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Willmar golfers win two-day tournament

<b>Rand Middleton</b> Willmar's Stevin Carlson pitches onto the ninth green at Litchfield Golf Course on Saturday on the second day of the Willmar/Litchfield Invitational. Carlson shot 38 on the front and finished with a 78 to lead the Cardinals to the team title.

LITCHFIELD -- In golf, you live and die with every stroke of the ball.

No foul balls or second serves; no dribbling the ball around to get in a better position and when things aren't going well, punting is not an option.

Every swing counts against you -- or the team.

So when the final figures came in at the Willmar/Litchfield Invitational on Saturday, there was pause for reflection.

The Willmar Cardinals, co-hosts of the 25-year-old event, had scored 641 to nose out charging Bloomington Jefferson by one stroke.

"Dynasty," chuckled Isaiah Streed, referring tongue-in-cheek to the Cardinals second win in three years of the two-day, 36-hole contest.

The individual championship went to Chris Tobkin of New London-Spicer. He was tied with Andrew Whitchurch at 75 after Day 1 at Eagle Creek but came in at 77 at the Litchfield Golf Club to edge the Dragons' senior by two strokes, 152 to 154.

Stevin Carlson of Willmar was next at 155 after steady rounds of 77-78. But the key round for Willmar came from Nathan Boie who dropped 10 strokes off Friday's score to come in at 81, the second-lowest Willmar score on Saturday.

Colin Erickson, third after day one, too often found water and sagged to an 83.

Willmar didn't have a stroke to burn against the Jaguars, who shot the tournament's best score of 312 in light wind and cool temps at Litchfield after a hot, sunny day in Willmar where they shot 330.

"We weren't warmed up," said BJ's Nick Nelson, who shot 80-75-155 and took home the fourth-place medal losing a tiebreaker with Carlson. "We got to the course (in Willmar) about 15 minutes before we teed off."

Nelson wasn't hanging his head, but he admitted missing "tap-ins each day on my final hole."

Jefferson won last year with a 634 total but lost four starters from that team.

Willmar used its experience -- and improved weather -- to cut 36 strokes off its 2008 total. Isaiah Streed and Alex Baker also played on the 2007 tourney champs. They both finished at 165.

"I didn't expect this," said an elated Dave Ellwood, the Willmar coach since 1995. "I knew we had a great bunch of guys but ..."

Sauk Rapids, the first-day leader by two strokes at 315, faded to a 337. Sartell, which was in third just behind Willmar, sent there B-team the second day because of prom.

After shooting a 325 at Willmar, Litchfield was unable to use its own course to advantage and came in a 326, but the 651 total was good for the third-place trophy.

Tobkin had never won an 18-hole event, let alone 36.

He and Whitcomb, also a senior, traded the lead several times while playing in the same foursome. Tobkin went up by three on No. 15 where Whitcomb three-putted.

Whitcomb got one back on 17, and then both bogeyed the par 5 17th, which Erickson birdied, before the two leaders finished out with pars.

"I've been playing well in practice and just have more confidence this year," said Tobkin, who shot 80-83-163 a year ago.

Tobkin, who is 6-3, played wide receiver on the Wildcats state tournament football team and forward/post on the basketball team, which also reached state.

"I'd like to make it 3-for-3," he said.

Saturday's low round -- a four-over-par 74 -- was turned in by Danny Cameron of Jefferson.

Sam Peterson of Benson shot a 76 -- tied for third best -- to move up to 13th place after a wobbly 87 on the first day.