B.E. Area boys aim for high hopes

Members of the Blue Earth Area boys golf team stand, left-to-right, Ashton Lloyd, Braden Gudahl, Max Ehrich, Hunter Spencer, Manning Lane and Gaven Bruellman. The BEA boys have their sights set on lofty goals for the 2019 season. (Photo by Kyle McAreavy)

After two years of growth, the Blue Earth Area Bucs boys golf team looks ready to take a shot at the ultimate goal.

In the past two seasons, with many of the same golfers, BEA has finished eighth (2017) and fifth (2018) at the Class AA state meet in Jordan.

Hunter Spencer, Manning Lane, Gaven Bruellman and Braden Gudahl all were on the team during both state appearances, while Ashton Lloyd gained experience during the 2018 competition.

The only varsity team member not on either of those squads is newcomer Max Ehrich, but current junior varsity player Caleb Beeler was the sixth member of last year’s team.

With all six members from last year’s crew still in the program, Gudahl said this year BEA has the chance to be key players in the postseason.

“With the determination and success that our young team built over the past few years, I think we are all prepared and ready,” Gudahl said. “As a team, we have all been waiting for this year because we all know that we have the capability to make it special.”

The team combined to shoot a two-day score of 627 at the 2018 state meet, with Lane putting up a total of 151 for 23rd overall to lead the way.

Spencer put up a 153 at the state meet and placed 30th, Bruellman scored 161 for 57th, Gudahl put up a 162 for 58th, Lloyd hit a 187 and Beeler notched a 212.

Lane said after shooting a 168 in 2017, 2018 was a different experience for him. He said placing higher as an individual and helping the team place higher was an exciting experience. He said having everyone back from last year’s team makes the team like a family.

“Last year was a different more exciting experience because I was somewhat in contention and the team came back the second day. … Last year at state was also completely different from two years ago because two years ago we were just happy to be there.

“It’s awesome that we have everyone back and we’ve been golfing with each other our whole lives and it makes all of us push one another harder every single day. They will always be like brothers to me.”

Spencer said he felt last year’s meet was different as well. He said when the team went to state in 2017, everyone was nervous because of the level of competition, but last year everyone knew what to expect.

Bruellman said the team has the opportunity to be great this season, but everyone will need to put in the work.

“I think with enough hard work, we can qualify for state as a team. After that, the answer is unknown,” Bruellman said. “However, I believe we will have a fairly decent chance in competing for the championship win this year, as long as nothing drastic happens and we use the season leading up to the tournament to an efficient degree.”

Each player has different individual expectations this season, whether it’s Bruellman wanting to end the season playing consistently at or close to par and helping the team in important moments, Ehrich wanting to keep his nine-hole average below bogey golf and trying to score in the 30s, Spencer wanting to hit more fairways and be more consistent with his driver or Lloyd, Gudahl and Lane just wanting to compete well enough to help the team win.

With the depth of talent on the BEA team this year and every guy fighting to get better and help the team in big moments, the Bucs have a shot to repeat as Section 2AA champs. That’s where multiple Bucs have set their sights early in the season.

“I think that with the state experience last year, we are hoping to make it again this year and try to place higher than last year,” Ehrich said.

“This season, my expectations for our team are directly targeted towards the big tournaments,” Gudahl said. “I would love to see us defend our section title and if we can manage that, follow up with a performance at state the would put us in contention for a title. Every day is a step closer to the end and we’re all grinding for that final trophy, however we need to take things one at a time.”

Spencer is the only BEA golfer taking steps not only toward the end of this season, but of his high school career. As the lone senior on a team filled with youthful talent, Spencer said he is wondering where the time went.

“It definitely hit me hard the last couple of meets knowing I’m the only one leaving such a great team of athletes,” Spencer said. “I remember being in ninth grade telling myself that three years is a lot of golf, but here I am wondering where those three years went. I always tell the boys to make sure you take in every moment because if you don’t, you’ll miss it with a blink of an eye. Even though I’m leaving next year, I know that they will still get the job done.”

In the reverse of Spencer’s experience with the team, Ehrich joined a talented team with a lot of experience, which he said has been exciting.

“It is a lot of fun because of how good they are and fun to play with,” Ehrich said.

Lloyd is the youngest player on the varsity as an eighth grader, but he earned a lot of experience playing against older competitors at state last season. He said last year’s state run helped him prepare for this season and he has big expectations for the season.

“As a seventh grader, it was an honor and a privilege to learn from the state experience,” Lloyd said. “It prepared me mentally for what will come.

“We are lucky to have the depth we have. My thoughts on our goals for the team this year is to win the section and place higher at the state golf tournament.”

The Bucs have started 2019 strong with multiple combined nine-hole scores under 150 and their worst round coming in at 159. There is a long season ahead before the section tournament begins May 28, but the BEA boys have already picked up where they left off last season.

With thoughts of big tournaments on their minds, the season can seem long and when a bad round hits it could be easy to get down mentally. Spencer said he always try to keep everyone smiling, but with the understanding that there needs to be work for their plans to come to fruition.

“I think that our nerves are very calm when we have smaller meets just because at state there are so many people,” Spencer said. “The smaller meets are more fun because we don’t feel much pressure. When it comes to bigger tournaments, I make sure to remind the boys that we need to stay focused. At the end of the day, I always can get a smile out of the boys no matter how their round went. That’s what I like about our team, chemistry. That is why we are so successful and I know that our chemistry will never run out. We all have big plans for the future, but in order to make those come true, we need to work.”