When the wind and the rains subsided Robert Bell stood alone atop the leaderboard of the Class 2A state boys' golf tournament.
The Pierz senior battled 50 mph wind gusts and a four-shot deficit to shoot a 2-over-par 74 Friday in the final round at Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan.
While he wouldn't call it his best round, it did catapult last year's runner-up past first-round leader Andrew Oakes. Bell topped the field by three strokes as he carded the best final-round score. Only four other golfers cracked 80.
"I have never played in anything like this," said Bell. "In our first tournament of the season at Albion Ridges we probably had 35 to 40 mph winds and I shot 42. That's one the easier courses we play during the year. Today it seemed like I was relentless and just had this will to get up and down when I had to."
Highlights: Robert Bell won the Class 2A state champion after shooting a second round 74
The key for Bell was making putts and adjustments on the course. He opened with an even-par 36 on the front and backed it up with a 38 on the back nine for a two-day 151.
"I kept the same game plan because 11 of the holes are in the woods and unless you hit the ball above the trees the wind wasn't effecting it," said Bell. "I would club down from say an 8- to a 7-iron to keep the ball under the trees. I even hit driver off the fairway four times to keep the ball low. I have enough confidence to do that because I started practicing the shot early in my junior year and late in my sophomore year. It paid off. It was almost like an extra club in my bag."
Bell finished his first round early Friday morning with a five-over-par 77. That placed him in a tie for fifth and four shots behind Oakes.
He shot nines of 38-39.
"I was in the last group of individuals for the final round playing with the two guys who shot first-round 75s and another guy that shot 77 and I knew I had beaten all of them," said Bell. "I figured I had second place wrapped up because Oakes was still out there and I didn't know what he shot. A friend told me he shot 42 on the front nine and would need to shoot even par on the back just to tie me. Playing in those conditions that would have been a great score."
Bell said he played out of his mind. That he was in a zone.
It was a relentless pursuit of the state title that started when he first cracked the varsity lineup as an eighth grader.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," said Bell. "Going into the state tournament it's every kids goal to win state and it's tough enough just to get through sections and make it here.
"Going in I knew I was one of the favorites, but you still have to go out and do it. Me being a senior and all, it's just great. I wouldn't give up."
Nick Forsberg showed his state tournament appearance was no fluke. The eighth grader carded a second-round 83 for a two-round 164. That placed the Staples-Motley Cardinal into a tie for 31st with three other players.
Forsberg was 31st after his first-round 81.
His four nine hole scores were 42-39 during the first round and 41-42 in the second round.
Pequot's Drake Beyer was two shots behind Bell entering the second round. The Patriot junior had to finish 11 holes early Friday morning and finished with a 79 with nines of 43-36.
The wheels came off in the second round as Beyer shot 45-54 for a 99 and a two-day 178. He tied for 74th.
"It was a long day," said Beyer. "I played good for the first 18 and shot 36 on the second nine which was all Friday morning. But the wind was a constant 30 mph all day and I just lost everything out there. It was a good experience and it was good to be down there for the first time.
"I'm going to hold my head up high and prepare to go down again next year and get a victory."
Team scores: 1t-Orono 639, 1t-Detroit Lakes 639, 3-Benilde-St. Margaret's 645, 4-Hermantown 648, 5-St. Cloud Cathedral 650, 6-Marshall 662, 7-Red Wing 665, 8-Waseca 682
Individual medalist: Robert Bell (Pierz) 77-74 - 151
Pequot Lakes results: 74t-Drake Beyer 79-99 - 178
Staples-Motley results: 31t-Nick Forsberg 81-83 - 164
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
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