Consistent Panthers fulfilled goals
Walt Harrison had some high expectations for the Park Rapids girls golf team this season.
The Panthers lived up to all of those expectations.
The main highlights of the season were shooting a 354 to break the school record and win the North Subsection 8AA title to qualify for the Section 8AA meet and having senior Katie Kristofferson qualify for the state Class AA tournament. The Panthers also won the Northern Pines Conference title and carded seven rounds under 400.
Having five golfers return from last year's team gave the Panthers consistency. In addition, Harrison was able to give seven other golfers some valuable varsity experience.
Leading the Panthers this season were the five veterans from last season: seniors Katie Kristofferson and Katie Walsh; junior Hannah Williams; sophomore Alison Walsh; and eighth grader Mariena Dearstyne.
Contributing in their first varsity seasons were eighth graders Jada Current, Alyza Edevold, Paige Fritze, Riley Kimball, Dana McDonald and Lexi Stevenson; and seventh grader Drew Hilmanowski.
Those golfers turned in consistent rounds all season.
The Panthers opened the season by carding rounds of 390 and 411 for an 801 to place 11th at the Brainerd/Pequot Lakes Invitational at The Pines and The Preserve. Williams' 87, Kristofferson's 88, Dear-styne's 100 and Katie Walsh's 115 led the Panthers at The Pines while Kristofferson's 90, Dear-styne's 99, Williams' 101 and Katie Walsh's 121 led the Panthers at The Preserve. St. Cloud Apollo topped the 16-team field with a two-day total of 687.
At the Park Rapids Invitational, the Panthers finished eighth out of 16 teams with a 383 behind Kristofferson's 88, Williams' 92, Dearstyne's 97 and Katie Walsh's 106. Detroit Lakes led the way with a 311. Kimball (115), McDonald (120), Edevold (123) and Hilmanowski (134) led the Park Rapids Black team, which shot a 492.
Dearstyne's 89, Kristofferson's 90, Williams' 93 and Katie Walsh's 110 led the Panthers to eighth place with a 382 at the Wadena-Deer Creek Invitational. Detroit Lakes topped the 13-team field with a 317.
The Panthers claimed the title at the seven-team Crookston Invitational with a 383 behind Williams' 91, Kristofferson's 94, Dearstyne's 96 and Katie Walsh's 102.
At the Red Lake Invitational at Longbow, the Panthers finished third out of 10 teams with a 403. Kristofferson shared med-alist honors with an 85 while Williams' 91, Edevold's 112 and Kimball's 115 completed the team score. Fosston took first with a 398.
Park Rapids followed with a 401 to finish 13th at the Staples-Motley Invitational. Kristofferson's 87, Williams' 94, and a pair of 110s by Katie Walsh and Edevold comprised the Panthers' team score. Detroit Lakes took first at this 14-team meet with a 318.
Kristofferson's 87, Williams' 88, Dearstyne's 97 and Katie Walsh's 102 led the Panthers to a 374 and fourth place at the seven-team Mid-State Conference meet at Whitebirch. Detroit Lakes claimed the conference title with a 307.
At the 10-team United North Central Invitational at Blueberry Pines, the Panthers carded a 421 to finish eighth. Kristofferson's 91, Dearstyne's 107, Kimball's 109 and McDonald's 114 led Park Rapids. Grand Rapids won the title with a 337.
Grand Rapids followed with a 338 to win the title at the nine-team Wadena-Deer Creek Invitational. Park Rapids finished fifth with a 369 as Dearstyne's 86, Kristofferson's 90, Williams' 93 and Katie Walsh's 100 led the way.
An 89 by Kristofferson, a 94 by Dearstyne, a 104 by Edevold and a 118 by Kimball led the Panthers to a 405 for 10th place at the Detroit Lakes Invitational. The host Lakers took first with a 306.
During the five Northern Pines Conference meets, the Panthers took first in four of them to win the overall title in this nine-team conference.
At Tianna, Kristofferson shared medalist honors with a 46 while Dearstyne's 48 and Williams' 52 led the Panthers to a three-player score of 146.
Kristofferson was the medalist at Blackduck with a 41 while Dearstyne's 48 and 56s by Kimball and McDonald led the Panthers to first place with a 145.
