Can the Prior Lake boys golf team make a title run in its last season in Section 2AAA?
The Lakers have 14 returning players, including junior Jackson Anderson who ended up 64th in the Class 3A state tournament last season with rounds of 83 and 80 at Bunker Hills Golf Club in Coon Rapids.
Anderson was one of two Lakers at state last spring — the other was then-senior Seth Hennessy. That ended the program’s decade-long state drought.
Before that, the last time the Prior Lake boys had a golfer at state was in 2012.
Sophomore Sean Leutner also returns for the Lakers. He and Anderson both made the All-South Suburban Conference team last season. Juniors Finn Pauna and TJ Pinkowski are also expected to contribute.
“We have a strong returning junior class with solid freshmen who made the team last year as eighth graders,” Prior Lake boys coach Brad Bulver said. “We have high expectations amongst us all to contend for one last run in Section 2AAA, but it will be easier said than done.
Next spring, Prior Lake will be in Section 6AAA with the likes of perennial power Edina, following section realignment by the Minnesota State High School League back on April 4.
Section 2AAA is one of the toughest in the state with likes of Chanhassen, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Chaska and Orono in the field. Chanhassen is the defending team champion.
The Lakers were third in the team standings last spring. The last time Prior Lake won the section team title was in 2010 when it finished seventh at state.
The cold spring weather has already made it tough for all teams across the state to get on the links, so it’s been hard for Bulver to see who will fill out the varsity spots.
“We have a great group of committed golfers who put in a lot of time and effort in the offseason to get better,” he said. “We had 40 kids try out. This is not an easy team to make due to the popularity of the game and also kids putting in countless hours to improve.
“We strongly encourage individuals to keep pursuing golf improvement by playing in competitive tournaments and committing as much time as possible to golf,” Bulver added. “We’ll be squished again into a (shorter) season. Summer golf is where the kids really improve and are able to compete as individuals to prep for high school and maybe college golf.”
Meanwhile, the Prior Lake girls program has a new coach in Brian Anderson. He moves up the top spot after coaching the junior varsity the last few years. He takes over for Corey Carney who stepped down as coach last summer.
The Laker girls have not had a state golfer since 2013. The team finished 11th in the Section 2AAA tourney last spring.
Seniors Katelyn Rueger and Courtney Williams and eighth-grader Ryah Cotton are back for the girls team. Sophomores Amanda McRoberts and Paige Hover, ninth-grader Malin Ray and eighth-grader Addi Heinicke also figure into the mix.
“With the core of our team returning this year, and with the new young faces at the varsity level, we have high hopes to be competitive in the conference this year and for years to come,” Anderson said. “Our goal for this season is to adopt a growth mindset and get better every day.
“Katelyn and Courtney are great senior leaders who model what this should look like for our younger players,” Anderson added. “As the season progresses and some of our new faces get comfortable playing at this level and putting in the work, I think we will have a competitive team in both the conference and the section.”
The 36-hole Section 2AAA tourney for both Prior Lake teams will be May 30-31 at the Ridges of Sand Creek Golf Course in Jordan.
The state tournament is set for June 13-14 at Bunker Hills. Edina is the defending boys champion, while Alexandria Area won the girls crown last year.