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New Prague’s McKenzie Neisen watched her birdie putt roll in on No. 7 on the seventh hole at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids. She shot a 4-under 69 to take a three-shot lead in the Class 3A girls’ tournament.

Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

Eagle helps Neisen claim first-day lead

  • Article by: BRIAN STENSAAS
  • Star Tribune
  • June 13, 2012 - 12:13 AM

The official scoreboard worker at Bunker Hills retrieved McKenzie Neisen's scorecard, took two steps toward the cedar structure, then retreated.

He forgot his red Sharpie, the first time all day he needed it.

Neisen, a sophomore from New Prague, shot a 4-under-par 69 in the opening round of the Class 3A girls' golf tournament Tuesday in Coon Rapids. Cretin-Derham Hall's Celia Kuenster, also a sophomore, was the only other girls' player in red numbers and trails Neisen by three shots heading into Wednesday's final round.

Neither player tore it up early.

Neisen's round began with a three-putt bogey on the first hole, but she rebounded for birdies on Nos. 4, 6 and 7.

"I had struggled with my ball-striking a couple of days ago and at first I was like, 'Oh, no. Here we go,'" Neisen said. "But I found my momentum and my confidence. Everything went well. It was a fun day."

Neisen took another bogey on No. 13, then took out her aggression one hole later.

After she striped her drive, Neisen pulled her 5-iron and stuck the ball inside 10 feet. She made the putt for an eagle 3.

"A good little bit of revenge," she said.

Likewise, Kuenster took a little time to get going. Last year's co-champion with Stillwater's Cassie Deeg -- who shot 75 on Tuesday and is in third -- was 4 over after seven holes.

A few deep breaths later, she crushed a drive down the middle of the eighth fairway she estimates came to rest 270 yards away, and later made a 20-footer for birdie.

"It was interesting there for a while," Kuenster said. "I don't think I made a good shot through seven holes -- I even skulled a chip -- and then kind of got a jump-start. I just had to stay patient and knew the birdies would come."

Neisen's play helped New Prague to a 333 team score, good for a four-shot lead over 2011 Class 2A champion Red Wing, which bumped up in class.

3A boys: Welle rallies

In an unlucky twist of fate, Ben Welle's golf ball careened off a sand trap rake and deep into the nearby woods on the par-5 11th hole.

The Moorhead senior wound up taking a double bogey on the hole to fall back to even par, but didn't let the bad break deter his round.

Welle completed his back nine in 2 under to finish with a 70 and trail Chaska's Jon DuToit by one in the Class 3A boys' golf tournament. Corey Muenzhuber of Rogers is two shots back in third.

Welle's round wasn't all tough luck. He also drained a 40-foot putt for birdie on the par-3 seventh hole.

"Sparked my round," Welle said. "You step up to every putt after that one and you remember it. It's a total confidence booster."

Defending champion Max Kelly of Forest Lake double-bogeyed his first hole and finished at 3-over-par 75 with, by one unofficial count, eight tap-in pars.

"Kind of a struggle out there," he said. "I pretty much burned all the edges. It's frustrating, but knowing I can putt better is kind of motivation."

The Spuds shot a team total of 302, two better than Minnetonka and seven ahead of Chanhassen and Rogers.

Class 2A

Detroit Lakes eighth-grader Kate Smith shot a 2-under 70 at the Ridges at Sand Creek, good for a five-shot lead and helped the Lakers to a whopping 27-shot lead over Minnewaska in the girls' team race.

Kaylee Benson of Jackson County Central scored a hole-in-one on the 87-yard par-3 15th hole. She shot an 80 for the round, tied for eighth place.

Hours later, Detroit Lakes junior Karter Smith, Kate's sister, shot a blistering 5-under 67 to lead the boys' division by four shots and help the Laker to a three-shot lead over Staples-Motley.

Class 1A

Lewiston-Altura, last year's girls' champion, has a 13-shot lead over Lincoln HI in Ivanhoe. Among individuals, four players shot 10-over 82s at Pebble Creek in Becker and are tied for the lead.

It's a tight race in the boys' Class 1A field. United South Central leads the team competition by two shots over Legacy Christian Academy. Sophomore Cordell Webster of Martin County West shot a 1-under 71 and leads the individual tournament by two.

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