One of the area's top boys' golf teams and two of the top individuals are hoping Saturday's tournament at Izatys Golf and Yacht Club is a preview of the postseason.
The Staples-Motley Cardinals, Crosby-Ironton Rangers and Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines will compete in the Onamia Invitational on Izatys Black Brook Course. The resort course is also the site of the Class 1A state tournament.
Playing at Izatys in June is senior Ricky Aulie's final goal. The C-I Ranger missed state by one stroke last year. He lost in a sudden-death playoff at the Section 7 meet.
State is also where W-DC's Michael Grieme is hoping to finish his junior season.
The third-year varsity player opened the season shooting a 41 at the Mid-Minnesota Conference meet at Wadena. He helped the Wolverines finish second behind S-M.
The Cardinals, last year's Section 6 runners-up, could use Saturday's tournament as a practice round for state.
S-M opened the season with an 18-stroke victory at the Mid-Minnesota Conference meet at Wadena April 14. The Cardinals added a two-stroke victory over Detroit Lakes at the DL invitational at Wildflower Golf Course.
"I wish we could have had Saturday's event (Pillager Invitational at Cragun's) to see where we are compared to other teams," said S-M coach Glen Hasselberg. "The win on Tuesday (at DL) was huge because there were a lot of good teams there. Some of those teams we now know we can play with them. Whether we do every time is yet to be seen."
Cory Wilson led all golfers, shooting a 74 at DL. Teammate Andrew Murray was one stroke back for second place.
Isaac Landecker was medalist at the conference meet, shooting a 1-over par 37.
Hasselberg said nine players could make up his six-man roster during any tournament. One senior, four juniors, one sophomore and a foreign exchange student have competed so far in S-M's two tournaments.
"Our ideal situation is we would get six or seven who could be medalist in any event," said Hasselberg. "With that depth it takes a lot of pressure off the individuals who think they need to go low every time."
With defending Section 6 champion Perham returning five of six golfers, and Hawley, which S-M beat in a subsection playoff returning four, the Cardinals aren't assured of making the state tournament.
That's why Hasselberg believes Saturday's tournament is like any other during the regular season.
That's the way Ricky Aulie and his coach see it as well.
"We will use this as a practice round, but more importantly, it is a tournament round," said C-I coach Rich Aulie, Ricky's father. "We've had three cancellations already this spring, so hopefully it will be a round of tournament golf we can get in this time.
"For anyone lucky enough to qualify for the state tournament, it gives them a chance to see the course under tournament conditions."
Ricky Aulie opened the season shooting a 3-over-par 75 at the Shattuck St. Mary's meet April 12. In his first Mid-Minnesota Conference meet, he shot a first-place score of 41 at Breezy Point Resort.
"The key for Ricky and other state tournament hopefuls is to realize there are a lot of variables they have no control over, like weather, other golfers and golf course conditions," said Rich Aulie. "They need to concentrate instead on the things they have control over, like their swing, a positive mental attitude, proper diet and rest.
"For a one-day tournament they have to prepare themselves to do their best and not worry about the other variables."
The last area boy to advance to state was Logan Sasse of Pine River-Backus two years ago. Sasse is again a strong contender to advance from Section 7 with Aulie.
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