Jeff and Lori Johnson, one-by-one, gave Jeff Rydland a celebratory hug. The Johnsons, parents of Lincoln and current senior Davis, have walked the Section 2AAA course every year since 2013.
Monday was the moment they've been waiting for. A moment Rydland, head coach of the Chaska boys golf team, also had been waiting for.
There were so many close misses.
Chaska shot 287, a team and section record in 2019, only to add 31 strokes on the second day. The 2018 team lost just once all season, at the section meet.
Yet this year, Chaska was able to put together its best two rounds of the season, 291 and 300, winning the team title for the first time since 2008 by nine strokes over Minnetonka.
"It feels awesome. This is something we were talking about at the beginning of the season. We didn't get off to the greatest start, but we kept working, got our swings down, and as soon as the championship meets came along, we started playing to our potential. And everyone contributed to this win" Chaska senior Jimmy Young said.
Chaska was confident in its No. 1, Davis Johnson, a state qualifier in 2019. And Johnson's brilliance was on display, birdieing seven of the last 15 holes for a four-under par score of 68 on June 2.
Johnson was two-under par on the back-nine, finishing with a score of 71, a two-day score of 139 to place second behind medalist Leo Gellert of Mankato West (68-68).
Chaska, though, needed others to step up.
That was Pritchard in the first round. A five-birdie round of 70.
That was Young, who had two rounds of 75, making par or better on 14 of 18 holes.
That was Josh Esterley, his scores of 78 and 76 used in the team score. That was Zach Seltun, rebounding with a second-day score of 78.
"I got off to a rough start last week and was able to battle back. Today I was just steady. I didn't do anything special. I made good putts, I made pars. We knew we had a good cushion coming into today and we knew we had to finish it out," Young said.
For Young, after living in Georgia the last two school years, returning to Chaska to finish out high school with friends, notably Johnson, was something important to him. He wanted to start what they started years ago on the golf course.
"This was the perfect way to come back to. Davis and I have known each other for as long as I can remember. So it's special," Young said. "We've been talking about this for a long time. It feels great."
"I've been playing golf with Jimmy and Davis for a long time. And I've been playing a lot of golf with Josh Esterley. It's great to get this done with these guys. They're all a great group of guys. I'm excited to play at state with them," Pritchard said.
Rydland called golf "a funny game." While this year's Hawks team on paper wasn't expected to qualify for the state tournament, Rydland said the potential was always there. It was about believing they could.
And that's exactly what the first round score of 291 did for Chaska. It showed them they could.
"Davis played really well. Jimmy played really well. I just think we all focused on ourselves, focused on getting our game going the right way. We didn't need to chase a low number. We just needed to play within ourselves today to win," Pritchard said.
HARD WORK PAYS OFF
Birdies on holes seven and eight all but sealed up a spot in the state tournament for Chaska junior Sammy Youngquist. When she sank the final putt on the ninth green June 7, the look on her face said it all.
Opposing players hugged in celebration. Then teammates. Then coach Pam Schmillen.
Then Youngquist met up with her mom, Lisa.
"I'm so proud of you. All the time, all the hard work, paid off," mom told daughter. Allergy season was in full effect off the ninth green. It was a special moment for all.
Youngquist, outside the state cut through 18 holes, tied for the sixth-best round on the second day, a 78, to earn the fifth and final spot to state.
Even-par through nine holes, bogey-triple bogey-bogey-bogey-bogey to start the front side had Youngquist hanging on to that state spot by just a stroke or two.
After just missing an eagle on hole No. 7, Youngquist made a long putt on the eighth green to turn things around. Her score of 160 was four strokes better than Maren Masters of Shakopee for seventh place.
Youngquist is the first Chaska girl qualifier since Jenny Butchert in 2012.
Chaska, the Metro West Conference champions, was third overall behind Section 2AAA champion Eden Prairie (659) and Minnetonka (676) with a two-day score of 695. The Hawks were 11 strokes better on Day Two on June 7 with a 342.
Nicole Reineke and Avery Nelson were 12th and 15th overall, scores of 171 and 177. Reineke shot an 84 over the first 18 holes. Both players finished the second round with 87.
Emma Thompson, the lone senior, dropped her score by 13 strokes with a 90 on June 7. Eighth grader Joey Koth played the course in scores of 97 and 98, while Ashlyn Schmieg posted a 100 in the second round.
The Class AAA State Meet is June 15-16 at Bunker Hills Golf Course for the Chaska boys and Youngquist.