Warriors Athlete of Week: With a new putter, Stoxen is even par so far
Erik Stoxen changed his putter just in time for the Section 8-3A tournament.
Erik Stoxen’s best season as a Brainerd Warrior boys golfer came during his freshman year where he won the Central Lakes Conference individual title and advanced to state.
In the bag was an old Titleist Bullseye putter that his grandfather Will Stoxen gave him. The younger Stoxen had been playing on and off with that putter ever since. But more so this year as his grandfather battles health issues.
“I really wanted to finish out my high school career with that putter for him,” Stoxen said. “It’s kind of why I went back to it, too. At the start of the year, I was playing with a Ping Anser putter and didn’t putt too hot with it. My dad and I and my brother talked about it and my dad suggested giving grandpa’s Bullseye one more shot and maybe it would bring me some luck.
“I putted OK at Blackberry Ridge, but it never benefited me a ton, I really wanted to finish out with it, but I have to go with what is going to help me score.”
The move worked as Stoxen birdied three of his first five holes and finished with an even-par 72 Tuesday, May 26. to win a triangular at Rich-Springs Golf Club in Cold Springs.
Stoxen fired a 1-under on his opening nine holes and came back with a 1-over 37 on the back nine to fire even par and top players from Moorhead and Willmar, including Mr. Minnesota Golfer candidate Ian Simonich.
Boys Golf: Stoxen in good form going into sections
“So that was my first competitive round with the new putter and hole one, I hit it to within six feet and missed my putt,” Stoxen said. “I was just like, ‘Oh, here we go again.’ Then I got to hole two and made a 15 footer. Got to hole three and two-putted for birdie and hole four made another 20 footer so putting that day really boosted my confidence.
“Making putts at Rich-Spring is how you’re going to score and so it helped to be 3-under after four to get the confidence I needed for the rest of the round.”
The final decision to change putters came during the two-round Central Lakes Conference championship.
Stoxen tied for fourth with teammate Cole Proctor in the second-round May 18 at Cragun’s Legacy Courses. After opening with a front-nine 40, he shot an even 36 on the back nine with a birdie on the 496-yard par 5 18th hole.
Boys Golf: Warriors 2nd at Cragun’s Legacy Courses
A day earlier, in the first round of the CLC championship at the Territory Golf Club in St. Cloud, Stoxen struggled to a 14th-place 80.
Boys Golf: Warriors 3rd at Territory Golf Club
“It was a hard decision,” Stoxen said. “Very hard. After the Territory and the Legacy for the CLC championship, after I shot 80 with 40 putts and 76 with 38 putts, it just had to go. So I just went to a completely different look and went with a TaylorMade Spider.”
The Spider helped Stoxen to a second straight even-par round in the first round of the Section 8-3A Tournament Tuesday, June 1, at Rich-Springs. Stoxen’s 72 has him tied for third individually and helped the Warrior team into a tie for first with Alexandria.
Boys Golf: Stoxen’s even-par has Warriors tied for 1st
“My round today was good,” Stoxen said. “My group definitely pushed me. I played with Logan Hamak of Sartell and he shot 69 and Braeden Sladek of (Alexandria) and he shot 71 and Ian Simonich of Moorhead shot 72 and I shot 72 so just being able to compete with those other three definitely helped me bear down and go at it as well.
“I’m close with all those guys so that really helped me. The conditions (Tuesday) were awesome. It was 75-degrees and there was no wind, which helped our whole team for sure.”
Warrior head boys golf coach Brian Wallace said Stoxen was right where he wanted to be when it comes to competition Tuesday. He wanted to play with the best Wallace said and it showed.
“He wouldn’t have wanted to be in any other group,” Wallace said. “He wants to be with the leaders or the best golfers and he got it. He shoots even par and he’s tied for the highest score in his group. Those four are the top four kids in the field and he just really thrives in that. It was an absolutely enjoyable day for him, especially when he started out kind of rough. Not terrible, but he was able to come back and make four birdies on the back. Well, that’s so impressive. That just goes to show how in control of his emotions he’s been. When that putter comes through it all comes together.”
