Tiger girls send 2 through to state

WILLMAR – Jessica Blanchard and Hanna Peterson couldn’t quite coordinate their trips to the Class AA state golf tournament in Jordan the past two years. The Marshall girls’ golf team’s top two players had each qualified for the tournament, but never together.

At Thursday’s Section 3AA Golf Championships at Eagle Creek Golf Club in Willmar, the two Tiger sophomores ensured that they will both be navigating the Ridges at Sand Creek golf course in Jordan after shooting 86 and 87, respectively, to claim two of the section’s five state tournament individual-qualifying spots. Blanchard’s 86 placed her in a tie for fourth, while Peterson was alone in sixth.

“I’m excited. We always planned both of us going,” Blanchard said. “Eighth-grade year I made it, then freshman year she made it. Now we both made it.”

Blanchard and Peterson were also trying to help their Marshall team advance to the state tournament, which will take place June 11-12, but the Tigers had a monumental challenge ahead of themselves Thursday against Minnewaska Area. The dominant team in the section for nearly a decade, the Lakers rolled to their ninth straight appearance at state with a team score of 341. Marshall placed second with a 375, while Windom Area was third (388) and Benson was fourth (444).

Minnewaska’s Alexis Guggisberg had the lowest score of the day, boy or girl, by shooting a 3-over round of 75. The Lakers had four golfers finish in the top nine.

“Minnewaska is very tough, they’re ranked second in the state in all classes, so they’re a very good team,” Marshall girls’ head golf coach Nancy Blanchard said. “They had a score that wasn’t their best either, but I thought the better team won today. It would have taken quite a bit for us to overcome that.”

Marshall’s third-best score Thursday came from senior Allie Pogatchnik, who shot a 98. Kirsten Webskowski added a 104 to round out the team score. Senior Laura Mitlyng and freshman Mallory Griffin also competed in the event, firing a 107 and 111, respectively.

The golfers in the girls’ competition all started their round Thursday on the back nine, which is more protected from the wind that was howling through the course than the front nine. Peterson and Jessica Blanchard took advantage of the conditions and got off to strong starts, as each shot a 41.

“I was hitting the ball decent,” Peterson said. “There were a couple of times I didn’t make putts that I should have and I felt like on the front nine it was windier and more open, so it was harder to keep the ball straight.

“The greens were kind of tough, you just had to make sure you got your first putt close and that you could finish the second one easily.”

Though they are both underclassmen, Peterson and Blanchard are both very experienced players who dedicated a lot of time to the sport last summer. Their head coach said the hard work they have put in over the last year definitely paid off for them on Thursday as they each stamped a ticket to state for the second time.

“Everybody was nervous today,” Nancy Blanchard said. “They’ve committed themselves to playing a lot in the summer, playing a lot of competitive golf in the summer, and that comes through in something like this. This is why you do it, because everyone is nervous and they’ve kind of been under that pressure a little bit before.”

Girls’ Team Scores: 1. Minnewaska 341, 2. Marshall 375, 3. Windom 388, 4. Benson 444.

Individual State Qualifiers: Kate Lesnar (WOR) 80, Abby Brinkman (JCC) 86, Jessica Blanchard (MAR) 86, Hanna Peterson (MAR) 87, Lauren Dietz (NLS) 89.

Individual Scores

Benson: Kellie Enderson 107, Rachel Lee 109, Shayla Burns 112, Morgan DeHaan 116.

Marshall: Jessica Blanchard 86, Hanna Peterson 87, Allie Pogatchnik 98, Kirsten Webskowski 104, Laura Mitlyng 107, Mallory Griffin 111.

Minnewaska: Alexis Guggisberg 75, Ashlyn Guggisberg 85, Jenna Janu 90, Ellen Stensrud 91.

Windom: Megan Will 93, Kelsey Hanefeld 93, Maitland Vollan 97, Hanah Kloss 105.

Individual Competitors: Kate Lesnar (WOR) 80, Abby Brinkman (JCC) 86, Lauran Dietz (NLS) 89, Emilee Johnson (LUV) 91, Breann Mertens (BOLD) 91, El Sweep (NLS) 91, Abby Schmidt (RWV) 92, Shiori Legate (MOR) 96, Natasha Meed (PAY) 96, Emma Lilleberg (JCC) 97, Morgan Harberts (WOR) 99, Alison Benson (JCC) 99, Maddie Hennen (MOR) 101, Lanie Altman (BOLD) 102, Rose Reinert (MONT) 103, Hailey Remme (LUV) 114, Leah Jeseritz (YME) 119.