By Paul Downer
By Paul Downer
One of the best golf seasons in program history came to an end for the Central Raiders after the Section 5AA meet at Pebble Creek Country Club in Becker on May 31 and June 4.
No individuals from Central advanced to the state tournament, but there were plenty of notable performances.
Overall, the Central boys finished seventh out of 15 teams, while the girls took 15th out of 15 teams. Providence Academy finished first in both the boys’ and girls’ fields, with Litchfield taking second.
The Central boys made school history yet again by advancing three individuals to the second day of competition. Connor Sullivan (80), Reggie Eng (84) and Allen VanDien (84) all qualified, while Brady Sullivan (85) missed the cut by just one stroke and Tom Messner (86) fell short by only two strokes. Tony Hegseth (91) also competed.
"We played OK, maybe a little worse than our ‘average,’ but we needed to shoot a little better than our average that day," said Central head coach Rick Willhite. "The boys got off to a rough start on the front nine, but settled down on the back nine."
The Central girls did not advance any individuals to the second day, though Haley Sullivan (102) missed the cut by just one stroke. Kayla Engelstad (114), Mariah Lueck (121), Kylea Roeglin (128), Nicole Johnson (130) and Katie Byerly (did not score) also competed for the Raiders.
"I was extremely proud of the effort put forth by the five girls who chose to play at the section meet," said Willhite. "They stayed focused, played to their abilities, and came off the course all smiles. You need to remember we sent three girls who were in their first year of organized golf, four girls who were new to the varsity level, and three underclassmen (two sophomores and one 8th grader). They put themselves out there for the school and the community. I was very pleased with their attitudes and results."
VanDien led the remaining Central boys on the second day with a score of 83, while Connor Sullivan shot an 84 and Eng an 85.
Those results led to two-day totals of 164 for Connor Sullivan, 167 for VanDien and 169 for Eng. The cutoff to make the state tournament for individuals was 157.
"We put up decent numbers, but in our section you have shoot a low number. Our scores were a shade above our qualifying scores, but we needed to improve on those," said Willhite. "Our guys kept battling, as the back nine scores showed both days. Advancing three boys to the section finals was a first for our program, and we nearly sent five. We are proud of our accomplishments at sections."
While no individuals advanced to state, the season was an unqualified success for the Central boys, who captured the school’s first Minnesota River Conference golf title after a season long seesaw battle with Jordan and claimed four of the eight all-conference positions.
VanDien earned his third all-conference selection, Connor Sullivan his second, and Eng and Messner earned all-conference honors for the first time. Brady Sullivan was all-conference honorable mention.
The girls’ team finished fifth in the conference, with Haley Sullivan earning all-conference honors and Engelstad taking all-conference honorable mention.
"What a year! The boys finished first or second in every event they entered except one prior to the section meet," said Willhite. "The girls built a foundation on which to build next year. We have a thriving JV program filled with players excited about golf. If we work hard this summer, we could see continued successes next season."