Minnesota Golf Association

Stevens Overtakes Herron in Preview with 68; Maple Grove Edges Minnetonka

May 2, 2021

BROOKLYN PARK -- The primary focus of golf in the 21st Century is power.

It seems that every good young player hits drives that average 290 yards, 300 yards, or more. If you talk to the top pros from previous generations, however, the main criticism of the younger set is that the new age bombers aren't nearly as impressive with their other clubs.

Dustin Johnson used to be in that category, although at a high level. He has won on the PGA Tour every year since he was a rookie in 2008, and he has spent most of his professional career ranked among the top 10 players in the world. But it wasn't until he got serious about practicing wedge shots that he won his first major, the 2016 U.S. Open -- and became the No. 1 player in the world. 

Basically, it was just a matter of common sense. If you're hitting the ball over 300 yards consistently, you're going to be hitting a lot of wedge shots. So learn how to hit them as effectively as you can. 

Nate Stevens came to that same realization early on. 

When asked what the strongest part of his game is, he doesn't hesitate.

"Wedge play," the Northfield junior replies. 

Stevens demonstrated just how complete his game is last summer in the final round of the State Amateur when he shot a 6-under-par 66 at Edina Country Club on the way to a sixth-place finish. As impressive as that was, he was even more impressive a couple of month later when he shot 70-69-70--209 (10 under) at Golden Valley G&CC and finished second to University of Minnesota All-American Angus Flanagan in the Minnesota Golf Champions. 

No high school player -- not Tom Lehman, or Chris Perry (the only three-time Minnesota boys state high school champion), or Tim Herron or Clayton Rask -- had ever come close to doing that. No high school player had ever finished in the top 10 at Golf Champions before.

"I was a little bit surprised to do that," Stevens says, "but I was trending in that direction last fall. It was nice to finish that high in a tournament with pros -- and Angus Flanagan." (Flanagan, who won the Big Ten individual championship in 2019, the last time it was played, won the State Open last year, in addition to taking the Golf Champions title.) 

The trend Stevens mentioned seems to be continuing this spring. Northfield has played six times so far, and he has been the medalist five times. He is currently No. 1 in the MGA's Minnesota high school boys individual rankings.

His most recent triumph came Saturday at Edinburgh USA in The Preview, generally considered to have the strongest field of the Minnesota boys high school season. Stevens opened with a 2-under-par 70 on Friday and trailed Minnetonka senior Carson Herron -- the son of Tim Herron, the winner of four PGA Tour titles and more than $19 million in career earnings -- by three strokes.

But Stevens blitzed the front nine at Edinburgh on Day 2, starting with an eagle 3 on the first hole and making the turn in 32. He played the back nine in even-par 36, for a 68, and the resulting 36-hole total of 138 gave him a two-stroke victory. 

Herron, who is No. 3 in the rankings, shot 73 on Saturday to finish second at 140.

No. 2 Brett Reid, a senior at Community Christiam and the reigning state Class A champion (he won in 2019 but didn't get a chance to defend in 2020, because of Covid 19), turned in Saturday's second-best score, a 70. That earned him a tie for third at 142, along with Maple Grove's Lucas Feterl (No. 9). He shot 72. Braedon Sladek (No. 9) of Alexandria and Brady Holland (No. 6) of Elk River had matching 71-72--143's and tied for fifth.

The 6-foot-2-inch, 155-pound Stevens wasted no time in putting his power to good use Saturday. He hit a hybrid onto the green at the 510-yard, par-5 first hole and made a 40-foot putt for an eagle 3. At the 490-yard fourth hole, his hybrid second shot found the front bunker, but he got up and down for a birdie. The third par-5 on the front nine at Edinburgh is the 500-yard ninth hole. Stevens, who has committed to Notre Dame for 2022, knocked a 4-iron second shot onto the green there and two putted for another birdie.

He came up just short at the 415-yard, par-4 11th and couldn't save his par, one of his two bogeys Saturday, but got the lost stroke back when he hit an 80-yard wedge to 10 feet at the 410-yard, par-4 13th and converted the birdie putt. 

In the team competition, Maple Grove and Minnetonka were as good as advertised -- and in that order. After both teams put together first-day totals of 298, the top-ranked Crimson followed up with a 305 and nipped the second-ranked Skippers 603 to 604. No. 6 Eden Prairie posted the low team score on a windy second day, a 302, and claimed third place with an overall 610.    


The Preview

At Edinburgh USA

Par 72, 6,400 yards

Final results 

1. Maple Grove                 298-305--603

2. Minnetonka                   298-306--604

3. Eden Prairie                  308-302--610

4. Edina                             311-305--616

5. Spring Lake Park           315-308--623

6. Alexandria                      319-313--632

7. St. Thomas Acad.          309-317--636

8. Chaska                           323-313--636

9. Elk River                         322-321--643

10. Northfield                      326-330--656

11. Community Chistian      344-335--679

12. Waconia                        343-339--682


1. Nate Stevens, Northfield       70-68--138

2. Carson Herron, Minnetonka   67-73--140

T3. Brett Reid, Com. Christian   72-70--142

T3. Lucas Feterl, Maple Grove   70-72--142

T5. Braeden Sladek, Alex.         71-72--143

T5. Brady Holland, Elk River      71-72--143

7. Brady Baynes, Eden Prairie   73-72--145


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