by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Elk River girl golfers did not go undefeated in conference this year, and they’re still a little huffy about that.
But the Elks captured another Northwest Suburban championship anyway with a strong finish Friday.
With Sadie Martin notching a 77 for the meet medal and Mary Elmquist picking a great time to shoot the round of her life, placing third with 86, the Elks won the conference tournament at Bunker Hills.
“We were nervous today. There was a little pressure on us,” said Martin, who has led the Elks to four straight conference crowns, this one being the first of those where the team had a loss during the season, to Blaine.
The Elks finished first, Blaine second and Maple Grove third in the final standings which incorporate the 10 dual meets and the conference tournament counting half each.
Elk seniors Ashlee Lindeen and Alex McDonald shot 97’s, tying for 12th place, for the Elks as they totaled 357. Blaine had 369 and Andover 377.
“This was a little different. There was pressure on the kids, and it’s a very difficult golf course,” said coach Dave Bleyhl. “We could have shot better, but everyone else had trouble, too, because of the length of the course, and the greens are tough and lots of sand traps.”
Elmquist, a junior who also swims and ski’s for the Elks, with a 24th-place finish in the conference Nordic Ski meet as her previous Elk sports highlight, shot 43 in both rounds, beating her previous low round of 89 and doing it on a tough place to play.
“Mary came in with a great score and we needed it, too,” said Bleyhl. “I had no idea it would be such a tough day for everyone else. We have good depth. Sometimes a No. 4 comes through, sometimes a No. 5 or No. 6.”
Asked what she did right Friday, Elmquist said, “I was hitting my driver. Usually I hit with my fairway woods, but I was more confident with the driver today,” adding that she came to that decision after practicing on the range.
Ranked 17th in the conference for the season, Elmquist had the third-best score behind the conference’s top two golfers, Martin and Andover’s Sierra Langley. And she beat the Andrews sisters of Blaine who led the 169 to 177 win over the Elks at Majestic Oaks on May 2.
“I did not contribute much that day (a 45) so I was real happy with today,” said Elmquist.
Martin shot 38-39-77 for her second straight conference tournament medal followed by Langley 79, Elmquist, and three Blaine kids, Caroline Andrews 88, Hanna Andrews 89, and Leah Swanson 89.
Martin got her 77 despite not striking the ball as well as usual and landing in sand traps six times, including four straight holes at one point.
The savvy senior kept negotiating her way out of the sand without putting up big numbers, and she made four long birdie putts, too.
“I had some tough lies resulting in bogies, but I had some good sand saves,” she acknowledged. “Usually I’m in the sand maybe once or twice.”
She used a 56 degree club except one longer sand shot an eight pitching wedge did the trick.
The dual meet loss to Blaine — the Elks only conference blemish in four seasons — was not something Elks could shrug off.
“No, not at all. We were really bummed,” said Martin. “None of us had a very good day when we played Blaine.
“But we know if we brought it today, we could win. This was exciting and it will help get us ready for (sectionals) Monday.”
Blaine subsequently lost a dual to Maple Grove, so those two teams and the Elks started the conference tournament tied for first place.
Bleyhl already picks Blaine as “the dominant team next year” after the Elks lose three of their top six.
Martin, who won last year with 79 but somehow finished behind Langley in the season points standings even though she beat her four times, got the top spot this year for the first time, with Langley second.
Also making all-conference (top 20 among 10 teams) for the Elks were Ashley Lindeen (sixth place), Elmquist (17th) and eighth-grader Morgan Bleyhl (19th). Honorable mentions were McDonald and Samantha Lindeen.
The Elks will try repeat as Section 7AAA champions Monday and Thursday at Grand National in Hinckley. They will likely battle longtime arch rival Grand Rapids for the title. In four tournaments this year in which they’ve had full teams, each has beaten the other twice.
Don’t rush her
Elk River’s No. 5, McDonald, is one golfer who looks like she could run around a track pretty smoothly. She has two sisters who’ve done well in track along with soccer, and a younger one who Alex says is really good in volleyball.
So we had to ask her, why are you walking around a golf course?
“I’ve never like running,” she laughed, certainly a good reason for preferring golf.
McDonald cheerfully admits she’s a bit of a black sheep of the family as not only the lone golfer but also the lone lefthander.
She’s warming up to running a bit, though, citing her choice of college, Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK.
“I like running better now because I’m going to a school that’s really into fitness,” McDonald said, adding that ORU wants not only spiritual but mental and physical fitness for its students. “They will give me a trainer. I run around my lake, but at my own pace.”
Conference meet team scoring
1. Elk River 357
2. Blaine 369
3. Andover 377
4. Maple Grove 391
5. Armstrong 402
6. Osseo 402
7. Centennial 420
8. Champlin Park 428
9. Anoka 439
10. Coon Rapids 445
11. Park Center 453
Top five individuals
1. Sadie Martin, Elk River, 38-39-77
2. Sierra Langley, Andover, 41-38-79
3. Mary Elmquist, Elk River, 43-43-86
4. Caroline Andrews, Blaine, 42-46-88
5. Hannah Andrews, Blaine, 43-46-89
Leah Swanson, Blaine, 44-45-89
Other Elk scores
Ashlee Lindeen 44-53-97
Alex McDonald 49-48-97
Samantha Lindeen 50-50-100
Morgan Bleyhl 53-47-100
Final team standings
1. Elk River
3. Maple Grove
9. Champlin Park
10. Coon Rapids
11. Park Center