Wednesday began with rain on the three golf courses that are being used for state tournaments this week. In the afternoon the sky cleared and it looked like nothing but sunshine for the rest of the day. And then storm clouds gathered for muster on the western horizon and attacked in force.
The Class 3A tournament, which began Tuesday at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids, was played to completion for the boys and the girls field. Rogers and Wayzata shared the 3A boys team title and Forest Lake’s Max Kelly was the individual champion. On the girls side, the team from Wayzata took home gold and the individual title was shared by Cretin-Derham Hall's Celia Kuenster and Stillwater's Cassie Diggs.
Meanwhile, the Class 2A tourney in Jordan and the 1A event in Becker began their scheduled two-day run Wednesday. I spent the day in Becker in my usual manner: working on stories that go beyond the normal everyday “game” stories. And boy did I land on two great stories. Some of my many tipsters around the state had pointed me in the right direction; in fact, more than one tipster had told me about each of these stories.
Let’s start with Windom senior Jessy Grove. For most of his senior year he was known as the kid with the concussions. He suffered the first one in the fourth game of the football season, returned for basketball and had concussion number two. Doctors said no more contact sports, so Jessy had to give up on playing baseball – his favorite sport – this spring.
He plays a lot of golf each summer, so that’s the team he went to. “I knew I didn’t want to end my high school career by sitting on the bench,” he told me. But he wasn’t even given clearance to play golf until well after the season had started.
Suffering from severe headaches, he missed 43 days of school after the second concussion. After seeing a series of doctors, he was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome. Jessy became a spokesperson for concussion awareness and safety, testifying before the House Education Reform Committee at the State Capitol in St. Paul.
So to see him on the course at Pebble Creek in Becker, representing his school this week … well, it’s darn near miraculous.
“This is his first year … first half a year, I should say,” said Windom coach Dave Eyberg (pictured above with Jessy). “He didn’t get cleared for anything except golf, and that wasn’t until about a month and a half ago. So it’s quite a story.”
Indeed it is, especially the end of the story. That’s the 1A state tournament, which was not on Jessy’s radar at all.
Jessy shot a 42 on the first nine holes Wednesday and a 46 on the back side for an 88, putting him in the middle of the pack for Thursday’s final 18 holes.
“I went out for golf and state wasn’t really even an option,” he said. “For the team, that was about it, but not as an individual. This whole year has been crazy. To make it to the state tournament in a sport I’ve played for half a season is pretty crazy.”
Jerry Loegering isn’t the kind of guy to boast. But the Barnesville High School girls golf coach has plenty of reason to bust a couple of buttons this week.
Loegering, 78, began his career as a science teacher in 1951, moved to Barnesville from his native North Dakota in 1957 and created the girls golf program there in 1975. He almost retired from coaching after last season. Almost.
“I was thinking about it last year, but then they bugged me,” he said with a smile Wednesday, pointing toward his players on the practice range in Becker. So he hung around for one more year, which is ending with history. The 2011 Trojans are the first team from Barnesville to go to state in girls golf.
There were no seniors on last year’s team, which finished three shots out of first place (and a berth at state) in the Section 6 tournament. Current seniors Elizabeth Anderson, Chelsey Halverson and Nikki Hammer were part of the reason the coach stuck around.
“He told us he wanted to finish it out with us three seniors,” Hammer said. “I think he knew we could make it this year. He said we have a chance of making it, so we’ve got to keep that in the back of of our minds at all times and push ourselves.”
When scores at this year’s section tourney were being posted, it was quite nerve-wracking for the Trojans and their coach. “Mr. Loegering wouldn’t even go look at the scores,” Hammer said. “And he’s usually the one who keeps us calm.”
Jerry, who retired from teaching in 1993, has been around for so long that his former students include a few grandparents of current students. One of them is Ione Hammer, grandmother of Nikki Hammer and her sister Sami, a junior on the golf team.
“He’s special,” Sami said of the coach. “He’s meant a lot to all of us over the years.”
Jerry has coached individual players at state tournaments before, but this week’s experience is pretty darn special.
“Oh, it’s great. It’s great,” he said. “We were hoping, because we had everybody back. We had the three seniors this year. The team will have three pretty good golfers back next year, plus there are a few more at home.”
--Diet Coke Count: Zero (they sell some other brand of soft drink at the course in Becker.)
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 795
*Miles John has driven: 10,760
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