WIN IN WILLMAR:
Boys Golf: Stoxen, Warriors dominate field
The team aspect of high school golf can often get overlooked, but it’s something Stoxen has stressed all year as a senior captain.
“Goals during this season the first one was to try and break 80 every single time,” Stoxen said. “That was my main goal, but to just be consistent and get all-conference as I did and definitely make the state tournament.
“Being a captain of the team, it would be awesome if we could bring the whole team.”
No one has appreciated Stoxen’s team-first mentality more than Wallace.
“He has really taken a lot of the younger kids under his wing and helped them out at times,” Wallace said. “He’s just got a really kind way to help others and get others involved. That shows his personality. He does a really good job as a captain because of that.”
Stoxen did earn all-conference honors and was voted the team’s Most Valuable Player. Also earning all-conference were teammates Cole Proctor, Dawson Ringler and Turner Person.
Stoxen opened his season tied for third with a 77 in the first CLC meet at Rich-Springs. He followed it with a first-place 76 in the Pequot Lakes Early Bird Invite April 21 at Cragun’s.
Boys Golf: With not trust in putter, Warriors’ Stoxen still medals
And aside from his putting, he’s pleased with how his game has looked this season.
“It’s been good for me,” he said. “I’ve been hitting the ball really well and hopefully that stays for tomorrow, but yeah, I’ve been hitting the ball pretty well. Right now my driver, getting off the tee has really helped me. Hopefully, I can bring that out tomorrow and shoot another low score and help the team out so we can go for the first time ever to state.”
One reason for Stoxen’s success was his competitive schedule last season. Despite losing his junior year to COVID-19, Stoxen hit the golf course with vigor last summer. He qualified for the National High School Golf Invitational at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.
“That helped me a ton and I give a shout out to PGA golf instructor Ryan Sharpe, my mom and my dad for bringing me down to Pinehurst,” Stoxen said. “That was an eye-opener for me just to see how good everybody is around the world. There were people there from 50 states and seven different countries. To go down there and battle that out was big for me. Playing in tournaments and just being in that competitive mode a lot definitely helps.”
Wallace plucked Stoxen up for the varsity roster as a seventh grader and has not regretted the move.
“Physically he has grown so much over the years, but he has really developed into a really nice person, who is kind and his competitive skills have increased exponentially,” Wallace said. “He’s always had the fire, but he’s taken it to a new level this year.
“I’m going to miss him. Not only for his score, but for the leadership he provided for this team. I’m really going to miss that.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.
Other notable performances
Katie Foley, girls golf, shot a two-day 160 to tie for second at the Tri-State Preview tournament.
Izzy Olson, girls golf, shot a two-day 160 to tie for second at the Tri-State Preview tournament.
Breya Sawyer, girls lacrosse, scored four goals in a win over Big Lake.
Andrew Zuk, baseball, drove in three runs on two hits in a win over St. Cloud Apollo.
Isaac Hanson, baseball, struck out seven in a complete-game victory over St Cloud Apollo.
Gavin Hoelzel, track and field, won the 300-meter hurdles and was part of two winning relays in a meet at St. Cloud Tech.
Madi Genz, track and field, won the 200-meter dash and was part of two winning relays in a meet at St. Cloud Tech.
Hanna Caughey, track and field, swept the shot put and discus in a meet at St. Cloud Tech.
Olivia Tautges, softball, struck out seven over five innings and allowed just one walk and no hits against Coon Rapids. She finished 2-3 with a double, home run, two runs and two RBIs.
Position: No. 1
Career highlight: Winning the Central Lakes Conference and advancing to state with Gavin Metz and Jack Evans as a freshman
Other sports: Hockey
Grade-point average: 4.0
Favorite class: Aviation
Favorite food: The Barn’s Maid-Rite
Favorite movie: “Miracle”
Favorite TV show: “All American”
Favorite website or app: Iwanamaker golf app
Favorite restaurant: Bar Harbor
Future plans: Study Aviation at University of North Dakota, undecided on golf
Favorite athlete: Phil Mickelson
Parents: Steve and Kari Stoxen