When it comes to golf, Winona Senior High senior Matt Turner has accomplished a lot.
He tallied his first hole-in-one at the age of five, he was on varsity as a seventh-grader, and was a captain his final three seasons — something that coach Jon Hogenson called, “pretty rare” for the Winona program. He is a four-time All-Big Nine conference performer and is committed to play collegiately at Winona State. He has also recorded multiple wins on the Minnesota Junior PGA Players Tour including a 2018 Section C championship. But one thing has always eluded Turner and his golf career.
A chance to play at the state tournament.
That is until this year.
Turner finally broke through and captured one of the only golf accomplishments that has slipped his fingers by delivering a fifth-place finish at the Section 1AAA Boys Golf Tournament in Lake City two weeks ago.
Turner was in 12th after day one with a seven-over-par 78 that would have left him on the outside looking in for a state berth. Only the top-five individuals from the non-winning team at sections qualify for state. He had shot a first-round 78 the last two years at sections where he missed a state berth by three strokes in back-to-back seasons. But this year felt different. Turner felt the experience of being in this position prepared him for this time.
“I had been in this position before,” Turner said. “I knew I wasn’t very far back. I looked up at the leaderboard after the first day, so I knew I didn’t have to go out there and do too much the second day. So I went out there with a conservative approach to try and get a low number out there to see what happens.
“I told myself that I couldn’t make anything worse than a double bogey or anything worse than a bogey if I wanted to make state. Any holes that was tricky with hazards or out of bounds I would play irons off the tees instead of drivers. I was just playing for pars.”
Thanks to that different approach, Turner turned it around on day two, shooting a 73 — tied for the second best day two score — to get him into a tie for fifth place with a 151. More importantly it punched Turner’s first ticket to state.
“Obviously, I feel like I could have made state since I was a freshman,” Turner said. “I didn’t play too well and then I missed it by three shots the last two years so it’s been kind of tough waiting because making it to state has been my No. 1 goal. I’m very excited. I don’t think the moment will be too big for me.”
Turner is scheduled to tee off on the front nine at Bunker Hills Golf Course in Coon Rapids at 8:33 a.m. He is the only upperclassmen in his foursome that includes Mounds View seventh-grader Charlie Allen, Eagan sophomore Brooks Loeffler, and fellow Big 9 Conference golfer Nate Stevens, who is a freshman from Northfield.
Despite this being his first time at state, Turner admitted he isn’t worried about the pressures of state saying, he had “played in high-intensity golf tournaments before.” Combined that with the fact that with the last round he put together, Turner is feeling confident heading into Tuesday.
“I came through when it mattered most,” he said. “Obviously that was pretty big, important round for me to achieve my goal and I was able to perform well. So I think that does help the confidence going into state.”
For Turner the trip to state is a perfect ending to a stellar high school career.
“It’s been a weird year just with all the emotions of it being my last year,” Turner said. “It honestly feels like I was just walking down the fairways as a little seventh-grader watching all the seniors and now I’m here and at conference a few weeks ago knowing it was my last time at the Bridges, just knowing what I put into it. It got me emotional.”