Senf, B.E. Area boys golfers set to tee off at Class AA state meet

THREE IN A ROW — Members of the Blue Earth Area Bucs boys golf team qualifying for its third consecutive appearance in the Class AA state meet, starting Tuesday at Ridges at Sand Creek golf course in Jordan include, from left, Ashton Lloyd, Braden Gudahl, Hunter Spencer, Manning Lane, Max Ehrich and Gaven Bruellman. (Photo by Greg Abel)

JORDAN — Will the third consecutive year at the Class AA state golf meet be the proverbial charm for both the Blue Earth Area Bucs boys golf team and Fairmont individual qualifier Bergen Senf?

“Bergen has undergone an interesting change of perspective since last spring,” said Fairmont head coach Brad Haugen. “Last year, she pressed so hard and wanted a top 10 finish. This year, she’s relaxed with her outcome, whatever that may be.

“Now, she just wants to play her best two 18-hole rounds at Ridges (at Sand Creek golf course).”

Senf tees off Day 1 in the last group off of No. 1 at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. Four-time state qualifier Ava Wallerich of Lake City and a pair of three-time state competitors — St. Clair/Mankato Loyola senior Claire Orcutt and LaCrescent senior Anna Tollefson — round out the Fairmont junior standout’s initial foursome in Jordan.

“Bergen and Claire know each other after having played practice rounds together in Jordan previously, while Bergen played with Ava in the first round at state last year,” said Haugen. “I also believe that Ava and Bergen were paired together at the Somerby Invite in Byron earlier this year.

“To compete at a state tournament and have people you know around you definitely adds to one’s comfort level.”

Senf enters her third state meet on the heels of tying for 16th place overall by carding a two-day total of 165 a year ago. Senf opened with a 43-40 before closing with a 42-40.

The 2019 Section 3AA girls gold medalist — who fired a winning score of 159 — also tied for 25th place at the 2017 Class AA state competition by penciling in a 45-42 and a 45-43, respectively, en route to a total of 175.

“Bergen and I sat down the other day and went over some notes, and were looking at areas where we can work on to improve her scores,” said Haugen. “She’s such a student of the game, so it’s nice to have that extra time to work on specific areas with her.”

While Senf looks to lower her already impressive scoring ways Tuesday and Wednesday, Blue Earth Area head coach Travis Armstrong and his Buc golfers seek to climb the rungs of the Class A state team scoreboard for a second straight season.

“The first time we qualified for state, we were just happy to get there, especially considering how young our team was, and we finished eighth,” Armstrong said in reference to the Bucs’ total of 666 at the 2017 Class AA event at Ridges. “Our approach changed last year in that we not only wanted to qualify, but to compete for a state title.

“We definitely improved last spring by placing fifth with a 627 — 27 shots behind state champion Holy Family (Catholic).”

Now, Blue Earth Area prepares to face five of the other top six lineups returning to Ridges on Tuesday with some head-to-head regular-season competition under the belts.

“We were able to beat both Red Wing (third place at state in 2018) and Cloquet-Esko (fourth) at the Dacotah Ridge tournament (in Morton) this season, we edged Detroit Lakes (state runner-up) at the Jordan Invite and we defeated St. Cloud Cathedral (sixth) at the St. Cloud Invite,” said Armstrong. “Don’t get me wrong — all three of those tournaments were close and down to the wire.

“We haven’t seen Holy Family (Catholic), who you can’t count out since they’re the returning state champion.

“Hill Murray is the other team we haven’t seen this year, so they’re a wild card to us. We’ve also beaten Jackson (County Central) a couple of times this season, so we’re very familiar with our state competition.”

Sophomore Manning Lane, senior Hunter Spencer, sophomore Braden Gudahl and junior Gaven Bruellman once again represent the core of the Bucs’ lineup for a third consecutive year. In fact, the foursome generated the top-four counting scores in both the 2017 and 2018 state meets.

But don’t dismiss the Nos. 5 and 6 leading scorers — eighth-grader Ashton Lloyd and sophomore Max Ehrich — on the Bucs’ roster heading into Tuesday’s Class AA showdown in Jordan.

Ehrich carries a nine-hole stroke average of 44.5 to the No. 1 tee box at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, while Lloyd brings a 43.0 scoring clip to the same tee at 7:39 a.m. on Day 1. Bruellman tees off No. 1 at 7:48 a.m. Tuesday, followed by Spencer at 7:57 a.m., Gudahl at 8:06 a.m. and Lane at 8:15 a.m.

Bruellman, who’s fourth in scoring average (41.0) on the Bucs, netted 11th at last Monday’s Section 2AA Meet, while Spencer — who’s second on BEA’s team at 38.2 — captured sixth overall during sectional play in New Prague.

Gudahl, who carries the Bucs’ No. 3 clip of 38.8, posted a fourth-place showing at the sectional meet, while Lane — who has a team-best average of 38.0 — garnered runner-up individual accolades to help BEA card a winning two-round total of 620, 10 shots better than runner-up St. Peter.

“St. Peter is a team that’s definitely good enough to play in the state tournament, but unfortunately only one of us could go from the section, and luckily we’re not the ones staying home,” said Armstrong.

So, what goals do Armstrong and the Bucs have heading into their third consecutive state golf meet Tuesday?

“We want to finish in the top four and improve on last year’s showing. Actually, if we can shoot lower than the 627 we shot a year ago, we’ll be happy with our progress,” said Armstrong. “You can’t play defense in golf, so you can only concentrate on improving your shot-making and course management skills.

“If we go off No. 1 on Day 2 this year, that means we’re in the top four (out of the eight-team field), and that would be a good goal to achieve, too.”

Day 2 pairings and tee times Wednesday at Ridges at Sand Creek will be determined by Tuesday’s opening-round results.