EAST GULL LAKE — Erik Stoxen couldn’t believe how bad his putting was.
His best hole Wednesday, April 21, on the Dutch Course at Cragun’s Legacy Courses was the par 5 ninth. Stoxen eagled the 496-yard hole thanks to a chip in. He never touched his putter on that hole.
Even with little confidence in his putter, the Brainerd Warrior senior finished as co-individual champion of the Pequot Lakes Early Bird event with a 4-over 76 to help the Warriors to a third-place finish.
“On hole nine, I hit a drive and just tried to stay in the fairway,” Stoxen said. “I just wanted to keep it in play. It was into the wind a little bit on my second shot and I was about 240 yards out so I hit a 4-iron to stay just short of the green so I could just chip on. I ended up chipping it in, which was lucky, but it was a good little booster to go into the back nine.”
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Stoxen played the front nine in 1-over and the back in 3-over. He birdied the second hole and bogeyed four holes on the front.
“My inconsistency right now is my putting,” Stoxen said. “I think it was for everybody today. But I ran into the same thing at Rich Springs. I’m hitting enough greens where I shouldn’t be three-putting a ton, but right now I don’t have any confidence over my putter. On my eagle, I didn’t even have to putt, which was nice. Putting has been my difficulty right now.”
The greens still showed signs of being aerated meaning the roll of the ball was bumpy. There was sand on the greens, too, and Stoxen said when it started to snow the greens would get wet and while the ball would roll it would pick up little pebbles on its way to the green.
Staples-Motley’s Beck Erholtz would agree with the tough putting conditions. The Staples-Motley senior and North Dakota State University commit tied for third with a 77. Erholtz suffered through at least four three-putts.
He went out in 40 on the front nine and shot 37 on the back with a birdie on 13 and bogeys on holes 11 and 14.
Pequot Lakes junior Tyler Seeling also fired 77. He was a bit more consistent with nines of 39 and 38. He carded six bogeys and got his birdie on the 167-yard par 3 15th with a tee shot within about 5 feet.
Hole 14 played tough for most players. Stoxen posted a bogey on the long par 4 with a large carry to the green. He was the only player in his group to find the green in regulation. After opening with a 37, Stoxen bogeyed 10 and 11, but recovered with a birdie, that should have been another eagle on the par 5 13th. His putt from just off the green hit the pin and bounced out of the hole.
“Today, my tee-ball was probably one of the best parts of my game,” Stoxen said. “I played pretty good with everything, except putting, but getting off the tee here is huge. You have to try and make sure you find the fairway. If you’re not in the fairway then you have to punch out and at least take a bogey and get on to the next hole. Here it’s definitely crucial to hit fairways, but for me I did and I was able to get good shots into the greens. But I just couldn’t make the putts today.”
Nick Tobkin of Detroit Lakes had to chip in on 18 to tie Stoxen. Tobkin’s 76 led Detroit Lakes to the team title with a 323. Brainerd was three strokes back.
“We do definitely have some good names on the roster,” Stoxen said. “We have eight people that could qualify for the top six positions, but we need to make sure we go every day in and out of practice making sure we’re doing the best that we can.
“What we’re going to be doing a lot this year is qualifying. So the top two guys of the day don’t have to qualify for the next tournament. Those guys are in, but the four high scores and the two that didn’t qualify for that meet will battle it out for those four spots. This year we’re having a lot of competition to know who we should bring. That’s going to be good for us to compete against each other to make sure we know who our top six are.”
Dawson Ringler fired an 80 to tie for eighth and Turner Person carded an 82 to just miss the top 10 as he tied for 11th. Cole Proctor finished with an 88 for Brainerd’s 326 amidst snow, wind and all-around cold conditions.
“Dawson and Turner don’t have any varsity experience, but they are learning quickly,” Warrior head coach Brian Wallace said. “Turner has to figure out how to get it done on the front nine because on the back nine he seems to play dang near close to par.
“Once all that experience comes to fruition later on in the season, I think we’re going to be in a really good spot. It’s just something you have to do over and over again to get used to that competition.”
Ringler’s par putt on the 519-yard par 5 18th came up just short and he suffered a bogey to finish with 80. The junior shot nines of 41-39 and birdied the par 4 11th hole. Person opened with a 44, but brought it back with a 2-over 38 on the back. He birdied holes 13 and 16.
“They’re expectations, because (the Legacy) is their home course, they think they can go out and shoot even par and they feel bad when they don’t,” Wallace said. “But then they realize the conditions are what they are. They’ll be fine.”
Frank Meyer landed in the top 20 with an 86 to lead the Crosby-Ironton/Aitkin Rangers to a ninth-place finish.
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Seeling’s 77 along with an 89 from Hunter Nybakken helped Pequot to fifth. Erholtz’s 77 and a 92 from Carter White helped Staples-Motley to seventh.
Seventh-grader Isaiah Aulie led Pine River-Backus to 12th place with his 98.
Team scores: 1-Detroit Lakes 323, 2-Eden Prairie 325, 3-Brainerd 326, 4-New Prague 350, 5-Pequot Lakes 355, 6-Hermantown 357, 7-Staples-Motley 362, 8-Rocori 380, 9-Crosby-Ironton 403, 10-Grand Rapids 413, 11-Crookston 422, 12-Pine River-Backus 442
Individual medalist: Erik Stoxen (Brd) 76, Nick Tobkin (DL) 76
Brainerd results: Erik Stoxen 76, Dawson Ringler 80, Turner Person 82, Cole Proctor 88, Keegan Davidge 91, Ryan Kennedy 93
Crosby-Ironton/Aitkin results: Frank Meyer 86, Will Meyer 90, Brody Bodle 112, Tyler Bill 115, Kolbe Severson 119, Luke Severson 132
Pequot Lakes results: Tyler Seeling 77, Hunter Nybakken 89, Anthony Armstrong 94, Cooper Johnson 95, Ethan Thomas 96, Quady Bernu 106
Pine River-Backus results: Isaiah Aulie 98, Joseph Zaczkowski 106, Brady Bristow 108, Ethan Burns 130
Staples-Motley results: Beck Erholtz 77, Carter White 92, Isaiah Schultz 97, Grant Bestland 97, Peyton Mithun 107, Keller Anderson 114
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.
Early Bird Invite
Individual highlight: Warriors Stoxen fired a 76 for co-medalist honors
Team highlight: Brainerd places third, three strokes behind Detroit Lakes
Next: Pequot Lakes, Staples-Motley in pre-section meet at Blackberry Ridge, Sartell, 9 a.m. Thursday, April 22; Brainerd in Central Lakes Conference meet at Geneva Golf Club, Alexandria, 4 p.m. Thursday, April 22; Crosby-Ironton, Pine River-Backus in Mid-Minn Conference event at Preserve Golf Course, Pequot Lakes, 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 27.