Park Rapids girls teed up solid season
Walt Harrison thought the Park Rapids girls golf team had the potential to shoot under 400 on a consistent basis this spring.
The Panthers did that by ending the season with five rounds under 400 in the final seven meets.
Of the Panthers' top six golfers this season, only juniors Katie Kristofferson and Katie Walsh and sophomore Hannah Williams returned from last year's varsity lineup. Filling the other three spots were sophomore Tonya Melott, freshman Alison Walsh and seventh grader Mariena Dearstyne.
Park Rapids opened the season by carding rounds of 449 at The Pines and 426 at The Preserve for an 875 to finish 13th out of 14 teams at the Pequot Lakes Invitational. Detroit Lakes took first with a two-day total of 684.
The Panthers carded a 439 to finish 11th out of 12 teams at the Staples-Motley Invitational, a 403 to claim runner-up honors at the 10-team Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Invitational and a 402 to finish sixth at the 14-team Park Rapids Invitational. Park Rapids' Black team shot a 571 at Headwaters Country Club. Detroit Lakes shot a 346 to lead the field at Staples, Fosston carded a 376 to win the title at Walker and Pequot Lakes shot a 355 to take first at HCC.
At the Wadena-Deer Creek Invitational, the Panthers shot a 380 to finish fifth out of 11 teams. Detroit Lakes took first with a 342. After carding a 411 to finish third at the six-team Warroad Invitational (Roseau led the field with a 365), the Panthers shot a 376 to finish eighth at the 18-team Staples-Motley Invitational. Detroit Lakes won that meet with a 332.
Detroit Lakes won the Mid-State Conference title with a 331 while the Panthers finished fourth with a 374. That score was the lowest for the Panthers at the conference meet since shooting a 360 in 1981.
Park Rapids shot a 499 to finish seventh at the United North Central Invitational at Blueberry Pines and carded a 436 to finish 12th at the Detroit Lakes Invitational.
The Panthers ended the regular season by carding a 389 to finish second to Fosston's 377 at the nine-team Northern Pines Invitational at Walker.
Park Rapids qualified for the Section 8AA meet by placing third at the North Section 8AA meet at Warroad with a 393. Roseau took first with a 362 while Crookston was second with a 377. Leading the Panthers were Dearstyne with a 92, Williams with a 93, Kristofferson with a 96 and Katie Walsh with a 112.
At the Section 8AA meet at Walker's LongBow Golf Club, the Panthers finished fifth with a 381. Williams led the Panthers with an 89, followed by Dearstyne's 91, Kristofferson's 99 and Katie Walsh's 102. Detroit Lakes claimed the section title with a 328.
The Panthers faced tough competition all year as Detroit Lakes finished second while Pequot Lakes took fourth at the state Class AA meet. Fosston finished third at the state Class A meet.
"I thought the girls did fine. When we had our top four girls, we did really well," said Harrison. "We had three main goals this season. The first was to shoot under 400, which we did several times. The second was to make it to the section tournament, which we did. The third was to get somebody to state. We didn't do that, but we were close. Maybe we'll get that one next year."
Kristofferson was named the Panthers' Most Valuable Player after finishing the season with a 90.6 18-hole average. In 13 meets, Kristofferson carded rounds under 100 all 13 times, highlighted by an 81 at the Northern Pines Invitational. Kristofferson also shot an 84 at Blueberry Pines, an 87 at Staples, carded 88s at The Preserve and at Headwaters, and shot a 90 to earn all-conference honorable mention honors at the Mid-State meet. Kristofferson had a 96.7 average last season.
Williams was second on the team with a 95.3 average in 10 invitational meets. Williams shot an 88 at Staples and carded a 94 at the Mid-State meet. Williams, who had eight rounds under 100, was named the Panthers' Most Dedicated Player. Last season, Williams' average was a 102.
Dearstyne finished with the Panthers' third-best average of 97.1 in her first varsity season. In 10 varsity meets, Dearstyne shot under 100 six times, including an 89 at Wadena and a 90 at the Mid-State meet to earn all-conference honorable mention honors.
Katie Walsh was fourth on the team with a 107.7 average in nine invitational meets. Walsh's best rounds were a 100 at the Mid-State meet and a 101 at Wadena. Walsh dropped her average from a 115 last season.
Melott was fifth on the team with a 113.7 average in seven meets. Melott's best round was a 102 at the Northern Pines Invitational.
Alison Walsh rounded out the Panthers' section team by carding a 133 at the subsection meet and a 134 at the section meet. Walsh finished with a 129.6 average in 10 invitational meets, highlighted by a 119 at Warroad. Walsh was named the Panthers' Most Improved Player.
Also competing in varsity meets this season were seniors Taylor Ondracek and Sophie Shogren; juniors Allycia Zinke, Brandy Parsons, Kaylee Holland and Valli Florack; and sophomore Emily Creager. Ondracek's best round was a 141 at Blueberry Pines, Zinke carded a 132 at the Northern Pines Invitational and a 134 at HCC, Parsons shot a 157 at Staples, Florack fired a 129 at Headwaters and a 132 at Blueberry Pines, Creager carded a 142 at Blueberry Pines and Holland had a 155 at Headwaters. Those girls also competed in some nine-hole Northern Pines Conference meets with Deer River, Nevis, Blackduck, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley, Northome-Kelliher and Red Lake.
Looking ahead to next season, the Panthers return their entire section team. Harrison is counting on that group to continue lowering their scores next spring.
"The girls and I are looking forward to next year. The key for us will be to get a fourth girl to break 100 consistently," said Harrison. "We had a good, solid year this year and we should be even better next year. How much better we are will depend on how much golf the girls play over the summer."