Wednesday wasn’t the first time McKenzie Neisen shed tears on the 18th green at Bunker Hills in the state golf tournament. But these felt so much different for the New Prague junior.
Heartbroken the last two years after first-round low scores failed to yield championship results, Neisen found herself with a 15-foot putt to tie for the girls’ Class 3A championship.
She gave it a solid stroke — more than enough power — and watched it track toward the hole. The ball banked off the back of the cup, popped up and fell in to seal a 4-under-par 33 on the back nine and tie Wayzata’s Sarah Burnham for the title.
The pair shot two-day totals of 6-under-par 140. The score broke the big school record set last year by Cretin-Derham Hall junior Celia Kuenster by a stroke. Kuenster finished alone in third, four shots back.
When Neisen’s scorecard had been signed she found her teammates. The weight of the past two years plus the emotions of losing Trojans’ coach Matt Shetka to a heart attack in December all came out at once in deep, bittersweet sobs.
“I knew on 16 that I needed a 33 on the back nine,” Neisen said. “That was a fun way to do it. I was a little nervous but I just felt like I knew it. I don’t know how to explain it; I just knew that the putt was kind of meant to be this year. I had a few moments today where I thought I” had someone watching over me.
Burnham, who also shot 33 on the back nine Wednesday, finished her round more than an hour before Neisen’s dramatic putt and thought when it plopped in she had slipped to second.
“It was a tough wait,” said Burnham, who rebounded nicely after starting her day with consecutive bogeys. “I was surprised but it’s cool to be a co-champion with her.”
Paced by a 74 on Wednesday from junior Emily Romanow, Edina won the girls’ 3A team championship by 11 shots with a two-day total of 644. That’s the lowest big school girls’ team score since the MSHSL expanded golf to three classes in 2008.
Worth the wait
Zach Peters’ time, and that of four others on the six-person Eden Prairie boys’ golf team, finally came this spring after watching senior-laden groups rule the past two years.
The junior made the most of the opportunity. Peters sank a delicate 10-foot putt for par on the 18th hole, Eden Prairie’s final shot of the day. It sealed a two-day team total of 609, one better than Day 1 leader Wayzata for the team championship.
When the final scores were posted in front of a packed scorer’s hut, a chorus of high-pitched yelps emerged from Eden Prairie’s party and Peters received a round of high-fives and fist-bumps.
“The round was really a fight the whole entire time,” said Peters, who finished in a five-way tie for second place in the individual competition. “I really tried not to worry about what [the last putt] could be. But I walked over to [Forest Lake’s Luke Resler] and told him this was a Hollywood movie putt. Down to the wire.”
Seal savors the moment
As if a long morning rain delay wasn’t enough, Chanhassen’s Cody Seal completed his final round some 90 minutes before play wrapped for the day.
The cool, stiff breeze that greeted his group on the 18th hole calmed as he sat tight playing cards before the final results were posted.
Under a warm sun he happily donned his gold medal as the big school individual champ.
Seal, a senior, shot a two-day total of 1-under-par 143 at Bunker Hills to win by three. He was the only player to finish in red numbers.
“I knew if I could get to par or better I could be in the thick of things,” said Seal, who rolled in a 20-foot putt for par on his 17th hole. “And it happened.”