East Ridge golf: Raptors boys, girls finish as section runners-up, but send golfers to state
Winning a section golf championship is a tough thing to do. If they didn't know it already, the East Ridge boys and girls teams found that out at last week's drama-filled Section 3AAA tournament.
Roughly nine hours after the boys and girls teed off for the second day of the two-day section championship on Friday, May 31, at Bunker Hills Golf Club in Coon Rapids, both Raptors teams learned they finished as Section 3AAA runners-up, falling short of the state tournament by the narrowest of margins.
Both the boys and girls Section 3AAA champions needed to be decided by rulings by the Minnesota State High School League and Minnesota Golf Association.
The girls tournament came down to a tie-breaker between East Ridge and Eagan - the teams' fifth-best individual score - after the two teams turned in identical two-day, four-player scores of 684. It wasn't immediately known by tournament officials if it was the fifth-best score of the day (which East Ridge had) or the fifth-best score for the two days (which Eagan had) and a call needed placed the Minnesota State High School League.
"It seems fair," said Mark Retica, head coach of the East Ridge girls team. "To their credit, the guys who were running the tournament left it in the hands of the high school league - that's their job and it's not open for interpretation. Their criteria for how to break ties has been around a long time. I don't have a problem with it."
Deciding the champion of the boys tournament was even more complex.
After it was discovered a player from Hastings signed an incorrect scorecard a decision needed to be made whether or not to disqualify that player. If he was disqualified, East Ridge - which shot 620 (303-315) as a team - would've won the section title, but if not, Hastings - which shot 618 (306-314) - would be named the champion. Ultimately, his score was allowed and the Raiders advanced to state.
It was the second-straight year East Ridge finished second in the section.
"There's two sides to every story," said Bret Brookins, head coach of the East Ridge boys team. "I wasn't in the meeting, so I don't know what went on. All I can say is that kid is a great player and for him not to make it to state, because of something unintentional, I don't think that's right. For me, you have to earn the right to go to state. Hastings played well and they earned it."
The tournament wasn't without it's silver linings for the Raptors teams, however.
East Ridge senior Brady Hanson turned in what was probably the top performance of the entire section tournament.
Hanson won the Section 3AAA individual championship title to qualify for a second straight state tournament, shooting a two-day 144, including a 1-over par 71 on the first day at Goodrich Golf Course and a 1-over par 73 at Bunker Hills.
"It's nice to know you won, but it doesn't really mean much," Hanson said. "It's cool, but I'd rather be in as a team. That's all I really wanted."
At last year's state tournament Hanson finished in a seven-way tie for 48th place with a 159.
"Brady has really turned into a great leader," Brookins said. "Respect is earned, it's not given. He's earned it. His play has been exceptional and he has a great chance of coming out of that state tournament at the top."
Hanson was the lone Raptor from the boys team to reach state. Logan Delaney was close - losing a playoff hole to Eagan's Nick Asta - to decide the final individual state qualifier. Delaney, a senior, shot a 156 over the two days.
"I feel really bad for Logan," Brookins said. "I can't say enough about how much he's impressed me with his play. From last year to this year was a 100 percent difference. We relied on his score every single day."
In addition, sophomore John Haering shot a 158 and junior Jack Caron carded a 162 to round out the Raptors' top four. Other scores turned in by East Ridge were a 165 by senior Travis Dorf, who just recently returned to the team from an injury, and a 166 by junior Sam Cowley.
East Ridge was behind Hastings by three strokes after the first day of the tournament (306-303) but actually led by two strokes going into the final nine holes of the 36-hole tourney. However, the Raptors couldn't hold on, falling by two strokes.
"The kids played really well and overall I'm really proud of them," Brookins said. "This is a great team and I thought the guys did absolutely outstanding this year. It just ended up being Hastings' day."
On the girls side, East Ridge juniors Taylor Anderson and Andriel Aimua became the first female Raptors players to qualify for the state golf tournament. Anderson carded East Ridge's top score with a 167. Aimua scored a 170.
"It's very exciting for them," Retica said. "It's something those girls should be very proud of. They worked really hard under some tough circumstances this spring. It's going to be fun. I think they're going to enjoy the experience."
Another East Ridge junior, Molly Richardson, also scored a 170 - and the two Raptors had to go to a playoff against each other for the final spot at state, which went to Aimua. Junior Jaedyn Walz rounded out the Raptors top four with a 177. Danielle Mischke (198) and Allison Bugel (204) also competed in the tournament for East Ridge.
"To have 24 rounds of golf and be dead even score wise after two days and having to go to a tiebreaker and have it end the way it did was disappointing," Retica said. "The girls didn't play their best. To their credit, they tried their best to wrap it up and do it."
As a team, East Ridge led the tournament by three strokes over Eastview after the first day, shooting a 325 at Phalen Golf Course. However Eagan, which was 18 strokes back heading into the second day, leapfrogged Eastview and tied East Ridge by shooting a 341 on the second day at Bunker Hills. East Ridge shot a 359 and Eastview scored a 364 on day two.
"Our entire roster will be back next year," Retica said. "If I could put a motto on next year, it'd be 'unfinished business'."
The state tournament will be back at Bunker Hills on June 11 and 12.
"From a program standpoint, I definitely feel like it's going in the right direction," Retica said. "That's a credit to the girls. They work really hard and have represented themselves and their school very admirably. I'm really proud of them."