State’s best boys’ golf teams flock to Albert Lea Invite

Published 12:40 am Friday, May 14, 2010

Since Albert Lea boys’ golf head coach Riley Worth took over he’s had the intention of scheduling the best competition for his team and now he’s brought the competition to Albert Lea this weekend.

The Tigers open the inaugural two-day Albert Lea Invite Friday at Green Lea Golf Course with perennial state championship contenders.

The tournament, which will begin at Green Lea and conclude Saturday at Wedgewood Cove Golf Club, features Eden Prairie, which finished third last year at the state tournament, Fairmont, which finished fifth at last year’s Class 2A state tournament, Orono, which has won the Class 2A title the past two consecutive years, Rochester Lourdes, which placed third last year at the Class 2A state tournament, and Stillwater, which has qualified for the state tournament two of the past three years.

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Ten of the 15 teams are in the state rankings and represent one of the premier tournaments in the state this season.

Orono is ranked third by the Minnesota Golf Association, Eden Prairie fifth, Stillwater 11th, Chaska 14th, Cretin-Derham Hall 15th, Rochester Lourdes 18th, Fairmont 21st, Tartan 27th, Lakeville South 32nd and Albert Lea is ranked 41st.

“I feel like we have a good thing going here,” said Tigers senior Tyler Haaland. “I think it’s going to be one of the best tournaments in the state and I think it’s going to be awesome.”

The state’s No. 1-ranked player, Patrick Johnson plays for Orono and is one of 23 ranked players who will participate.

An impressive field to say the least, but it’s also one that encourages the Albert Lea players to play their best.

“You try to compete as hard as you can all the time, but if you’re facing some one good you’re going to put more into it,” said Tigers senior Sam Matheson.

The tournament signals an increase of the expectations Worth has put in place since he started. Last season Albert Lea played in the Tri-State Invitational at the University of Minnesota Les Bolstad Golf Course, which is considered to be one of the premier tournaments in the state, and the Albert Lea Invite is a continuation of the Tigers participating in top-tier tournaments.

“I would say this is a concrete example of elevating the expectations,” Worth said. “They were already there. They have been since I started, but this is a way for me to show my seniors how much I appreciate them and a way to show my eighth-graders how much I expect out of them.”

Worth sees the tournament as a way to develop a perennial contender as well.

“What it does for us is winning breeds success and to see this type of event … should make you want to play and get better,” Worth said. “My goal with events like this is to get rid of that rebuilding period.”

Worth invited several college coaches to the tournament and with a gathering of so many of the state’s finest golfers the tournament could develop into a good recruiting opportunity.

The tournament beings with a 2 p.m. shotgun start Friday and an 8 a.m. shotgun start at Wedgewood.