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Barnum takes swing at tourney

Very quietly, the Barnum golf program is putting the town on the map. The little town sitting between Cloquet and Moose Lake has produced boys and girls basketball championships and has been at the top in softball numerous times, but in eight of the 10 years of the program, it has produced caliber players who went on to play in the Minnesota Class A state tournament. This season, Delaney Kocher went to state for the second time.

“Delaney was our most senior returning player this year,” said coach Brent Donaldson. “Having been an individual state qualifier in 2019 we had the same goal for her this year: to earn her way back to the state tournament.”

And that is exactly what Koecher did. After earning All-Conference honors in the Great River Conference in the regular season, the senior had a big run in the Section 7A tournament in Virginia to make it back to the state tournament which last week at Pebble Creek Golf Club in Becker.

“At sections she was solid, played her game and had two very consistent days,” coach Donaldson said. “Not only did she earn her way back to state as one of the five individual qualifiers, but she was the fifth-place finisher out of all of the girls in Section 7A.”

“I only had three returning varsity players this year; two girls and one boy,” Donaldson said. “For the boys team we had six players total and they were my varsity team. For the girls team I had three varsity and then four new girl golfers for junior varsity.”

After the opening day of the state tournament, Koecher was in 33rd place, but a better second day helped move her up the leaderboard.

“I told her that I thought if she had a better Day 2, she could finish in the top 20,” Donaldson said. “She rallied a bit and finished in the 28th spot this year.”

Donaldson knew from the first day of her seventh-grade season that Koecher was going to be special.

“Since Day 1, Delaney’s swing, her tempo, ball direction and demeanor really did not change,” Donaldson said. “She has really smooth swing tempo and she hits the ball straight, never really had any issues hitting errant shots. She is not a long hitter, so that did come into play at the state tournament on the longer par 4s and par 5s, of course.”

“It is a very bittersweet and emotional time walking that last hole with a senior player,” Donaldson said. “What better place to do it than at the state tournament.”

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