Mother Nature didn't exactly lay out the red carpet for the Region 5 boys golf tournament Thursday at Prairie West in Mandan.
The 11 teams entered teed off in 47-degree temperatures with winds blowing out of the north at 15 to 24 mph. In at nutshell, it was not an ideal day to be on the golf course.
However, the Heart River golf team did that to which it has become accustomed -- it won. The Cougars posted a four-man 336 to win the tournament by 18 strokes. Leading the way was the day's medalist, senior Jeff Mattson, who logged a 40-38-78.
Heart River, runner-up Dickinson Trinity and third-place Western Morton County earned berths in the state tournament. The Jamestown Country Club will play host to the state tournament, which is scheduled to begin May 28.
The regional golf championship was the fourth in a row for Heart River. The previous three seasons the Cougars have placed second at the state tournament.
Mattson, a 5-foot-8, 160-pounder from South Heart who plays point guard in basketball, is by no means a surprise champion. He placed third in the region and eighth in the state as a junior and has been a medalist three times this spring.
Still, he said it took some doing to wrestle Prairie West and Mother Nature to the ground on Thursday.
"It was a grind today. I didn't play my best, but it was just good enough. ... I started off the round with a double (bogey), and that doesn't help. And lots of my putts weren't falling," Mattson said.
After carding a double-bogey six on his first hole, Mattson played par golf for six holes before closing with two bogeys. On the back nine, he shot bogeys on holes 10, 12 and 13, birdies No. 14 and closed with four pars.
Mattson said he had his sights set on first place, both as an individual and team, on Thursday.
"I wanted to win, because my teammate Joey Wagner won it last year and the year before that my teammate Trace Jacobsen won. So I wanted to win it and I wanted to win it for my team. ... I just felt it was m year to win the region," he said.
Mattson edged Champ Hettich of Beulah by a stroke. Hettich shot a 40-39 -- 79.
Only 10 players broke 90 in Thursday's uninviting conditions.
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Mattson said adding a fourth team title was extra-satisfying because it keeps the Couger tradition alive.
"It give the other kids who are coming up through the ranks something to work for," he said.
Mattson intends to attend Bismarck State College, but athletics are not in his plans. So the state golf tournament will signal an end to competitive sports. He'd like to go out with a memorable performance.
"For the team, I think we should get into the top three. Individually, I'm going for the win," he observed. "Last year I was tied for first place after the first day, so I definitely think I have the ability to win it," he said.
Heart River coach Ronnie Stewart said the Cougars came to Mandan to win, but victory was certainly not taken for granted.
"We definitely knew we were not guaranteed first place. We have three first places this year, but three times we've finished second to Morton County," Stewart noted.
He said the Cougars didn't exactly win according to plan.
"Our No. 3 golfer didn't do as well as he has all year ... but our No. 5 really stepped up," Stewart said.
Indeed, Shay Olson logged an 85 for the team's third-best tally behind Mattson and Jacob Robb. Robb led the tournament with a 36 after nine holes and finished with an 82. Nick Fagerberg's 91 rounded out Heart River's 336.
Stewart said it will be a tall order to get past defending champion Kindred at the state tournament. He thinks another second-place finish is a realistic goal, although Fargo Oak Grove is also in the mix. Kindred has won the state championship five of the last eight seasons.
The way Mattson played Thursday bodes well for the future, according to Stewart.
"That shows the character he has. He got down a little but ... and we talked about the holes he could attack and get birdies on. And he capitalized on it," the coach noted.