by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
When Sadie Martin walked off Bunker Hills Golf Course for the last time as a high school golfer, her coach, Dave Bleyhl, approached and told her, “I’m going to try not to cry.”
“That’s kind of when it hit me that it was over,” said the Elk senior, last of three Martin sisters who, combined, played in 10 consecutive state tournaments.
Martin had a good day to quit on, shooting 74 on Wednesday, after an 80 on Tuesday, to finish in a tie for fourth place in Class AAA with 154.
Which, incidentally, tied the family record. Molly Martin placed fourth as a junior in 2006 with a 162 score. Anne Martin placed 11th in 2005 and 15th in 2004.
The other Elks placed between 51st and 83rd as the team finished sixth. They sputtered to a 360 on Tuesday but improved markedly to 341 on Wednesday for a final 701. Maybe the neon pink shirts, picked out by Martin and Mary Elmquist for the final day, brightened their game as well as their aura.
Elmquist shot 88, Ashlee Lindeen 89 and Alex McDonald 90 for the other counting scores Wednesday.
New Prague was team champion with 661. Cretin-Derham Hall’s Celia Kuenster snagged the individual medal for the second straight year with 72-69–141.
The Elks were making their second consecutive team appearance — they took fifth last year — following a five-year absence from state after Sadie’s big sisters, along with Rochelle and Rachael Schmidt, won the 2005 state championship.
No wonder Coach Bleyhl was a bit emotional after Sadie finished her stellar final round as an Elk.
“They’ve only been here 10 straight years now. Holy Buckets, that’s amazing,” said the coach. “What a family. Anne was here four times, Molly three times, and now Sadie four times, with one year they doubled up. I’m brokenhearted. How could you not miss them.”
Anne, now working in sales for Nike in Austin, Texas, and Molly, who works at a pre-school in Rogers, were in Sadie’s gallery Wednesday, along with parents Gordon and Jody, and other friends. Boyfriend Alex Kline couldn’t make it; he was busy placing ninth in the boys tournament.
Anne played college golf for MN-Mankato, the Gophers, and Concordia-St. Paul, and Molly played for North Dakota. Sadie is headed for Augustana next year.
“It’s kind of sad to be done but I’m excited for next year,” said Sadie.
Moving up ever year
Martin had been vexed at her opening 80 but that score was still good enough for eighth place on a day when most of the field struggled. With her 74 she was able to move up four places – and improve on her previous season like she’s done every year. She was 69th with 193 in ninth grade, 40th with 174 in 10th, and eighth with 156 last year.
Martin was hitting her irons and fairway woods on the nose all day. She didn’t drive well at first but found her groove there, too. She was making her short putts, except for three-putting one par-five for a par.
“I could have made a few more putts but I had everything else straightened out so it was a lot better today. I had a lot of birdie opportunities.”
Elks 19 strokes better
The Elks improved by 19 strokes Wednesday, although with seven of the eight teams shooting better than Tuesday they only moved up from a sixth-place tie to sixth by themselves.
“Everyone did better today. Our nerves were not as high. Everyone was more relaxed,” said Ashlee Lindeen, who improved to 89 after a first-round 94.
Elmquist, a junior who came on strong late in the season and moved up to No. 2, shot 88 after her first-round 92.
“Yesterday my short game was off. I was hitting more fairways today, but my putting still wasn’t very good,” said Elmquist.
Playing in her first state tournament, Elmquist said it was lots of fun and she enjoyed the girls she played with.
“I’m hoping to be here next year, too.”
McDonald, a senior playing No. 5 after holding the No. 6 slot last year, was elated to close her prep career on a high note.
“I was 10 strokes better than the first day, and I ended with a par, so I’m happy about that,” said McDonald, who shot 100-90–190. “My short game was really off yesterday and I could not make a putt, which is usually where I’m strongest.”
The smallest Elk golfer at 5-foot-1 3/4, she had just the one sport at ERHS.
“It’s been fun. It’s been a good career and I love my team.”
The 2012 season that included a fourth straight conference title and second straight state appearance.
“It was a great year,” said coach Bleyhl. “The kids came through when they had to. I’m looking forward to next year already.”
Just getting started
Morgan Bleyhl, an eighth-grader, is the baby of the team. The granddaughter of coach Dave Bleyhl, she moved into the starting lineup after leading the conference JV golfers as a seventh grader.
“I started the season pretty good but I’m having a rough time now,” said Bleyhl, who shot 102-99–201 at state. “But this is great experience, playing here, only in eighth grade.”
Her dad, John, was an Elk standout golfer and her aunt, Laura, was the lone state champion from ERHS. She’ll be playing summer golf with older brothers Nash and Cooper. “They push me a lot.”
About playing for her grandfather, who’s coached for 43 years, she said, “It’s nice, but sometimes rough. He is pretty hard on me. We are really close. I see him every day.”
The Lindeen …. twins?
Ashlee and Sami Lindeen are three years apart in age, but almost exactly the same physically at 5-foot-2 and 115 pounds, with virtually identical golf skills and style, and precisely the same amount of golf experience, having started at the same time several years ago with their dad as coach.
“Sometimes people think we are twins,” said Ashlee. “We’re the same size, and our swings are very much the same.”
Ashlee, a fourth-year starter, is the better player, but not by much any more, over varsity rookie Sami.
“I drive five or six yards farther but she is getting stronger,” said Ashlee. “She has so much potential. And she is getting this experience in ninth grade that I didn’t get until 11th grade.”
Ashlee said she was thrilled to have Sami as a varsity team for one season.
“She is my rock, and I am hers.”
Especially fun was watching Sami strive to finally beat her.
“And one day she did. She was really excited.”
“That was at sectionals, the first day,” said Sami cheerily.
The two reversed scores the second day of Section 7AAA at Hinckley and wound up tied for the tournament.
Then at state they had the same score the first day, 94, with Ashley pulling five strokes ahead (89 to 94) in the concluding 18 holes, her final round as an Elk.
Their only other sport has been karate, also following their dad’s footsteps.
“We still do karate sometimes,” said Sami. “It helps you in golf. It’s good for your core, which helps your swing, and for your balance.”
When Ashlee moved up to varsity, the team was still in “reconstruction” mode, she said. Not so with Sami: “She got to join a team that was already pretty good!”
In 2013 it will up to Sami, Elmquist and Bleyhl to lead the next wave of Elks.
GIRLS STATE CLASS AAA GOLF TOURNAMENT
1. New Prague ……. 333-328–661
2. Stillwater ………….. 344-325–669
3. Wayzata …………… 340-330–670
4. Red Wing ………… 337-336–673
5. Eastview ………….. 360-333–693
6. Elk River ………….. 360-341–701
7. Alexandria ………. 354-358–712
8. Blaine ……………… 363-359–722
Individual top five
1. Celia Kuenster, Cretin-Derham Hall …. 72-69–141
2. McKenzie Neisen, New Prague ………… 69-74–143
3. Cassie Deeg, Stillwater …………………….. 75-72–147
4. Sadie Martin, Elk River ……………………… 80-74–154
5. Alex Schmid, Shakopee ……………………. 80-75–155
Other Elk scores
51. Mary Elmquist …………………………………… 92-88–180
60. Ashlee Lindeen ………………………………… 94-89–183
68. Sami Lindeen …………………………………… 94-94–188
69. Alex McDonald ……………………………….. 100-90–190
83. Morgan Bleyhl ………………………………… 102-99–201