Thompson muddles through frustrating performance at Class AA state golf championships

In a word … frustrating.

To say Braxton Thompson’s participation in the 2022 MSHSL Class AA state golf tournament, June 14-15 at the ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan, was anything but would be difficult, as the Pipestone Area junior was, himself, ‘subpar.’

“I felt like I prepared myself well, but once I got to the course, I just could not play golf,” said Thompson, who concluded the two-day, 36-hole tournament 80th out of 85 – shooting a total of 180. “I struggled at the beginning of my practice round Monday, but after a little while I hit the ball well and made some good plays … learned a lot.”

But little of the knowledge Thompson garnered Monday translated to Tuesday’s (June 13) opening round, where he carded a 97 – 20 strokes higher than his poorer first-day total of 77 shot during an opening round of the Section 3AA tournament, May 21 at Oakdale Golf Club in Morton.

“I had troubles everywhere on Tuesday; I certainly couldn’t chip or putt,” he said. “It just wasn’t a good day … wasn’t feeling it, I guess. It was weird because I played well at sections, come into the (state) tournament feeling pretty good and just didn’t play well that first day.”

Whether nerves or the extreme heat and high winds that accompanied his opening round largely influenced Thompson’s ability to play to his capabilities or not, Pipestone Area head coach Craig Boeddeker pointed to more/better preparation as imperative.

“I don’t think we did enough work between tournaments, for various reasons,” he said. “Braxton did not take those 10 days to prepare himself to the measure he needed to prepare himself. We did some work on the range, spent some time chipping and a little more time putting, but we weren’t – in working on the greens here (Pipestone) – trying to gain knowledge of the greens he was ‘going’ to be playing, of course not, but rather we tried to have Braxton work on the mechanics of putting. Watching the ball with your eyes, rather than with your head, is key, and I don’t think we worked on that enough before heading to Jordan.”

And certainly, Thompson’s performance on the greens during Day 1 reflected his need for more work on putting mechanics. Thompson three-putted most holes, carding doubles or worse on eight of the 18 holes he teed off on.”

“We didn’t prepare for that first day well, either,” noted Boeddeker. “He arrived with only the better part of half an hour prior to teeing off, doing some work on the range, but nothing on the greens … taking no time to address the biggest issue in his game – putting.”

Perhaps further impacting Thompson’s round was scant communication with his coach, who by MSHSL rule couldn’t drive his cart off the cart path – making verbal exchanges between tee and cup difficult.

“I’m pretty good by myself, knowing what to hit, so I didn’t feel like that was much of an issue,” Thompson said. “I felt like he and my parents did a good job helping me through it, though, and I felt like I kept my composure through all of it. It was better the second day when I could talk with coach more; the second day was a little bit brighter, but it still wasn’t up to my potential.

 “I tried to ‘chill’ that night in the AC and thought about what I could do to turn things around. I went out the next morning and started off all right, even after breaking my 8-iron in warm-ups, but overall, I just couldn’t hit a golf ball.”

While Thompson made good use of an 8-iron borrowed from Boeddeker, using it to set himself up for an easy par shot on the third hole of his second round (No. 12), the morning’s misfortune must have given him a sense of déjà vu.

“Yeah, it felt like … what else is not going to go my way?” he said. “I’m just happy I made it to state. It was a good experience and next year, if I make it, I’ll play a lot better. 

“I don’t think I eased up after sections; I wanted to place well, but it just didn’t happen.”

Overall, Thompson’s second round went much better and started out quite well, as he parred the first three holes. And parring a total of six holes, while shooting no worse than a bogey throughout his second round had Thompson in the clubhouse with an 83 Wednesday afternoon.

“We spoke briefly about what he could do to turn things around and scoring what he’s capable of scoring,” Boeddeker said. “We saw (Luverne’s) Henry Hartquist (12th overall, 152), a player Braxton knows well and one he has beaten this season, score 75. That’s where Braxton can be; he shot a 75 at Oakdale, so he’s right there. Shooting in the 70s and finishing in the top 20, certainly the top half of the field, is not out of the realm of possibility.

“And Braxton did shoot better the second day, a different day, a much nicer day. It’s still not where he wanted to be, but it’s a better note to finish on – an improvement he can be relatively pleased with moving forward.”

Moving forward, with a group that still has its sights set on qualifying for the second day of the section tournament as a team, Thompson knows exactly what he needs to work on.

“Short game, short game, short game; if I can get my chipping and putting down, I could be deadly next year.” he said.