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Weather and missed putts hurt Cloquet at State

Steve Korby

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The Cloquet High School boys golf team competed in the Class AA Minnesota State Golf Tournament Tuesday and Wednesday. The Lumberjacks finished seventh in the eight-team field.

Cloquet had won the section tournament on six straight occasions and has placed higher at state, including a championship in 2021, but this year the top teams from around Minnesota played better over two days in a rain-shortened event.

The tournament was held, again, at the Ridges At Sand Creek golf course in Jordan, southwest of Minneapolis. Due to stormy weather Wednesday, the final day was shortened to nine holes, with Holy Family Catholic emerging as the champions.

Cloquet was in sixth place after Tuesday. Scores were tight. Head coach Aaron Young said they started out shooting fine on the back nine Wednesday, but the rains came and forced a five-hour rain delay. The delay hurt Cloquet, he said.

"With both the girls and boys needing to play, they flipped a coin - with the boys going out of the front nine and the girls the back nine for just nine holes," Young said. "For us, that meant our start was discarded and we started over on a rain-soaked front nine with winds up to 20 miles per hour."

He said the teams that had already started their front resumed where they were, and got to keep their holes from before the rain and without the strong winds.

"I would love to say the coin flip took our chance of placing away, but we struggled to make putts both days," Young said. "The boys played hard, but sometimes the ball just does not roll your way."

Jack Justesen of Hawley was the individual 27-hole state champion with a total of 105. PJ Herron of Holy Family Catholic was runner-up, one stroke back at 106.

"I know [seniors Anders Gunelson and Cooper Ellena] are frustrated at how the season finished, but they help to set the bar high with four-straight state tournament appearances, four-straight section titles and winning over half the meets we entered around the state," Young said. "They have nothing to hang their heads over. They were good leaders and they will be sorely missed next year."

The top Cloquet finisher on the first day was Section 7AA champion Lance Sayler, a junior, who shot 76. He had 41 on the nine holes Wednesday.

Other Cloquet players to break 80 on Tuesday were Blair Chartier with 78 and Cooper Ellena with a 79. On the second day, low Cloquet scores were Cooper Ellena and Karson Young with a pair of 40s.

"I was really happy for junior Blair Chartier," the head coach said. "After struggling much of the season, he really stepped up at sections and state, placing all four days for us. Lance also was a bright spot this playoff as section medalist and finishing as our highest placer at state."

Cloquet totals for all 27 holes were Sayler at 117, Ellena 119, Chartier 120, Collin Young 122, Karson Young 125, Anders Gunelson 126.

Gunelson and Ellena are the only seniors.

"It is always bittersweet knowing we are saying goodbye to our seniors," Young said. "This year Cooper Ellena and Anders Gunelson leave us after being a big part of our success for many years. I can remember sending this group to varsity meets as seventh- and eighth-graders, as they would place consistently in the top three and even won several varsity meets."

Cloquet will return four golfers off the state tournament team as seniors next year, making them the likely section favorite going in.

"We have had a good run. Coach Kyle Young and I were talking about all the good players that have helped continue our success," Aaron Young said of his brother. "Now we need to find the next groups to keep this tradition going."

Pine Knot News editor Jana Peterson contributed to this story.