Molly Hoppe was the No. 1 golfer for the Brainerd Warriors girls' golf team virtually all season and appeared to have a shot to qualify for state.
Although only a freshman, Hoppe is already a two-time All-Central Lakes Conference player and the team's two-time most valuable player. Her scoring average in all meets this season was 85.8, almost three strokes lower than her average last year. She also ranked fourth in conference meets with an 83.14.
Had Hoppe not come down with an illness she may have extended her season another week. She battled strep throat but gutted out 36 holes in the Section 8-2A tournament Monday and Tuesday. She finished ninth with 176 strokes (88 both days) at Thumper Pond Golf Course in Ottertail, missing a trip to state by four shots.
"On Monday I asked her how she felt, with 10 being the best," Warriors coach Brian Stark said, "and she said maybe a five. Thumper Pond has always been in her head. She never breaks 90 there. Monday was horribly windy and that course is tough. It's in the trees but when you get the ball in the air above the trees, they're not very tall and the wind takes it. All the scores were high Monday.
"It was the same Tuesday. She was still in pretty tough shape. She was tired. I give her a lot of credit. She was not feeling well and still shot 88 two days in a row, four shots from going to state, three shots from being in a playoff for state. She kept her head together."
Hoppe thought she played well enough both days to shoot a better score.
"It was windy so it was kind of tough," she said of her first day.
"My short game the second day struggled," Hoppe added. "I missed a lot of little putts and had a lot of bad chips."
Stark said Hoppe possesses the mental makeup to be a successful golfer.
"She doesn't show a lot of emotion," he said. "Usually, she's really composed. Those characteristics make her a top golfer and will help her be competitive into the future.
"She's got three years left. She plays a lot of summer golf. She's in the PGA tour around the state. She definitely has the heart and drive to continue to be successful."
Hoppe plans to play in several events on the Minnesota Junior Golf Association Players Tour as well as other tournaments this summer. She knows what she has to work on to reach the state tournament.
"One thing for sure I need to get is a better short game," she said. "That was a big problem in a lot of meets, then consistently hitting the ball solidly."
Hoppe also will hit the practice range in her effort to become the first Brainerd girl to qualify for state since Lisa Renneke in 2000.
"I'm going to practice a lot this summer, work on my game a lot and hopefully next year it will happen," she said.
Other notable efforts:
Curt Carlson, boys' golf, was section runner-up and qualified for state.
Robyn Wernberg, girls' track, won the discus in the subsection meet with a school-record toss of 134-2 1/2.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com and at 855-5861.
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