The Minnesota golf opener runs close each year to the Masters in Georgia. This year the North Star State lagged behind.
Let the record show that by the middle of April west-central golf courses were only beginning to stir, three days after a South African named Trevor Immelman held off Tiger on the emerald fairways of Augusta National.
The grass will be only a dull green up here when Eagle Creek and the Litchfield Golf Club host the annual high-school invitational this weekend.
Litchfield opened Wednesday while Eagle Creek set noon today for the start of play.
After three weeks of hitting into nets and watching videos on rules and etiquette, the Willmar Cardinal boys team held its first chip and putt practice on Wednesday. Today they will play their first practice round, just nine holes.
That's not much preparation for a big tournament to lead off the schedule. But the other 20 schools probably haven't had it any better.
"Some of our boys have gone up to St. Cloud and hit in the dome or played a round or two at Valley (in Willmar) or gone up to Annandale which opened early," said coach Dave Ellwood, who is starting his 13th season as the boys head coach.
With no scores posted this spring, Ellwood went back to last year's book to determine a line-up for the two-day event, which starts at 1 p.m. Friday in Litchfield.
Fortunately, a half-dozen veterans are back. Ellwood posted the following line-up: Sam Warzecha, Tyler Johnson, Isaiah Streed, Colin Erickson, Alex Baker and Grant Kallevig. Six others from last year's jayvee team will make up the Willmar II squad. With one exception (Erickson for graduated Tom Wagner), it's the same lineup that won the invitational last April by shooting 637.
"Unfortunately, this means the younger players had no chance to challenge for a spot right away," said Ellwood. "This meet will also act as our qualifier for the first Central Lakes meet on Monday at Little Falls."
Willmar will take a six-man team to Little Falls to open the CLC campaign.
Local teams also include Benson, Lac qui Parle Valley and New London-Spicer.
Historically, this invitational is a magnate for cold and rain. Perhaps the agreeable forecast of 60-degree sunshine both days is nature's payback for the season's delayed start.
Racing for charity
Ever wonder how you would do behind the wheel of a race car -- I mean, what's the big deal. We all drive and racing is just one left turn after another and there's no oncoming traffic.
Well, here's a chance for us Jeff Gordon wannabes.
Starting in May, aspiring leadfoots can race in the Pure Stock Class at the KRA Speedway. All that's needed is to make the winning bid on the white 94.1 The Loon hot rod.
The goal is to raise $10,000 this season for local charities. Jeff Isdal, long-time supporter of stock car racing here, said the track wanted to give something back to the community.
He said the idea caught on quickly. Six people stepped up immediately with $250 to cover racing expenses and parts.
The car has a Halls Racing Engine donated free. The body, painting, parts and safety equipment were also donated.
Bidding opens each Saturday morning during the local racing news show from 9-10 a.m. on 94.1 with Isdal and Layne Roberts hosting and continues through the following Wednesday.
On the fly
n Hockey awards handed out at the boys banquet were as follows: Joel Schendel, MVP, "Cardinal" Award, "Hobey Baker" Award; Jordan Baker, Most Improved; All-Conference, Josh Mead; Honorable-Mention all-conference, Travis Hanson, Jordan Benson, Schendel, Matt Kroneberger; Senior Scholar Athlete, Hanson, Schendel, Benson, Adam Olson, Kroneberger, Mead.
n The featured speaker for the third annual Willmar Curling Club Banquet on Friday will be John Gordon, not the Twins' broadcaster, but the two-time Olympian and five-time national championship team member. About 80 people are expected for the 6:30 p.m. event at the American Legion Post. Tickets are $15 at the door but reservations are appreciated by phoning 235-1454.
n Megan Wrobel, a senior at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, is playing No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles for the Blazers' tennis team. Kelsey Schendel, a senior at Concordia, is a third-year starter for the Cobbers and is playing 5-singles and 2-doubles. Their last two years of high school, Wrobel and Schendel played on Willmar teams that went 18-2 in the Central Lakes Conference matches.
n Concordia football coach Terry Horan, a 1985 Willmar graduate, has continued to build on the Cobbers' tradition in has six years as head coach. In 2007, Concordia ranked second among all NCAA Division III school's in average attendance by averaging a school-record 5,441 fans in five home dates. Only St. John's in Collegeville did better with 8,769 fans per game, also a school record.