Panthers tee up successful season
With four members back from last year's team that qualified for the Section 8AA tournament, Walt Harrison expected another successful season from the Park Rapids girls golf team this spring.
The Panthers lived up to their coach's expectations by carding six rounds under 400 and having four golfers card career-best rounds.
Leading the Panthers this season were the four returning section players: seniors Kirsten Erickson and Mary Kading, sophomore Katie Kristofferson and freshman Hannah Williams. Senior Kallie Zeller and sophomore Katie Walsh also returned with varsity experience while sophomore Allycia Zinke competed in golf for the first time.
Park Rapids opened the season on a positive note with a pair of runner-up finishes. The Panthers carded a 394 at the 12-team Perham Invitational and followed with a 387 at the eight-team Pelican Rapids Invitational. Perham edged the Panthers by one stroke at both meets to claim the team titles.
At Perham, Kristofferson's 92, Kading's 95, Erickson's 102 and Williams' 105 led the way while Kading's 90, 96s by Kristofferson and Williams, and a career-best 105 by Walsh led the Panthers at Pelican Rapids.
Poor weather prevented the Panthers from breaking 400 at their next three meets. The Panthers carded a 426 for eighth place at the 11-team Staples-Motley Invitational, a 404 for third place at the 12-team Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Invitational at Tianna Country Club and a 446 for 12th place at the 14-team Grand Rapids Invitational. Alexandria shot a 332 to win the title at Staples, Fosston carded a 399 to take first at Walker and Grand Rapids shot a 349 to lead the way on its home course.
Erickson's 101, Walsh's 107, Kristofferson's 108 and Kading's 110 led the Panthers at Staples while Kristofferson's 99, Kading's 100, Erickson's 101 and Williams' 104 led Park Rapids at Walker. At Grand Rapids, Erickson's 92, Kristofferson's 101, Kading's 102 and Zinke's 151 comprised the team score.
A season low 375 led the Panthers to fifth place at the 13-team Park Rapids Invitational at Headwaters Country Club. Kading's 88, Erickson's career-best 91, Kristofferson's 91 and Williams' 105 led the Panthers. Detroit Lakes won that meet with a 349.
Detroit Lakes followed with a 350 to win the title at the 10-team Wadena-Deer Creek Invitational. Park Rapids shot a 396 for sixth place behind Kristofferson's 91, Kading's 97, Erickson's 98 and Williams' 110.
Park Rapids carded another round under 400 at the 11-team W-H-A Invitational at Longbow by placing sixth with a 388. Kristofferson's 92, Kading's 95, Erickson's 97 and Williams' 104 led the Panthers. Roseau shot a 353 to lead the field in a tune up for the section tournament.
Kristofferson (101), Walsh (107) and Williams (107) competed at the Staples-Motley Invitational before the Panthers placed fourth at the six-team Mid-State Conference tournament with a 405. Erickson and Williams carded 97s while Kristofferson's 100 and Walsh's 111 rounded out the team score. Detroit Lakes won the conference title with a 338.
The Panthers had their quest to return to the Section 8AA tournament fall short by placing fourth at the North Section 8AA tournament at Headwaters Country Club. Kristofferson shot a career best 84, Williams carded a 97 and Erickson had a 99 to advance to the section tournament. Zeller's 111 rounded out the Panthers' team score. Roseau (343), Crookston (360) and East Grand Forks (370) earned the three section berths.
At the section tournament at Longbow, Erickson matched her career low with a 91 while Williams carded a career-low 95. Kristofferson shot a 105 to end the season.
"I thought we had a good year. We got off to a good start with the nice weather, but then we played in the rain and cold and our scores went up. But we were able to pull it back together at the end," said Harrison. "When we had our top four girls, we consistently shot under 400, which is always one of our goals."
Erickson and Kristofferson shared the team's Most Valuable Player award. Erickson finished with a 96.9 average in 10 18-hole rounds while Kristofferson had a 96.7 average in 12 18-hole rounds. Erickson had a 101.3 average last season while Kristofferson improved on her 98.3 average from last season.
Kading played in the first eight meets and had a 97.2 average, which was down from her 98.0 average of 2009.
Williams dropped her average from 111.6 last season to 102.0 in 10 rounds this season.
Walsh also improved this spring, dropping from a 122.3 average in 2009 to a 115.0 average in 10 rounds this season. Walsh shared the team's Most Improved Player award with Zinke, who had a 142.3 average in six rounds in her first season in golf.
Zeller, who battled injuries the last three seasons, finished with a 118.0 average in three rounds this season.
Looking ahead to next season, the Panthers will have to replace their three seniors. However, four golfers who competed in the subsection tournament will return to give the Panthers a solid nucleus.
"We're going to have to find a fourth score for us to be competitive," said Harrison. "We're going to be young, but the girls are getting better every year. I'm looking forward to next year. The key will be how much the girls play in the summer. If they play a lot and improve, we should have another successful season."