PREVIEW: Boys golf aims for top conference finish

Photo courtesy of TLC Digital Images
Photo courtesy of TLC Digital Images

The Forest Lake boys golf team is always one of the Suburban East Conference’s best: In the previous 12 years of head coach John Buck’s tenure, the Rangers have never finished lower than fourth in the league and have won the championship five times.

“We’re always able to be in the running for the conference and sectional titles,” Buck said. “Our conference is always tough.”

2016 was something of a down year for the team, placing fourth in the SEC and third in the section. For the first time since Buck took charge of the team, no Ranger advanced to the state tournament.

As they look to reverse their fortunes in 2017, the Rangers will rely on three seniors for leadership. Derek Odland and Jared Hunt played on the sectional roster last year. Nick Mogren was the best player on the JV team a year ago and will look to move into the varsity lineup this year.

The JV team won their version of the SEC, boding well for the team’s depth this season and promising continued strength in the years to come.

Buck cited three juniors as being among the likely varsity contributors as well: Will Ihlenfeldt, Ben Muntifering and Quinn Massey.

“After that we have about seven guys fighting for varsity spots, and we have good depth, so it should be competitive,” Buck said.

Stillwater is the prohibitive favorite to win the SEC title, and White Bear Lake and Mounds View should also be strong. Forest Lake will avoid the rest of the SEC once they move on to the sectional tournament – Elk River, Andover and Anoka should be the Rangers’ top competition when the 7AAAA schools battle at the Grand National in Hinckley on June 1 and 3.

“We want to keep improving from day one, always be focused on getting better every day,” Buck said.

Other big tournaments include traveling trips to Detroit Lakes and Grand Rapids, where the Rangers will see some of their sectional foes.

In their first competition of the season, in Hudson, Wisconsin, on April 10, the Rangers placed fifth out of 20 teams. Hunt had the team’s best score (82).

The Rangers’ next outing is an invitational at Dellwood Hills Golf Club near White Bear Lake on April 24.