By Bruce Strand
Elk River Star News
When Morgan Rask approached the final green at Section 5AAA at Bunker Hlls on Thursday, his Rogers teammates who’d already finished were clustered nearby to watch him, looking excited.
“That’s a good sign. We must be in contention,” remarked coach Dan Bursheim, who was walking Rask’s final holes. He added with a chuckle, “If we weren’t, they’d probably be in the clubhouse pouting.”
The coach’s assumption was correct; the kids had been perusing the returns on the board and told him they were probably up by about ten. When Rask drained a birdie putt to close the books on Rogers’ day, they had a 305 that beat Maple Grove by six strokes.
Rogers picked up its fourth consecutive section crown and will return to Coon Rapids June 11-12 for the state tournament. This championship didn’t come without some consternation, though.
“The kids were battling a strong wind the first nine. We were in fifth place,” said Bursheim. “One guy got a double, another got a triple. It was just not happening. Then they made the turn and all of a sudden things changed. They were one-under, two-under, making their putts.”
Rask, a senior, shot 41-34-75 and Dylan Kline, a junior, shot 38-37-75, tying for third place, with senior Kyle Korva right behind with 41-35-76 in fourth place. Rocky Nelson, a junior, tied for 13th with 37-42-79.
Spring Lake Park junior Pete Sienko was medalist with 72.
Rogers currently has five recent graduates in college golf but they keep replenishing the ranks. Only Rask and Korva were on the state roster last year when the Royals placed fourth.
“This has been a real fun group to work with,” said Bursheim. “With kids like this, you don’t want to see the season end.”
Rask, playing his fifth section tournament, struggled to a 41 on the west, then cruised home with 34 on the east for a 75. He started the back side with drive within 50 feet, a chip within five and the putt for a birdie. He just missed three birdies after that and played two-under par.
“The putts started to drop. On the front side I couldn’t putt,” said Rask, who closed with a downhill putt from close to 20 feet. “On the back side I started hitting the ball a little better, too.” He was able to shrug off the 41: “I decided it’s done, let’s go hard on the last nine.”
Kline, a junior in his first sectional, had two solid rounds of 38-37-75. “I was getting up and down, I was sticking my wedges and my putting was great today,” beamed Kline, who made one 25-foot par putt, and chunked out of a bunker from 45 feet for another.
About Bunker Hills, he said, “This is my favorite course to play … I can’t wait to get back here for state.”
Korva, a senior, labored to a 41 on the west, then birdied his first three holes on the east — with two tap-in puts and a 20-footer — on the way to a 35 for a final 76. “I had some real good putts,” he smiled.
Nelson, a junior, was a couple strokes off his conference average with a 79, still an excellent fourth score. His putting wasn’t as good as his teammates but he stayed in the 70s with a chip-in on No. 7 and a drive to the green on No. 4.
The Rogers Royals and coaches Dan Bursheim (left) and Matt Johnson posed with yet another section championship plaque at Bunker Hills. (Photo by Bruce Strand)
Clayton Rask watches his final putt of the day which rolled in to complete a 34. (Photo by Bruce Strand)