The fantastic four

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 9, 2006

By Riley Worth, staff writer

On the eve of a record-breaking performance, there was Chris Baas soaking wet and not pleased about it.

The 30-year-old Albert Lea resident had slipped and fallen in a river near the 18th green at Dakotah Ridge in Morton. While finishing a practice round with fellow Albert Leans &045; Mick Hockinson, Andy Petersen and Phil Schmidt &045; Baas found himself climbing out of a river bed as his soon-to-be teammates enjoyed a bit of raucous laughter at Baas&8217; expense.

None of them could have known then what the next two days would entail.

They probably wouldn&8217;t have anticipated the Schmidt-Baas tandem beginning the tournament by hooking their opening shots into a hazard and having to save bogey. They probably wouldn&8217;t have predicted the Hockinson-Petersen tandem teaming for a 1-over par first nine best ball score.

And certainly no one could have foreseen that after 36 holes of the Minnesota Golf Association Team Championship, played Sept. 25 and 26, that the four Green Lea Golf Club members would beat their nearest competitor by 16 shots and the third-place team by 22.

MGA Tournament Director Doug Hoffman, who ran the event, jokingly asked Baas, Hockinson, Petersen and Schmidt if they had faxed their scores in from the much-simpler Redwood Falls Country Club because the scores they turned in didn&8217;t jive with the rest of the field.

Tournaments, especially ones involving elite fields, normally aren&8217;t won by such absurd margins.

&8220;It was almost like they were playing a whole different golf course, they played so exceedingly well,&8221; Hoffman said, comparing the dominance of the performance to Tiger Woods&8217; 12-stroke

victory in the 2000 U.S. Open.

The Albert Lea foursome finished 20-under par in the tournament format, which combines the scores of two two-man best ball teams. Both the Hockinson-Petersen pair and the Baas-Schmidt team finished 10-under par for two days. The previous best score in the tournament&8217;s five-year history was 12 under.

&8220;We&8217;re always playing against each other, so it was a treat to be on the same team for once,&8221; Hockinson said.

Schmidt and Baas had teamed to win the MGA Four-Ball event in August, so they already had showcased their games on the state level. Now add to that mix a three-time Albert Lea Shortstop champion in Hockinson, plus Petersen, who finished as this year&8217;s Shortstop runner-up &045; to Schmidt &045; and it made for a pretty formidable squad. Yet, still they had to perform on the days of the tournament.

&8220;Everyone from around here thought we were going to walk away with it,&8221; Schmidt said &8220;But the talk on the (drive) up there was to be humble.&8221;

Hockinson&8217;s warning to his teammates was &8220;don&8217;t read your press clippings,&8221; meaning that

believing the local hype was one sure way to flounder.

After the first couple holes, the team&8217;s press clippings would have read something like &8220;Exceedingly Average.&8221; Then suddenly, with the velocity of a well-struck golf shot, the team&8217;s fortunes changed.

Baas began making birdies and finished with seven in all on the first day, while Schmidt added three birdies. The twosome finished at 8-under par 64. Meanwhile, Petersen made four birdies on his second nine with Hockinson to salvage a 3-under 69 in the windy conditions on the prairie course. At the end of day one the Green Lea team had a seven-shot lead. Baas&8217; spill in the river less than 24 hours earlier, and the bad beginning to the tournament for all four team members had been washed away in a barrage of birdies, the likes of which this tournament had before seen.

They didn&8217;t sit on their lead, either, instead adding nine more shots to the victory margin on day two. Petersen kept the birdies going on the first nine of the second day, and Hockinson made three birdies and an eagle on the final nine for a 65 in tough scoring conditions.

&8220;The round these guys shot the last day,&8221; Schmidt said in reference to Petersen and Hockinson, &8220;was the best round of the tournament.&8221;

Tournament Director Hoffman said the same thing about Petersen and Hockinson&8217;s second-day performance, pointing out the winds picked up considerably on the second day, including gusts up to 30 to 35 mph.

And to think, this team almost didn&8217;t come together. Midway through the summer Hockinson begged out, saying he wasn&8217;t playing well. Petersen would have none of it, telling Hockinson

&8220;You&8217;re in.&8221; As it played out, all four players made big contributions to the record-breaking effort.

&8220;We wanted to make a statement for Albert Lea and Green Lea that there are good players in this part of the state,&8221; Petersen said.

Mission accomplished.