Branstrom, Eichhorn lead area golfers

GLADSTONE – For the Forest Park girls’ golf team, it was their first individual meet of the year. For the Norway boys’ golf team, they were playing at the Irish Oaks Golf Course for the first time, ever.

The lack of experience and course familiarity, proved to be insignificant in the North Central Invitational on Friday, as Forest Park took home first place honors in the girl’s division with a team score of 218 on nine holes, while the Norway boy’s ended up finishing first, shooting a 325.

“I’m very pleased with how they played, especially considering the weather conditions and everything,” Forest Park head coach Harold Payne said. “We had snow on the ground when we left home today, so we’ve spent a lot of time in the gym just hitting balls, but that gets old shortly, so we didn’t really know what to expect.

We kind of had to scramble our roster this year, because of course Lexi Gussert is dealing with some basketball things, so we had to move everyone up a slot today, but I’m very pleased with how they played.”

Toni Sauti, playing out of the No. 3 spot for Forest Park, paced the Trojans with a 52, which was the second best score of the day on the girl’s side. Mid Pen’s Hunter Branstrom captured medalist honors with a 49.

“When it started hailing and stuff, it got kind of hard (out there),” Branstrom said. “It’s kind of hard with the ball falling all the time or getting stuck low, but now that I’m getting used to it, it’s starting to get easier.”

Stephenson’s Sarah Starzynski took home third (53), and Forest Park’s Kaitlyn Bradley (53) and Hannah Marinoff (55) rounded out the girl’s top five.

The Mid Pen girls finished second (236), while Big Bay (254), and Carney Nadeau (270) rounded out the rest of the field.

As has been the case this spring, the weather made for less than ideal golfing conditions. The golfers battled rain, sleet, snow, and wind. This made boy’s medalist, Norway’s Anthony Hanson’s score of 2-under par 70, that much more impressive.

“When it started to snow and started to rain, you just have to play through it and keep your head down,” Hanson said. “It was a good round; I never played the course before and I had some really good shots. We played yesterday and I said if I could just make a few putts, it would be a good round. I finally put it all together out there.”

Carney Nadeau’s Hunter Eichhorn placed second, shooting a 4-over par 76. Norway’s Justin Anderson was third (83) and his teammate Bryce Kelly was fourth (83). Forest Park’s Kevin Stankewicz (84) completed the top five.

The meet was originally scheduled to take place at the Highland Golf Club, but due to the amount of water on the course, the meet was moved to take place at Irish Oaks.

Still, Norway head coach Ben Leiker wasn’t too concerned about his team not ever playing the course, before.

“They’re just kids,” Leiker said. “They’re going to hit it as far as they can. They don’t really look at strategy a whole lot, anyways. Sometimes we’re better off not knowing.”

The Forest Park boys (349) finished second behind Norway, with Carney Nadeau (357), North Central (368), Mid Pen (464), Stephenson (416), Big Bay (421), Mid Pen (464) following suit.