The field is loaded with returning state experience, but the early talk surrounding the Class 2A state boys' golf tournament is the site.
The Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan will host the Class 2A state tournament and what should be a crowded battle for the individual championship. Six of last year's top 10 finishers are back, including the defending champion Casey Hill and runner-up Robert Bell of Pierz.
Bell played the course for the first time Saturday and liked what he saw.
Pierz's Robert Bell finished 2nd last year.
"The greens fit me perfect," said Bell. "They are soft, but they roll medium to fast, which I like. The course, seven of the holes are links style and 11 are in the woods. You can't use driver on those holes in the woods so it forces you to use every shot in the bag, which is something I like."
Bell will begin his quest for gold at 1:01 p.m. Thursday on hole No. 1 with Joe St. Mane of Holy Angels, Ben Berquist of Detroit Lakes and Alex Kolquist of Hermantown.
Berquist finished the regular season as the top-rated 2A golfer with a scoring average of 70.9. Bell was No. 2 with a 72.0 scoring average. Bell was ranked No. 1 for most of the season
"I would rather play with the No. 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-rated players in the state," said Bell. "If I beat those people then my chances of winning state are pretty good.
"But I looked at all the pairings and I counted at least 20 players who could possibly win state without a doubt in my mind. It's going to be tough. A lot of people are returning."
The Pierz senior shot rounds of 69-76 to win his second straight section title. He also repeated as Central Minnesota Conference champion.
PL's Drake Beyer in 1st state meet.
In last year's Class 1A state tournament at Izatys Golf and Yacht Club in Onamia, Bell shot rounds of 79-75 for a 154, three shots behind Hill.
"Last year I was a little hesitant," said Bell. "I was nervous on the first two holes and I might still have those this year, I don't know. My confidence level is going to be way higher than last year, though. I know I can play with the best competition in the state."
Hill will be in the same foursome as Drake Beyer of Pequot Lakes. Also in that group that tees off one group ahead of Bell are Devin Weberg of Walker-Hackensack-Akeley and Brett Draxler of Benilde-St. Margaret's.
"I've played with Hill before and he's a good player, but I'm not going to be worried about him," said Beyer. "I'm just going to go out and play my own game.
"I'm going to be as aggressive as I can. I want to win obviously so I want to post a low number and attack the pins and hopefully the birdie putts will fall."
S-M's Nick Forsberg in 1st state meet.
Beyer is making his first state appearance after finishing second behind Bell in last week's section meet on a course similar to the state venue.
"I like the course," said Beyer. "It plays a lot like the Territory with half of the holes playing like links and the other half in the woods. The greens are pretty true. It doesn't play too long. About five holes you play from the black (back tees). Most of them are reachable in two if you really wanted to try."
Staples-Motley's Nick Forsberg will tee off at 12:43 with Josh Herzog of Detroit Lakes, Alex Pederson of United South Central and Sam Peterson of Benson. Like Forsberg, Peterson is also an eighth-grader.
Class 2A state boys' golf
Who: Pierz's Robert Bell, Pequot Lakes' Drake Beyer, Staples-Motley's Nick Forsberg
Where: Ridges at Sand Creek, Jordan
When: Thursday and Friday
Forsberg secured the fifth and final individual spot in the Section 6-2A meet with a birdie on the third playoff hole. He has two individual invite titles to his credit this season.
"I've just been practicing and keeping my game straight and keeping it going," said Forsberg.
He said he's looking for pars with the hope of sprinkling in a birdie now and then.
"I'm feeling pretty good," said Forsberg. "It's my first time, but after the first couple of holes my confidence should get up there."
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch. com or 855-5856.
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