All three Brainerd Warrior qualifiers for the state tournament are first-time participants when the 2-day event opens Tuesday at Bunker Hills Golf Course.
The similarities pretty much end there for Michael Foley, Tommy Olson and Jenny Muesing. Foley and Olson both qualified in their final high school seasons. Muesing, a sophomore, is hopeful this is the first of potentially three state appearances.
Foley was the Central Lakes Conference season medalist and finished fifth in Section 8-3A. He moved back to Brainerd from South Carolina in time to be Brainerd’s top player and played virtually par gold every round.
“He was everything for our team, a good leader, a good scorer,” Warrior boys coach Brian Wallace said. “Winning the conference is just one more feather in his cap of what he was able to accomplish this year.”
Olson qualified for state by virtue of winning the first playoff hole at the section tournament.
“It’s such a cool thing to see him culminate his high school career in all his sports by qualifying for the state tournament,” Wallace said. “He has such a good, happy-go-lucky personality. It will be a lot of fun watching him work his way through these two days.”
Wallace said qualifying for state was the payoff for a pair of hard-workers.
“Both of them have tried for years to qualify for this tournament,” he said. “It’s so cool they finally get to do this as individuals.
“Their hard work has paid off. That’s a direct reflection of the time and effort they have put into their game the last many years.
“To qualify for this tournament is an extraordinary thing. It’s not easy. That says a lot for their drive, their determination. It’s cool to see they finally got here.”
Olson was satisfied with his practice round Monday at Bunker Hills.
“I hit it pretty good,” he said. “I got a lot of practice in. I got a feel for the greens, the bunkers. The course is in great shape. The fairways are pretty lush. The greens were really good, smooth, not super fast, but they’re still pretty quick.
“Other than that, it’s playing a little longer than most courses we usually play. It’s a pretty good test.”
Foley said he hit the ball “pretty well” in the practice round and putted well.
“It’s a little tricky to read the greens here because they’re fairly flat,” he said. “They had some minor breaks to them, so that’s going to be tricky, but the course is in very good shape. The greens are rolling fairly quick.
“I like the golf course a lot. The east side is definitely harder than the west, but think it’s set up well for me.”
Foley’s goal is top 10. An 11th-place finish in his first tournament of the season was his highest showing of the year.
“I only finished out of the top 10 in one tournament this year,” he said. “I’m about .500 in getting top fives. I’d like to finish in the top 10.”
Warrior girls coach Brian Stark expects Muesing, the conference girls medalist and fifth-place finisher in the section, to play a competitive state tournament.
“After watching her today in a practice round this course fits her game really well,” Stark said. “She was confident during her practice round.
“I told her she worked hard to get here. I told her to enjoy the whole experience, just do her best, stay focused. She has worked hard on that part of her game. That mental part was really solid for us. She was our No. 1 player all year long.
“She’s able to stay much more focused, keep it together if she has a bad hole or a bad shot. That’s really the reason why she’s here this week.”
Muesing was happy with Monday’s practice round and liked the course’s setup.
“It’s a little bit longer,” she said. “It’s pretty open. It’s my first time ever playing here.
“The course is in really good shape. It’s always nice to have a visually appealing course. It’s little bit longer, and wider, so you could kind of hit harder shots.”
Mike Bialka, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.