South boys back at tourney for 4th time in five years

Lakeville South boys golf coach Kirk Reiners said he wasn’t worried when the Cougars didn’t win the South Suburban Conference, or even finish second.

Turns out, it was time for the rest of the teams in South’s section to worry.

The Cougars lifted their game late in the regular season and by the time of the Class 3A, Section 1 tournament were ready to win. Their nine stroke victory over second-place Lakeville North sends them to the state team tournament for the fourth time in five years.

“Would we have liked to win the conference? Sure, but our goal is always Bunker Hills (the state tournament course in Coon Rapids),” Reiners said. “We’re comfortable there.”

Lakeville South tees off in the first round of the Class 3A tournament Tuesday morning. The Cougars will have one player in each of the first six groups off the 10th tee, starting at 7:30 a.m. The second round of the 36-hole tournament is Wednesday, also starting at 7:30 a.m.

Class 3A girls competition is Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, starting at noon each day. Section 1 champion Lakeville North is in the field.

The Class 3A boys tournament looks to be highly competitive – or, as Reiners called it, “a real knock-down, drag-out.” Seven of the eight team qualifiers from 2018 won their way back this year. The only “new” team is Lakeville South, which went to state three years in a row from 2015-17 before Northfield broke the Cougars’ streak last year. Still, four South players went to state individually last year.

“Our goal is to be on the podium” for a top-three finish, said Reiners, whose team was state runner-up in 2016. “There are a lot of good teams in the tournament this year and we respect them, but since I’ve been coach our goal has been to compete with the best teams in the state.”

Lakeville South won the Minnewaska Invitational in May, then took the last of five South Suburban Conference tournaments (Eastview won the overall SSC championship with Lakeville North second).

The Cougars were on a uptick going into the Section 1 tournament May 28-29 at The Jewel in Lake City. They took a nine-stroke lead in the first round and maintained it the second day.

Reiners said he wasn’t surprised Lakeville teams finished first and second in the section.

“Since the section tournament went to The Jewel, historically the top two teams have been North and South,” he said. “That course doesn’t let you get away with many bad shots. We can handle that kind of course. We take golf pretty seriously in Lakeville.”

South juniors Gavin Cronkhite and Bennett Thomas finished third and fourth individually. Cronkhite had rounds of 72 and 76 for a 148 total, 6 over par. Thomas shot 75-74–149.

John Langlois was seventh with 77-76–153 and Kaleb Johnson tied for eighth with 77-78–155. Timothy Berger was 15th and George Brekke tied for 26th.

Lakeville North’s Joey Thomas shot 72-72–144 and was section medalist by three strokes. He qualified for state individually. The Panthers’ Ben Wagenbach tied for 13th with 77-78–155 but fell short in a three-way playoff for one state tournament spot.

The Cougars’ best asset is their depth, Reiners said. They’re young, too; Johnson, who will play golf at Minnesota State Mankato, is the only senior in the state tournament lineup and one of only two seniors on the team. A large group of juniors – along with Langlois, who’s a sophomore – figures to make South a team to watch in 2020.

Lakeville South won the SSC junior varsity championship for the sixth year in a row, and Reiners said he could have assembled two teams of Cougars players and been competitive at just about any tournament in the state. Some players that were in the section lineup last year didn’t make it this year.

“I had players and parents tell me throughout the year they wouldn’t want my job of picking six players for our tournaments,” Reiners said.

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