by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Elk River Invitational is usually about the fifth or sixth event on the schedule for girls golf but on Monday it served as the season opener for 19 teams, played on an Elk River Golf Club course just emerging from a long winter, scarred but playable.
“We got to play today, that’s the main thing,” said Elk coach Dave Bleyhl, who’s hosted this event for 30 years now. “We had a nice day for it, too.”
His Elks placed an encouraging third with 373 behind champion Edina (339) and runner-up Blaine (357), just ahead of Andover (378). The Elks, working on a string of four straight conference titles, beat eight of nine conference rivals in the meet.
Coach’s granddaughter Morgan Bleyhl, a freshman, led the Elks with 86, tying for the 7-8-9 slots. Samantha Lindeen shot 87, and Mary Elmquist and Miranda Ray 95. It was the varsity debut for Ray, a junior.
“We are very happy with third place. That’s better than I thought we’d do,” said the coach. The Elks return three of the top six from a team that placed sixth at state last year but there’s a leadership vacancy that will be hard to fill, with two current college players (Sadie Martin and Ashlee Lindeen) among the 2012 graduates.
Sierra Langlie, Andover junior in her fifth Elk River Open, was medalist with 80. She was followed by Blaine’s Leah Swanson with 81 and Edina’s Payton Tollefson with 83.
The Rogers Royals placed 12th among 19 teams with 417, led by junior Maddie Hol, who shot 86 and tied for that 7-8-9 slot.
The Royals’ other counting scores were Megan Secrist’s 110, Kaitlyn Lunacek’s 114 and Sydney Clark’s 116. It was the head coaching debut of Stephanie Meyer.
The Elks had their first outdoor practice Friday, limited to just driving, but many played on their own over the weekend, when the club finally opened with a huge turnout of golf-starved patrons.
The harsh April weather cost the Elks four 18-hole tournaments — at Hazeltine in Chaska, Legacy in Brainerd, Wild Marsh in Buffalo and Pokegama in Grand Rapids — from the schedule.
“Those can’t be made up,” said Bleyhl, adding that it’s tough to get into any of the remaining invitationals because “they are all booked solid … I’m hoping to get into Purple Hawk (Cambridge-Isanti’s tournament) May 13. That’s our best bet. The conference meets, we will make them up somewhere.”
The Elks have had 10 meets called off, including the scheduled Staples-Motley Invitational on Tuesday. They’ll have their conference opener Thursday at Bunker Hills against Andover and Park Center.