Senior Blake Kahlbaugh of Mahnomen/Waubun entered his final round of high school golf Wednesday with a chance to win a state championship, but he would need his short game to come through in a big way.
Luckily, it was the strongest part of his game over the final 18 holes at Pebble Creek Golf Course in Becker. Kahlbaugh shot a 2-under-par 70 to finish with a combined score of 138, 11 shots ahead of his closest competitors.
"I've never had this happen so I'm glad it happened to me now," Kahlbaugh said.
Mahnomen/Waubun, finished in second place behind state champions Mounds Park Academy, to whom Kahlbaugh gave much credit.
"Mounds Park Academy is a great team, very strong," he said, before adding, "I'm proud of our team."
In the girls' tournament, after Fillmore Central won the Class 1A team title, coaches smiled, parents gushed, celebratory pictures were taken. It was the first team state championship in school history.
But for junior Kiera Smith of Heritage Christian Academy, who defended her individual state championship title, the fanfare didn't seem so overwhelming. She shot a 76 Wednesday for a two-round total of 156, one shot ahead of sophomore Sophie Gray of Legacy Christian Academy.
"I've been here before but it was a totally different experience," she said. "There's people following you instead of trying to beat somebody else."
For Smith, the biggest difference was focusing on herself.
"Even if I shot worse than last year, I have to be satisfied with my round," she said.