Almost everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong for Northfield junior Anna Nesseth at the second day of the Section 1AAA tournament last week at The Bridges Golf Club in Winona.
She entered that final day in possession of the third of five individual qualifying spots for the state tournament, which would have been the first time she’s qualified.
Then, her game disappeared on the second day of the tournament, sliding her out of contention for a trip to state. At least, that’s what she thought until her coach Mel Miller caught her attention walking off the 18th green.
“I finished putting and he was like, ‘Well, you made it.’” Nesseth said.
Nesseth managed to hold on to the fifth and final individual qualifying position, three spots ahead of freshman teammate Emerson Garlie, once the golfers from first-place team Lakeville North were removed from the equation. If Lakeville South had won the team competition and not lost by three strokes, both Nesseth and Garlie would have qualified for state.
Adding to that suspense were glitches with the iWanamaker app, which did not allow the scores for some golfers to be uploaded during the round. Instead, they were tabulated by hand and delivered to the official scorer at the end of each round, meaning most of the field was in the dark when it came to definitively determining the state cut line.
“She’s pretty pumped and pretty excited to get to go,” Miller said. “It didn’t hit her until the next day that she made it, because she seemed a little reserved, but her mom was pretty excited.”
The reason Nesseth didn’t start immediately jumping for joy after Miller broke the news was because she was overcome with a sense of relief. She entered her junior season with the goal of qualifying for state. After thinking she had just missed her chance, the news of the opposite was a bit overwhelming.
“I was kind of shocked,” Nesseth said. “I really didn’t think I was going to make it. On the 16th hole, I was thinking, ‘Well, let’s just get this over with,’ and then finally after I made it, it was just relieving because it was what I’ve been working for all season.”
That overall sense of relief means Nesseth doesn’t have1 any tangible goals for how she wants to perform at the Class AAA state tournament, scheduled for June 15-16 at Bunker Hills Golf Club in Coon Rapids.
She’s played the course before and played it well, but to quote an oft-used cliche, Nesseth said “I’m just happy to be there.”
The state qualification completes Nesseth’s metamorphosis this season. The last time she was on a golf course in a high school match, Nesseth was a relatively inexperienced freshman on a team consisting of golfers more experienced than her.
Entering this season, she was the only player for the Raiders with experience playing in a section tournament, and was suddenly the team’s No. 1 golfer and co-captain.
“The leadership she displayed for everybody else was outstanding,” Miller said. “She took kids under her wing and played with Emerson Garlie, she played basically every practice hole with Emerson and trying to guide her with what to do.”
“I think I kind of got used to it,” Nesseth said. “It’s still kind of surreal that I’m the No. 1 (golfer). I still think of Molly (Stevens) as our No. 1. She was such a big inspiration and is such a great golfer.”
Stevens was a senior on that 2019 team who just wrapped up her second season of college golf at Augustana University after finishing in the top-three at the state tournament twice as a Raider.
Back in Northfield, Stevens and Nesseth reunited Monday night for a round at Northfeld Golf Club, so Nesseth could pick Stevens’ brain about what it’s like to play at a state tournament.
“There’s so many unknowns about state that I’ve never really prepared for because there was no season last year,” Nesseth said. “Now I have someone that’s been through it since seventh or eighth grade who knows the routine and how to prepare to feel prepared for the actual tournament. She’s played in so many other big tournaments like this, so she knows how to chill out and calm down and eat enough and drink enough.”