At Bears Den, Kristofferson again shared medalist honors with a 39 while Dearstyne's 44 and Kimball's 51 led the Panthers to another first-place finish with a 134.
Park Rapids settled for runner-up honors at Deer River with a 165 behind Kristofferson's 45, Edevold's 59 and McDonald's 61.
The Panthers capped off the conference season with a 141 at Castle Highlands as Dearstyne's 42, Kristofferson's 46 and Edevold's 53 led to another win.
Kristofferson had the lowest score in conference play while Dearstyne was third as both earned all-conference honors.
The Panthers broke the 1981 school record of 355 by carding a 354 to win the subsection title at Crookston. Dearstyne earned medalist honors with a career-best 78, Kristofferson finished second with an 81, Williams was fourth with a 90 and Edevold carded a 105 to lead Park Rapids. Thief River Falls was second with a 381 while Roseau took third out of eight teams with a 390.
At the Section 8AA meet at Longbow, the Panthers finished sixth with a 424. Kristofferson earned the final state berth by winning a playoff after carding a 91. Williams' 99, Kimball's 114 and Edevold's 120 rounded out Park Rapids' team score. Detroit Lakes won the section title with a 309 and went on to win the state Class AA title by 35 strokes over Minnewaska.
The Panthers put together a very consistent season, carding seven rounds under 400 in nine meets when the top four golfers competed.
"We set four goals before the season," said Harrison. "The first was to win the Northern Pines Conference and we did that basically with Katie (Kristofferson) and five eighth graders. The second was to get under 360 and we did that. The third was to qualify for sections and we did that. The fourth was to get people to state. Katie made it, but we wanted one or two more to go. Overall it was a very successful season."
Kristofferson capped off her senior season by qualifying for her first state meet. In her state debut, Kristofferson carded rounds of 87 and 91 to tie for 38th place out of 88 golfers with a 178 at The Ridges at Sand Creek near Jordan. Kristofferson played consistent golf all season, carding rounds between 81 and 94 for an average of 88.6 in 15 18-hole meets. That was an improvement on her averages of 90.6 in 2011, 96.7 in 2010, 98.3 in 2009 and 113.0 in 2008. Kristofferson received the Panthers' Most Valuable and Most Dedicated awards.
"Katie set a goal to get to state and she played very well at state," said Harrison. "To finish in the top half against the cream of the crop was a nice way for Katie to end her career."
Williams finished second on the team with a 92.6 average, which was an improvement on her averages of 95.6 in 2011, 102.0 in 2010 and 111.6 in 2009. In 11 18-hole meets, Williams carded rounds under 100 in 10 of them with a low of 87.
Dearstyne was third on the team with a 94.3 average, which was lower than her 97.1 average last season. In 10 18-hole meets, Dearstyne shot 100 or lower nine times.
Katie Walsh capped off her senior season with a 109.8 average in 10 meets. Walsh had a 107.7 average in 2011, a 115.0 average in 2010 and a 122.3 average in 2009.
Kimball (112.8 average in nine rounds), Edevold (113.3 average in seven rounds) and McDonald (121.7 average in six rounds) played steady golf in their varsity debuts while Alison Walsh had a 130.7 average in seven meets with a low of 121.
Also receiving some varsity experience were Hilmanowski (118.3 average in three meets), Fritze (130.0 average in two meets) and Current (150.0 average in two meets). Hilmanowski, who carded a 105 in her final varsity meet, received the team's Most Improved award.
"I was a little concerned about throwing the younger kids into varsity meets, but they held their own," said Harrison. "They continued to improve and gained a lot of confidence. It was very gratifying to see them play so well."
Harrison is looking for continued improvement next season. Even though the Panthers will lose two key golfers in Kristofferson and Katie Walsh, Harrison likes the potential of his returning golfers.
"It's going to be tough to replace the seniors, but we have a good core of kids coming back. Hannah and Mariena will be our two big guns and I feel we have a bunch of girls who will fill in and shoot under 100 next year," said Harrison. "I see us striving to break 400 early in the season, shooting in the 380s during the middle of the season, and hopefully shooting under 360 at the end of the year. These girls are dedicated and I think we're going to be very competitive again next year. The key is what they do this summer. If they play a lot of golf, I think we can be just as good as we were this year by the end of the year. I'm looking forward to next season."