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Panthers prepared to reach potential

Leading the Park Rapids boys golf team this spring will be seniors (from left) Justin Dravis, Jacob Bittmann, Eric LaFountain and Jackson Leckner. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

Jeff Anderson is expecting the Park Rapids boys golf team to continue improving.

The Panthers ended last season by carding their best round of the season with a 338 at the Pre-Section 8AA tournament and followed with a 350 for fourth place at the North Section 8AA tournament. Those scores didn't meet Anderson's main goals of breaking 320 as a team and advancing to the Section 8AA tournament, but did provide a solid base for this spring.

With seven letterwinners returning, Anderson is looking for the Panthers to top that 320 mark this season and contend for a spot in the section tournament. Last season, Park Rapids finished behind Crookston's 322, Roseau's 344 and East Grand Forks' 345 at the subsection meet. Detroit Lakes edged Crookston for the section title and went on to place fifth at the state Class AA tournament.

Leading the Panthers this spring will be seniors Jacob Bittmann, Justin Dravis, Eric LaFountain and Jackson Leckner; junior Luke Kosel; sophomore Bjorn Jorgenson; and eighth grader Tate Usher.

Leckner, Jorgenson and Usher qualified as individuals for the Section 8AA tournament last season. Usher followed an 86 at the North Section 8AA meet with rounds of 93 and 95 at the Section 8AA meet, Leckner carded an 87 at the North Section 8AA meet to advance and carded rounds of 91 and 86 at the Section 8AA meet, and Jorgenson followed an 88 at the North Section 8AA meet with rounds of 81 and 87 at the Section 8AA meet.

Jorgenson led the team with an 88.1 average in 10 18-hole rounds, Leckner was third with a 90.3 average in 10 meets and Usher followed with a 91.2 average in 10 meets. Rounding out last year's top 5 were seniors Hunter Utke with an 89.3 average and Matt DeLaHunt with a 98.4 average.

Dravis carded rounds of 95, 106 and 109 in three 18-hole tournaments while Bittmann had rounds of 88, 106 and 110. Kosel played in two meets and had rounds of 94 and 108 while LaFountain carded rounds of 117 and 118 in two varsity meets.

In Northern Pines Conference play last season, the Panthers finished second behind Walker-Hackensack-Akeley. Jorgenson had a 45.5 average in four meets, Usher had a 47.8 average in five meets, Bittmann had a 48.0 average in three meets, Dravis had a 49.0 average in three meets, Kosel had a 49.3 average in three meets, Leckner had a 50.3 average in four meets and LaFountain had a 59.0 average in three meets.

Competing for varsity spots will be juniors Sam Huot and Carter Novak, sophomore Cody Dravis and freshmen Nicholas Canfield, Kaelan Emerson, Daniel Neubauer and Trenton Stark.

"The potential is there. We have three kids who played at the section meet back and we have several other kids who have the potential to shoot good rounds," said Anderson. "All these kids are willing to practice and learn. Honestly, I think we can break 320 this year. That will be a good target score for us. I'm hoping we can send four kids, if not the entire team, to the section meet."