After capturing its second consecutive Section 8A Team Championship, the six-member Gator Girls’ Golf team headed to the Pebble Creek Golf Club in Becker to compete in the Minnesota State High School League Class A State Golf Tournament, June 11 and 12. Gator boy golfer Ganon Kuznia also made the trip after capturing his second straight individual state tournament berth.
All seven Gator golfers had competed in the state tournament before and many of them recorded career best individual state tournament finishes and scores. By the end of the second and final day, the Gator Girls’ team earned a fourth place team finish– led by senior Kianna Novacek’s twelfth place individual finish– and Kuznia earned a seventeenth place finish on the boys’ side.
“The entire experience and the way that our kids performed and their outcomes as individuals and as a team, I would say would be rated, should be ranked as top notch,”Gator Head Golf Coach Brady Johnson said.
The girls’ team finished with a two-day score of 758, finishing 38 strokes behind third-place Lac Qui Parle Valley, 53 strokes behind second-place Park Christian, and 54 strokes behind state team champion BOLD. The Gators shot 373 on day one, standing in fourth place also at that time.
“You could tell that they were more mature than they were last year. You could tell they were a little bit more polished than the previous year,” Coach Johnson said about his girls’ team. “They played up the first day. They shot a team score better than we expected and they were really proud of themselves. We were really proud of how they competed and how they were able to handle the golf course.”
Kianna Novacek led the way for the Gator girls’ team on both days in her fourth and final appearance at the state tournament. On day one, she was tied for eighth with a score of 86– three strokes behind the third-place individual, four strokes behind the second-place individual, and seven strokes behind the first-place individual.
“She of course had expectations and she wanted to shoot a lower number than she did and that’s been her story all four years that she’s been there (at state),” Coach Johnson said. “She is a fierce competitor, and she has goals and she goes after them. And that’s why she’s been so successful up to this point, in my opinion.”
She shot a 93 on day two to finish with a score of 179– strong enough to tie for twelfth place in the 85-golfer field. This finish and score were career bests for Novacek at the state tournament.
After finishing tied for fifty-sixth place with a score of 181 at last year’s state tournament, the Gator Boys’ Golf team’s lone state entrant, Ganon Kuznia, would improve off of that first state finish during his second visit to Pebble Creek Golf Club. His success, Coach Johnson explained, came thanks to both his maturity and poise.
“I remember on day two, the first hole, and I don’t know if it was nerves or what it was, but he started with a triple bogey,” Coach Johnson said. “And a person that is not mature and that is not polished could have thrown in the towel right there with 17 holes left. And he followed up that triple bogey with three pars and a birdie and just like that he was back in the game.”
Tied for twenty-eighth with a score of 85 following the first day’s action, Kuznia made up some ground on day two. During this day’s action, he shot an 80 to rise to seventeenth place in the 87-golfer field, finishing with a two-day score of 165. Throughout the tournament, he continued to get better, posting scores of 43 and 42 on day one, and 41 and 39 on day two.
To see the complete story, read the June 19 issue of The Tribune in print or online. Also, watch out for a feature story about Gator senior golfer Kianna Novacek’s journey from suffering an injury that ended her final high school basketball season in early January to leading the Gator Girls’ Golf team to a section championship and fourth place state finish.