BREEZY POINT -- The best thing about high school golf is that it is an individual sport and a team sport.
The Brainerd Warriors boys' golf team was without captain Tim Day and head coach Tom Younghans but found a way to win the first-ever Ranger-Patriot Invitational with a score of 327 at Deacon's Lodge on Tuesday.
Brainerd got just what it needed from junior John Larson. Last week at the Brainerd Co-ed Classic at Madden's, Larson was medalist even though he was on the junior varsity team. Tuesday it was his 85 that solidified the win.
"I've been trying to just play consistently and stay away from stupid shots," said Larson, who last week shot a 77 to move up to the varsity squad. "My short game has really improved. I've been practicing my chipping and putting a lot.
"This is really weird being on the varsity after being on the junior varsity last week. This is really important to me because I'm looking toward college and playing in college."
Justin Heitkamp led the Warriors with a 7-over-par 79, followed by Jim Bender's 80 and Ben House's 81. Erick Holland was the fifth golfer and shot an 88. But it was Larson's score that sealed the win.
The Warriors narrowly passed Pine River-Backus which was led by third-place finisher Micah Johnson's 79.
The Tigers' Justin Kelley and Logan Sasse each shot 80s, Gary Anderson and Dustin Hellen shot 94s to put PR-B in second place.
The course played longer Tuesday as golfers were teeing off one tee box farther than their usual white tees.
"This was a tough course today," Larson said. "The greens were huge. I just couldn't hit them right. I didn't hit that many greens in regulation.
"Teeing off I just played my 5 wood safe because I knew it was going to be in the fairway every time.
"That's one of the most important things because if you go out of bounds, then you have a penalty stroke and things like that. You have to drop a ball and it just saves a lot of strokes."
The longer drives didn't seem to bother the Warriors as they shot only slightly higher than their 322 at the Classic last Wednesday. Larson believes there is still room for improvement.
"We have to all have a good team effort," said Larson. "We haven't been playing that good as a team so far. It's coming along I think.
"I need to work on my long irons personally. I just can't hit them consistently."
Larson will get a chance to work on his irons as the Warriors hosted the Brainerd Invitational at the Pines at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa today.
Team scores -- Brainerd 327, Pine River-Backus 332, Shattuck-St. Mary's 335, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley 338, Crosby-Ironton 345, Staples-Motley 345, Pequot Lakes 351, Park Rapids 351,Wadena-Deer Creek 352
Brainerd -- Justin Heitkamp 79, Jim Bender 80, Ben House 81, John Larson 85, Erick Holland 88
Crosby-Ironton -- Dan Ogard 81, Ricky Aulie 83, Mikael Christenson 88, Aaron Odegaard 93, Mike Simmonds 102
Pequot Lakes -- John Scearcy 83, Andrew Toftness 85, Jeremy Wiczek 91, Jamie Arvig 92, Josh Dale 93
Pine River-Backus -- Micah Johnson 78, Justin Kelley 80, Logan Sasse 80, Gary Anderson 94, Dustin Hellen 94
Staples-Motley -- Josh Grossman 85, Pat Helling 86, Bryan Kavanaugh 86, Dustin Hjelmeland 88, Nick Dahl 90
Wadena-Deer Creek -- Mike Grieme 85, Josh Schumacher 89, Aaron Johnson 88, Charley Speed 90, Jason Merickel 92
Next meet -- Brainerd Invitational today at the Pines at Grand View Lodge 8 a.m.
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