Storm Lake High golfers Aaron Clausen and Kyle Nielsen have mixed feelings about competing at the Class 3A State Golf meet in Decorah Friday and Saturday.
They say they would have liked the rest of their varsity teammates to be competing this weekend, but also welcome the chance to play as individuals.
"Aaron and Kyle have been our top two players all season," said SLHS boys golf coach Dave Skibsted. "They deserve the chance to compete at a state meet."
Last week, the Tornadoes finished the district meet with 327 strokes, one more than Clear Lake and Spirit Lake. Since only the top two teams from districts qualify for state, the Tornadoes were out of the money as a team.
Nielsen and Clausen had the top two scores in the district meet field, with Nielsen shooting a 74 and Clausen a 75.
Both are juniors, but this will be Nielsen's first state meet. Last season as a sophomore, Clausen tied for sixth place, shooting a 74 the first day at the Atlantic Golf and Country Club and a 72 on the second day for a two-day total of 146.
Clear Lake won the team title, while the top two individual finishers were seniors. Wade Pettitt of Carroll won the individual state title with a 71-71-142, while Keokuk's Cole Peevler finished second with a 70-74 - 144.
According to Skibsted, Clausen and Nielsen have similar goals going into Friday's play at Oneota Golf and Country Club in Decorah.
"Both would like to place in the top ten," Skibsted said Tuesday night. "Aaron did that last year, and I think he'd like to improve on his sixth place finish.
"Kyle has really been playing well down the stretch of the season," Skibsted said.
Clausen and Nielsen were the top two SLHS boys golfers statistically this season, Skibsted said. Clausen averaged 37.6 strokes for nine holes while Nielsen averaged 38.7.
Both players have been solid putters all season. Clausen averaged 15.8 putts per nine holes while Nielsen averaged 16.
Skibsted added that all season long, the two juniors pushed each other and the friendly competition made both players better. In two rounds this week at Lake Creek Country Club, Clausen and Nielsen have maintained their focus.
"They really have developed into good playing buddies," Skibsted said. "They learn a lot from each other and talk about their rounds and what they are trying to do on the course.
"Watching them play the past couple of days has been like watching two golf coaches get around the course."
Skibsted added that the two players have similar games. Both are long and straight off the tee, and both have strong short games."
"Aaron's short game has really improved over the past two years," Skibsted said. "He actually hits the ball so long that he doesn't use his driver a lot on a given round. If he's not on in regulation, he usually has been able to get up and down."
Skibsted added that Nielsen also is long off the tee, but over the past two weeks, he's been putting extremely well.
The biggest key for both, the SLHS coach said, is that they think positive on the course.
"Both guys are always thinking birdie or par, even if they aren't on the green in regulation," Skibsted said. "They don't even consider that they could bogey a hole."
Meanwhile, according to Skibsted, the Oneota course in Decorah isn't hilly like one might expect. He said it's an older course with fairly narrow fairways and a creek running through parts of the course.
"We've heard that the greens are very fast, but Aaron and Kyle are used to those types of greens at Lake Creek," Skibsted said. "I talked to Buena Vista University women's golf coach Tom Bohnenkamp, and he says it's a 'very manageable' course."
STATE GOLF NOTES:
*Teams competing in the Class 3A state golf meet include Anamosa, Atlantic, Clear Lake, Dallas Center-Grimes, Glenwood, Knoxville, Marlon, Mount Pleasant, Pella, Spirit Lake and West Delaware-Manchester.
*The top returning individual is Clear Lake junior Nick Ott, who tied for second last year with a 68-76 - 144, but wound up third after losing in a playoff to Keokuk's Peevler.
Other top individuals returning are Decorah junior Cody Schweinfus, junior Joey Cates of Clear Lake, and sophomore Kirby Pettitt of Carroll.
At state last season Schweinfus tied for fourth with a 73-71 - 144, while Cates was 12th with a 75-75 - 150 and Kirby Pettitt shot 74-78 - 152.