by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Elk River golfers caused Dave Bleyhl some pain on Thursday.
“I can’t stop smiling. I’m smiling so much my cheeks hurt!” said the longtime coach after the girls snagged his 19th section championship with a big comeback at Hinckley. “That’s the best second day we’ve ever had in sectionals. What an amazing day.”
Elk senior Sadie Martin shot a sizzling 69 and junior Mary Elmquist continued her late-season surge with a 78 as the Elks totaled 314 and obliterated a seven-stroke deficit against Grand Rapids to beat the Thunderhawks by 10 strokes in Section 7AAA at Grand National.
“The whole team had a good day,” said Martin, who cruised to her second straight individual medal. ” We were all excited and knew we had to play well to beat Grand Rapids.”
Martin shot 76-69–145 to capture the medal by seven strokes over runner-up Dani Del Greco of Grand Rapids. They had been tied after the first 18 on Monday.
“I’m not positive, but I think that 69 is the best score we’ve ever had,” said Bleyhl. “What a year for Sadie. Athena award, conference champ, section champ, and she is such a great kid and works so hard, she deserves every bit of it. She has been a diamond.”
Elmquist, a junior who shot a career-best 86 to help the Elks win conference a week earlier, placed sixth in the sectional with 87-78-165.
“We all knew Mary had it in her,” said Martin, “and she’s finally doing it. She’s finally got her confidence.”
“That’s it, her confidence is there now,” said Bleyhl. “She has been working real hard and doing everything we want her to.”
The Lindeen sisters also came through as senior Ashlee shot 83 and freshman Samantha 84. They tied with 172′s for 36 holes. The Elks also got a solid 87 from Alex McDonald that they didn’t need to count. Only eighth-grader Morgan Bleyhl struggled with a 101.
Grand Rapids led the Elks 333 to 340 after the first 18 and actually shot better on Thursday with 331 but could not keep up. The Elks totaled 654, Grand Rapids 664, and the other finalist, Forest Lake, had 701.
“If I knew what key was, I would bottle it and sell it,” said Bleyhl about the remarkable round.
The Elks, who won the 2005 state title, then missed state five straight years, will make their second consecutive trip. They placed fifth last year. The 2012 team added to Elk River’s state record of most times at state, now 19.
Martin, whose previous career best was 74, shot 34-35 with four birdies and one bogey, hitting crisp and solid all day and avoiding mistakes.
The four-time state qualifier set the stage on No. 2 with an iron shot within three feet for a birdie when the other golfers were using drivers.
“I was really zeroed in with my irons,” acknowledged Martin. “I was always close to the pin.”
Elmquist put together rounds of 38 and 40 with birdies on No. 4, 13 and 17.
“I was dropping a lot of putts and chipping pretty well. I had a couple bad drives, but the rest were pretty straight,” said Elmquist, who’ll make her first state appearance. “It was pretty exciting. I am hoping I can get even lower at state.”
1. Elk River 340-314–654
2. Grand Rapids 333-331–664
3. Forest Lake 356-345–701
Top six individuals
1. Sadie Martin, Elk River, 76-69–145
2. Dani Del Greco, Grand Rapids, 76-76–152
3. Sierra Langlie, Andover, 78-77-155
4. Katie Sheetz, Grand Rapids, 86-75–161
5. Maddie Carey, Forest Lake, 82-82–164
6. Mary Elmquist, Elk River, 87-78–165
Other Elk scores
Sami Lindeen 88-84–172
Ashlee Lindeen 89-83–172
Alex McDonald 93-87–180
Morgan Bleyhl 91-101–192