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Cloquet goes south for greens

On April 13, the Cloquet High School boys golf team had an outdoor, "on real grass" golf meet. No April Fools joke.

Granted, they had to travel to Red Wing, but once they got there, the players were greeted at the Mississippi National Golf Links by temperatures near 90 degrees and a course that had opened just a few days before.

"We had 20 boys try out for the 12 available positions on the varsity and junior varsity teams," said CHS head coach Aaron Young, "which is great, but we had to have tryouts indoors. It's been a tough spring, as we all know."

Red Wing, located on the Mississippi River, is coached by Ryan Korby. Korby was a five-year golf letter winner at Cloquet under the direction of coach Tom McFarlane and now has been the Wingers coach for a few years. (He is also the son of this writer.)

Korby and Young connected last fall to set up the match hoping that the southern Minnesota course would get a jumpstart on the Cloquet Country Club. It was pretty easy to predict. Per Young, it may be the nicest golf meet, for weather, they will have this year.

Last season the Cloquet boys team made its fifth-straight trip to the Class AA State championship held at Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan in June. They finished in fifth place, one shot behind fourth place Totino Grace in the two-day tournament. They have a good nucleus coming back to this year's team and aim to return to state.

In Red Wing, CHS senior Karson Patten struggled on his first few holes, before finishing strong with a 77 to take first-place medalist honors. Red Wing senior John Ahrens finished second with 78. Junior Cooper Ellena and sophomore Blair Chartier both shot 81, placing them in a tie for third. Sophomore Collin Young also played well and rounded out the top four Cloquet scorers shooting an 83 good for fifth place. Other varsity players include junior Anders Gunelson and sophomores Karson Young and Lance Sayler.

The junior varsity also played in Red Wing and CHS eighth grader Peter Young was medalist with a 94. Freshman Gaige Houston placed fourth. For most JV players, it was their first time hitting off grass this year. Many varsity players headed south with their families during their spring break to get outdoor golf course play.

Young said they return seven players with varsity experience.

"It will be a tough battle to narrow them down to a six-man team for the section tournament on June 3," he said. "We have been able to arrange a very competitive schedule putting us against some of the strongest teams in the state."

Over the next week, the Cloquet boys team is scheduled to be at the Pines course in Brainerd on Wednesday, at Edinburgh golf course Friday. They play May 1 at Windsong Country Club for an Edina meet.

Meanwhile, at the Cloquet Country Club, the team's home course, the protective covers are still on the greens. The recent snow probably means the course will not be opening until at least May. Thanks to a grant from the Cloquet Country Club Golf Foundation, the team has been able to hit balls indoors on the CCC golf simulator. It's set up in the clubhouse in the Weyerhaeuser room and provides an opportunity to simulate play, via the computer program, on selected courses from around the country. The Lumberjacks also hit some balls in the gym before school and spend some team time reviewing rules and rule changes.

With some help from Mother Nature, they'll soon be out on the golf driving range and playing Cloquet and other local courses.