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Kroes stands alone with title

May 26, 2017
By LOU REUTER - Senior Sports Writer ( , Lake Placid News

PLATTSBURGH - Lake Placid's Bjorn Kroes finished runner-up in the individual competition the past two years in the Section VII Golf Championships, including falling on the second playoff hole last season when the tournament was held at Saranac Inn.

On Friday, Kroes finally nailed down the title that's eluded him, and along with it, a fourth straight trip to the state championships at Cornell University.

Competing on a soggy day at the Barracks Golf Course in Plattsburgh, the senior ran away from the rest of the field, finishing with a two-day, 1-under-par total of 143 to win by 13 strokes.

Article Photos

Bjorn Kroes watches an approach shot fly during his winning performance Friday in the Section VII golf championships.
(News photo — Lou Reuter)

Kroes carved out plenty of breathing room after firing a superb 4-under-par 68 in drier conditions in Thursday's opening round, and followed by playing solid golf Friday to finish with a 75.

Kroes' teammate, Drew Maiorca, finished second with a first-round 73 and an 83 Friday for a 156 total.

Kroes played in the final foursome of the day with Moriah's Joey Stahl, who won the individual title last year, Peru's Gavin Plimpton and Paul Fine-Lease of Willsboro. Despite struggling in their second round, those three golfers are making a return trip to Cornell after finishing in the top nine.

Despite a steady rain for most of the day, wind and water puddling up throughout the course, Kroes remained calm and was never really challenged. On Friday, he finished with a front-nine 38, and two bogeys, a birdie and six pars on the back.

"I knew I was in a good position after the front, so on the back I just wanted to continue to play the way I was playing," Kroes said. "On the back I played really well - just one bad putt, which was a bogey. It's always a factor with the weather but you have to keep that out of your mind. It's easy to use it as an excuse if you have a bad shot.

"Sort of using the past experiences with the rain just gave me confidence. I focused more," Kroes added. "Sectionals during my eighth- and ninth-grade years was 40 degrees and raining both times, so it was a walk in the park today. I've been second the last two years in a row. It's definitely nice to finally win. The goal at sectionals is always just to make it to states, but this (an individual championship) has been elusive for me and I'm excited to win."

Stahl stood in third place with a first-round 75, and finished in the same position with a final-round 82 and a 157 total. Another Moriah golfer, Kyle Wilson, placed fourth with a 173 total.

Lake Placid's Ryan Kane and Saranac Lake's Tanner Courcelle finally broke through after five years of attempting to earn a trip to Cornell. The two seniors finished fifth and sixth, respectively, and will represent Section VII at the state championships for the first time.

Kane finished 11th and two positions away from qualifying last year, and also missed out on a trip to Cornell when he lost in a playoff for the ninth and final spot on the team as a sophomore. On Friday, he joined Kroes as the only two golfers to break 80 when he fired a 79, which gave him a 163 total.

"A great round," Kane said with a smile in the clubhouse after the tournament. "It's been five years and in my senior year, I finally got it. It's been running through my head the past week or so, but I just pushed through and played my best. I played pretty bad yesterday, and just put that behind me, and I switched putters, and my putting was really the difference today. After five years of not making it and being an alternate, if feels great."

Courcelle, who was Saranac Lake's top golfer this season, experienced much of the same fate as Kane during past Section VII tournaments. And in his last chance to get to Cornell, he came through with two rounds of 85 for a sixth-place total of 170. In his three previous sectional championships, Courcelle was an alternate twice and also turned in an 11th-place finish.

"It's about time," Courcelle said. "I played fine on the front and struggled on the back, just like yesterday. Today, the weather really came into play a lot - cold and rainy. I shot the same exact round on the front and the back both days, and it was good enough. This was my last chance. I'm really excited. I can't wait."

All six golfers who helped the Blue Bombers finish unbeaten in the Champlain Valley Athletic Conference and win the Section VII title made the cut Thursday to reach the second round. On their final day of three-sport careers at Lake Placid, seniors Sean Moore and Kevin Geesler finished the tournament with respective 179 and 186 totals. Meanwhile, eighth-grader Lars Kroes turned in a 179 two-day total.

Ray Amell and Kyler Darrah were Saranac Lake's other two players competing Friday and finished with respective 187 and 199 totals.

Many of the top golfers who competed in the Section VII championships will next play in the annual Craig Chisum Tournament Wednesday at the Malone Golf Club. The event features players from both sections VII and X, and for many golfers is a tune-up for the state championships, which take place June 4 and 5.

Kroes said he is looking forward to defending his Chisum title, and is especially thrilled to have one more crack at the Robert Trent Jones Course at Cornell University, which just happens to be the school where he will be a freshman in the fall.

"I'm really excited to go tackle that course again," Kroes said. "It's always a fun challenge. Every hole is well designed. It's tough but I'm really excited to go out there one more time in my high school career.

"I think I shot 77 and 80 there last year," Kroes added. "It was consistent golf, and that's what I was trying to do - play consistent golf. This year, I want to go at it a little more. I know I can play better. There's nothing to lose. It's the final step."



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