Max Schmitz felt a few nerves when he stepped onto the tee box for the first time Thursday morning, leading the Section One, Class A boys golf meet by four strokes.
The Southland High School sophomore took a deep breath, took a strong swing at the ball and watched it land…
“… about two feet in front of me,” he said with a laugh.
That was the only bad shot Schmitz hit all day.
He rallied to bogey his first hole – the par-4 10th hole at Willow Creek Golf Course – and was solid over the next 17 holes, finishing the final round of the meet with a 77. That gave him a two-round total of 150 and a two-shot victory over runner-up Jake Fishbaugher of Fillmore Central.
Schmitz earned his first trip to a Class A state meet by earning Section 1A medalist honors for the first time.
“My chipping and putting has been my strong suit most of the year and this week I just put everything together,” he said. “(At state) I’ll have to take it one shot at a time, play hole-by-hole and forget about the one I just played, no matter if it was good or bad.”
Schmitz shot the best round of the section meet on Tuesday, firing a 3-over-par 73 to take a four-shot lead into Thursday’s final round. He opened with a 5-over-par 40 on his first nine holes Thursday, then stormed through his final nine holes in 2-over-par 37. He made one birdie, five pars and three bogeys on his final nine holes Thursday.
“Coming off hole 17, I just started to focus more and played really well from there to the finish,” he said. “I figured, since I was golfing with the guy who was in second (Fishbaugher), that as long as I was close to him I’d have a good chance of making it to state.”
Schmitz figured correctly. The state meet is set for June 11-12 at Pebble Creek Golf Club in Becker, a course he said he hasn’t played before.
“We just want him to go have a good experience,” Southland coach Jim Guthmiller said. “He has two more years to compete at this level and we just want him to get a taste of what it’s like to be there.
“He’s pretty even-keel, doesn’t get way too high or way too low. He does get a little nervous, but he’s a smart kid. Going into (Thursday), we said ‘just play with your group and you’ll be fine,’ and he did that. It was a great round.”
And, Guthmiller added, Schmitz has the perfect personality to put a bad shot – like his first tee ball Thursday – out of his mind immediately.
“He has that mental toughness, plus he has a really good game,” Guthmiller said. “If he does hit a bad shot, he’s able to recover. He’s played really good golf all year long.”
Faribault Bethlehem Academy won the Section 1A team championship and will make the program’s second trip to state as a team. The Cardinals finished with a score of 337 Thursday, for a two-round total of 687. Blooming Prairie finished as the runner-up with a 713.
The top five placers not on the winning team also qualify for the state meet. They are: Schmitz, Fishbaugher, Blooming Prairie’s Kollyn Alwes (85-76—161), Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander’s Grant Vikre (78-85—163) and Hayfield’s Keegan Bronson (82-81—163).
Bronson, just a freshman, has qualified for the state meet for a second consecutive year. He tied for 59th place last year as an eighth-grader. Alwes, a sophomore, went to state two years ago when Blooming Prairie qualified as a team, the same year his since-graduated teammate Tommy Braaten won a state title.