot 80-77–157 at sections to help the Elks place second, and took 37th at state with 84-74–158.
He averaged 76 in 10th grade and had a huge role in the Section 7AA team title, shooting 68-72–140 for second place behind teammate Chase Hahne. He placed 21st at state with 77-77–154 as the Elks placed third as a team.
His junior year, Kline averaged 78.2, took fifth at sectionals with 37-37-41–115 as the Elks won again, then 31st at state with 78-76–154.
“Bunker Hill has been a struggle for me the last couple years,” said Kline, referring to a state course. “I have played OK there but not my best. But I’m starting to figure it out.”
Last summer was pretty good, too. He placed 12th at the State Amateur and second in Minnesota State Match play.
Kline set his senior year goals as “getting ranked in the top 10, and placing top 10 at state.” So far, so good. He has whittled his average down to 72.9 and is No. 7 in Class 3A. He’s placed first three times, second and third once each, and fifth in the state’s top regular-season tournament, the Tri-State. He matched his career low with 68 at Loggers Crossing in Stillwater, and has not shot higher than 75. He leads the NWSC in stroke average.
His game is “under control” — hitting straight down the fairway and on the green in regulation, with only an occasionally uncooperative putter to complain about. “I need to drop some putts to make a good run at state.” Kline said he never had a one-on-one lesson until last year when he went to Aaron Jacobson, and he gives the Rush Creek pro much credit for helping him drop several strokes.
Kline is grateful that he’s been able to play in a strong program with standouts like Chase Hahne, John Butler, Tim Peterzen, Dan Dye and Nate Varty as examples. Hahne, especially, impacted Kline. “Chase made me work hard because I wanted to be right up there with him, and beat him sometimes. Everyone talked about how good Chase was, and I did not want to be overlooked.”
Year-round devotion to golf fortunately meshes nicely with his social life. His longtime girlfriend is Sadie Martin, also a three-time state qualifier for the Elks. They both missed a tournament for prom last Saturday but were back on the links Sunday.
Kline will attend University of South Dakata on a golf scholarship. He’s pondering the law and insurance fields but his “ultimate goal” is the PGA tour.
Conley, who’s had so many solid golfers, reflects fondly, “It has been such a pleasure to have him on the team for as long as I’ve had him.”
THE KLINE SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 18 … Family: parents, Bob and Julie; siblings, Andy, 22, and Kara, 25 … Sport: golf … Other activities: Spanish Club … Academics: 3.7 GPA …. College plans: U of South Dakota, golf, political science major, economics minor
Favorite stuff — Class: government … TV show: “Law and Order SVU … Golf movie: “The Legend of Bagger Vance” … Team: Detroit Red Wings … Athletes: Tiger Woods, Luke Donald, Kobe Bryant, Pavel Datsyuk … Food: Chipotle fare, especially steak burrito … Drink: Mt. Dew, Powerade blue … Kickback: fishing, soccer, softball, tennis, golf with friends … Would like to visit: St. Andrew’s in Scotland, Augusta National