Panthers tee up successful season
Tadd Usher had high expectations for the Park Rapids boys golf team this spring.
A delayed start to the season prevented the Panthers from attaining their main goal.
With a veteran group returning, Usher thought the Panthers had the talent to qualify for the Mid-Minnesota Conference Championship, card a team score under 320 and advance to the Section 8AA tournament.
The Panthers achieved two of those goals, but missed out on the main goal of qualifying for the section meet.
In all, 18 different golfers competed in a varsity meet this spring. That group featured senior Ian Johnson; juniors Bailey Mueller, Dustin Bethel, Jamie Stewart, Ryan DeLaHunt, CJ Hess, Jeff Jacobson, Cody Brumbaugh, Zach Jewison and Andrew Stinar; sophomores Zach Hagen, Dillon Schroeder and Ethan Yliniemi; freshmen Wyatt Derman, Remington Hagan, Kodi Robbins and Hunter Utke; and eighth grader Jackson Leckner.
A delayed spring forced the first five meets in April to be canceled. The Panthers opened the season by traveling to the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Invitational at Faribault on April 26. Mueller’s 79, Johnson’s 88, Bethel’s 92 and Stewart’s 89 led Park Rapids to a 357 to finish 11th out of 16 teams. Shattuck-St. Mary’s took first with a 289.
In the Mid-Minnesota Conference opener at Wadena, the Panthers carded a five-player score of 432 and earned 37.5 points to finish second behind Staples-Motley. Leading the Panthers were Bethel (83), Mueller (86), Johnson (86), DeLaHunt (87), Stewart (89) and Derman (96).
At the Staples-Motley Invitational, the Panthers used 98s by Hess and Hagan, a 103 by Robbins and a 108 by Utke for a 407 to finish 11th in this 12-team meet. Shattuck-St. Mary’s took first with a 303.
The Deacon’s Lodge Invitational also served as the second Mid-Minnesota Conference meet. The Panthers carded a 328 to finish fifth out of 12 teams in the invitational behind Mueller’s career-best 73, Johnson’s 76, Bethel’s 85 and DeLaHunt’s 94. Staples-Motley took first with a 308. Stewart’s 95 and Brumbaugh’s 106 completed the Panthers’ 423 team score in the conference meet for another runner-up finish behind Staples-Motley. Park Rapids earned 39 points in that meet.
Mueller’s 85, Johnson’s 87, Derman’s 90 and Brumbaugh’s 99 led the Panthers to a 361 and fifth place at the seven-team Mid-State Conference meet. Detroit Lakes claimed the team title with a 308.
Park Rapids qualified for the Mid-Minnesota Conference Championship with a pair of third-place finishes during a 36-hole day at Bears Den and Headwaters Country Club.
At Bears Den, Bethel’s career-best 76, Derman’s 77, Johnson’s 78, DeLaHunt’s 81, Stewart’s 87 and Jacobson’s 93 led to a 399 and 34.5 points. The Panthers fulfilled one of their goals by carding a four-player score under 320 with a 312. Staples-Motley again took first.
In the afternoon, the Panthers carded a five-player score of 414 and earned 33.5 points at HCC. Bethel’s 78, Johnson’s 80, Stewart’s 83, Mueller’s 85, Hess’ 88 and DeLaHunt’s 97 led Park Rapids. Staples-Motley again led the field.
During a two-day Detroit Lakes Invitational, the Panthers finished ninth out of 10 teams with a two-day total of 666.
In the first half at Longbow, the Panthers used Mueller’s 79, Bethel’s 83, Derman’s 87 and DeLaHunt’s 90 to card a 339. In the second half, Johnson’s 74, Bethel’s 82, Mueller’s 85 and Derman’s 86 led to a 327. Detroit Lakes took first with rounds of 299 and 295 for a 594.
Park Rapids took sixth at the six-team Wadena-Deer Creek Invitational with a 411 behind Brumbaugh’s 87, Jacobson’s 98, Leckner’s 107 and Schroeder’s 119. Staples-Motley led the way with a 301.
Rain forced the Mid-Minnesota Conference Championship at Cragun’s Legacy to be reduced to nine holes. The Panthers ended up placing third with a 230 and 12 points. Bethel earned all-conference honors with a 41 while 45s by DeLaHunt and Hess, a 49 by Mueller, a 50 by Johnson and a 52 by Derman completed Park Rapids’ team score. Staples-Motley claimed the conference title with a 203 and 30.5 points.
Hess’ 93, Brumbaugh’s 94, Stewart’s 95 and Jacobson’s 97 led the Panthers to a 379 and fifth place at the eight-team Park Rapids Invitational at HCC. Bagley took first with a 324.
The Panthers’ quest to advance to the section tournament fell short with a 324 for fifth place at the Section 8AA North meet at East Grand Forks. Crookston (300), Roseau (307) and Thief River Falls (322) earned the three trips to the section meet while East Grand (323) fell one shot short of qualifying.
Park Rapids did advance two individuals as Johnson was the top individual qualifier with a career-best 72 and Mueller earned the final individual berth in a playoff after carding an 81. Bethel also shot an 81 while DeLaHunt’s 90 rounded out the Panthers’ team score.
At the section meet, Mueller carded an 82 and Johnson carded an 88 to miss out on advancing to the state Class AA tournament.
“I thought the season went pretty well. We met two of our three goals by qualifying for the Mid-Minn Championship and shooting under 320,” said Usher. “We didn’t get to sections, but we were close.”
Mueller was named the Panthers’ MVP after finishing with an 81.7 average in nine 18-hole meets. Johnson had the lowest average of 81.1 in nine meets while Bethel was named the team’s Most Improved after finishing third with an 82.5 average in eight meets. Derman was fourth with an 88.0 average in six meets.
Stewart finished with a 91.4 average in seven meets, DeLaHunt had a 92.5 average in eight meets, Hess finished with a 96.6 average in five meets, Jacobson had a 97.4 average in five meets and Brumbaugh was named the team’s Most Dedicated after finishing with a 98.6 average in five meets.
With Johnson as the only senior, Usher is looking for the Panthers to continue to move up in the team standings and advance to the Section 8AA tournament next spring.
“We have a huge loss in Ian, but hopefully the guys will pick up the pace,” said Usher. “I have high expectations next year. We’ll return a lot of guys who played in varsity events, so they’ll know how to play under pressure. We should easily shoot under 320 multiple times and hopefully we’ll get under 310. If the kids play a lot this summer, we should have another successful season next year.”