State golf: Kruger is Class A champion

BECKER – From start to finish at the Class A State golf tournament at Pebble Creek Golf Club, Hannah Kruger’s name sat atop the leader board. Kruger led after nine, 18, 27 and finally 36 holes to claim the girls’ individual championship with a score of 163.

After finishing in a tie for 11th in 2012, Kruger entered the 2013 tournament with first-hand knowledge of just how difficult the course in Becker can be. That knowledge, along with a strong practice round, also gave the senior the confidence to play championship golf, despite weather that couldn’t decide to rain or shine.

“I felt pretty good coming in,” Kruger said. “I had a practice round Monday, so I felt pretty good coming into it. A little nervous, obviously, coming into state.”

An 8-over 80 on Day 1 had Kruger sitting three strokes clear of then-second place individual Christine Piwnica of Southwest Christian (Chaska). The lead could have been even larger, but Kruger bogeyed the final three holes on Tuesday. Kruger shook off the sluggish finish, however, firing a 38 on the front nine on Wednesday.

“I felt pretty relaxed. I had a three-shot lead going into today,” Kruger said. “It’s just a huge honor. When I came up here I was not expecting it.”

Despite going 9-over on the back nine, or “red course,” Kruger finished with an 18-hole total of 83 for the day, and still eclipsed second place Lauren Laffen, of Sleepy Eye, by four shots.

“My putting was pretty good; I probably just got tired, I don’t know, we’re up here for three days, it’s the last nine and you’re just excited to be done,” Kruger said.

As the leader throughout the tournament, Kruger said that it was a mix of aggressive and passive play which allowed her to hold on for the gold medal.

“Some of the holes I played pretty aggressive; on the white course I played pretty aggressive because I view it as an easier course,” Kruger said. “But on the red course you have to play that one safe.”

After her round was over, Kruger credited her family with getting her started on the links at a young age in the first place.

“I have to say that my family really helped push it because my dad, my uncle and my grandpa all have golfed for who knows how long,” she said. “That was the big push. I probably started when I was around four or five years old.”

Westbrook-Walnut Grove freshman Abby Herding also medaled on Wednesday. After entering the day tied for fifth, Herding finished in a tie for seventh with a two-day score of 176. Lincoln HI’s Kyra Gores dropped two spots from her 11th-place finish in 2012, tying for 13th in 2013 with a score of 181.