Minnesota Golf Association

Stevens as Good as Advertised/Ranked, Tied with Wetzel in Boys AAA

June 16, 2021


COON RAPIDS -- Nate Stevens hits his driver about 275 yards in the air, on average. Assume another 15 to 20 yards of roll, and he's pretty close to 300 yards for his overall average. 

Not too long ago, that would have made the Northfield junior one of the longest hitters in Minnesota high schoo golf. But on Tuesday at Bunker Hills, in the first round of the boys Class AAA portion of the 2021 state high school tournament, Stevens said he was the shortest hitter in his foursome. Of course, that was hardly an indictment. Mason Roloff, a junior at Spring Lake Park, was another member of the foursome, and at the 415-yard, par-4 10th, he hit his drive 45 yards short of the green. And at the 18th, a 372-yard par 4, Stevens' drive ended up 55 yards from the front of the green, and he was the first to hit his second shot. 

You certainly wouldn't say that Stevens lacks power. Maybe he's not what you would describe as a bomber, but he hits the ball a very respectable distance. What's more, he hits precise iron shots and has a first-rate short game. He demonsrated those qualities last summer when he finished sixth in the State Amateur, and even more impressively last fall, when he tied for second in a field of the state's best professionals and amateurs at the Minnesota Golf Champions.

"When I was playing college golf (at the University of Minnesota in the early 1990's)," Edina coach Phil Ebner points out, "high school kids never even played in the State Amateur. Now they play in it; they make the cut; and some of them finish in the top 20. But what Nate Stevens did when he tied for second at the Golf Champions was beyond anything I ever imagined a high school kid could do." 

Mainly as a result of his play last summer and fall, Stevens began the season No. 1 in the Boys High School Rankings. He validated that when he won The Preview, against what is the strongest field of the high school season every year, at Edinburgh USA, and he's been No. 1 ever since. On Tuesday, he looked the part of the top-ranked player in the state once again, as he shot a 4-under-par 68, and that put him in a tie for first with Edina junior Jack Wetzel going into Wednesday's final round.

Joe Kortan, a sophomore at Moorhead, is alone in third with a 69, after making six birdies, one bogey and a double. One behind him, at 70, are a pair of seniors -- Kortan's Moorhead teammate Ian Simonich and Josh Galvin of Maple Grove -- and a pair of sophomores -- Arthur Ylitalo of Buffalo and Kyler Schwamb of Farmington.

They are followed by a sixsome, including Roloff, at 71. And Armstrong senior Evan Dimich is at even par. That's a record 14 players at par or better, further evidence that high school players just keep getting better and better.   

Wetzel, who also plays soccer -- he was a member of Edina's state Class AA championship soccer team during the most recent high school season to be completed, in 2019 -- began the golf season ranked No. 48, in early April. He had gained only one spot, to No. 47, as of the second week in May, but he's moved up steadily since then and came into the state tournament at No. 28. You could make a case for putting him even higher, considering that he tied for first individually (along with Dimich) in one of the toughest sections in the state -- 6AAA.

His 69-73--142 in the sectional at Pioneer Creek helped Edina win the team championship in 6AAA, a section that has produced six state team champions in the last 11 years. And the defending state champion Hornets are in a position to make that 7 for 12, because they are first in the team competition after Day 1 with a 298 (four scores out of six count).

The contest is far from over, however, because five teams are within eight shots of Edina, most notably Maple Grove, the 2018 Class AAA winner. The Crimson are three back at 301, followed by Eastview (302), Alexandria (304), Chaska (305) and Farmington (306). 

"We have depth," Ebner said. "Most teams don't have a No. 5 or 6 who can step in and fill the void if one of the top four has a bad day. Our fifth and sixth guys can do that. None of our players has been dominant for the whole season. But Jack has been playing the best of anybody on the team lately."

On Tuesday, Wetzel demonstrated that he can make birdies in bunches, and he took advantage of the par 5's at Bunker Hills, birdying all four of them. He bogeyed the 150-yard, par-3 third hole, but then made his first birdie at the shortest of the par 5's, the 464-yard fourth hole (No. 4 East). He followed it with a birdie at the 371-yard, par-4 fifth, and then picked off the other par-5 on the East Nine, the 515-yard sixth. He slipped back to 1 under for the East Nine when he bogeyed the longest par-4 on the course, the 440-yard eighth.

Having birdied three holes in a row on his first nine, Wetzel birdied three out of four on the back (West) side, beginning with the par-5 11th (530 yards). After parring the par-3 12th, he birdied the par-4 13th (347 yards) and the last of the par 5's, thre 534-yard, 14th. He bogeyed the long, 220-yard, par-3 17th, before bouncing back with a valedictory birdie at the 18th.

As for Stevens, he started off his round with a 9-iron to 15 feet on the first hole (No. 1 East) and converted the birdie putt. He hit a 100-yard wedge to 4 feet at the fifth, and got up and down from just in front of the sixth green in two for his third birdie. He capped off a front-nine 32 but hitting a lob wedge to 20 feet and rolling that putt in at the 378-yard ninth.

It was mostly a case of fairways and greens for Stevens on Tuesday, but his fifth and final birdie of the day came after he hit his only wild drive, at the par-5 14th.

"That was left of left," he said of the errant drive, laughing. 

He punched out to 130 yards from there and ended up making another 20-footer for the birdie. His only bogey came at the 16th, a 386-yard par 4.  


Minnesota State High School Tournament 

Class AAA 

Boys

At Bunker Hills Golf Course

Par 72, 6,698 yards

First-round results


T1. Nate Stevens, Northfield                 32-36--68

T1. Jack Wetzel, Edina                          35-33--68

3. Joe Kortan, Moorhead                       35-34--69

T4. Arthur Ylitalo, Buffalo                      35-35--70

T4. Kyler Schwamb, Farmington          35-35--70

T4. Josh Galvin, Maple Grove               36-34--70

T4. Ian Simonich, Moorhead                 38-32--70

T8. Grand Rebrovich, Alexandria          33-38--71

T8. Danny Renner, Chanhassen           35-36--71

T8. Davis Johnson, Chaska                   35-36--71

T8. Gus Briguet, East Ridge                  38-33--71

T8. Ian Meyer, Minnetonka                    36-35--71

T8. Mason Roloff, Spring Lake Park      35-36--71

14. Evan Dimich, Armstrong                  33-39--72

Teams

1. Edina                       298

2. Maple Grove            301

3. Eastview                  302

4. Alexandria               304

5. Chaska                   305

6. Farmington             306

7. Mahtomedi             318

8. Duluth East            348    

 


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