Winning NPC title highlighted season for Park Rapids boys golf team
Even though the Park Rapids boys golf team didn't meet head coach Jeff Anderson's goal of carding a round in the 320s, the Panthers did fulfill one of their main goals by winning the Northern Pines Conference title.
Park Rapids played well in all six conference meets this spring, taking first in four of them to claim the Northern Pines Conference title with 9 points. Walker-Hackensack-Akeley/Laporte was second with 13 points while United North Central took third place in the nine-team league with 14 points. Deer River (25 points), Bigfork (36), Nevis (37), Blackduck (49), Red Lake (51) and Cass Lake (57) followed.
Leading the Panthers to the conference title were seniors Jackson Leckner, Jacob Bittmann and Justin Dravis; junior Luke Kosel; sophomores Bjorn Jorgenson and Cody Dravis; and eighth grader Tate Usher. That group helped the Panthers average a four-golfer score of 175.8 in the six nine-hole NPC meets.
Usher tied for first with a 41 while Leckner's 45 and a pair of 47s by Bittmann and Cody Dravis led the Panthers to a 180 to lead the way in the conference opener at Blueberry Pines. The Panthers followed with another first-place finish as Usher's runner-up 41, Jorgenson's 42, Leckner's 44 and Justin Dravis' 46 led to a 173 at Headwaters Golf Club. Usher led the field with a 40 while Jorgenson's 44, Bittmann's 46 and a pair of 50s by Leckner and Justin Dravis gave Park Rapids a 180 for another win at Walker's Tianna Country Club. WHAL took first at Bears Den with a 163 as Jorgenson's 40, Usher's 41 and a pair of 44s by Justin Dravis and Kosel led the Panthers to a runner-up 169. United North Central carded a 170 while Park Rapids took third with a 188 behind Jorgenson's 42, Justin Dravis' 48 and 49s by Usher and Cody Dravis at Blackduck. The Panthers sealed the conference title by winning the final meet at Castle Highlands as Jorgenson's 40, 41s by Usher and Leckner and a 43 by Kosel produced a 165.
Usher finished third overall in conference play with 163 strokes in his top four meets while Jorgenson finished fourth with 164 strokes as both earned all-conference honors. Leckner finished 10th overall with 175 strokes. In six conference meets, Usher had a 42.2 average, Jorgenson finished with a 42.8 average and Leckner had a 45.8 average. Bittmann (46.0 average) and Justin Dravis (47.4 average) played in five NPC meets while Cody Dravis (47.3 average) and Kosel (48.0 average) played in four NPC meets.
In the seven 18-hole tournaments, the Panthers carded a 355.3 average with a low of 340 and a high of 373.
At the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Invitational at Tianna, the Panthers claimed runner-up honors with a 352 behind Jorgenson's 82, Usher's 86, Cody Dravis' 91 and 93s by Justin Dravis and Kosel. Pine River-Backus led the 10-team field with a 345.
The Panthers finished sixth on their home course at the Park Rapids Invitational at Headwaters with a 341 as Detroit Lakes topped the 14-team field with a 319. Jorgenson's 76, Usher's 86, Leckner's 88 and Cody Dravis' 91 led Park Rapids.
Usher's 89, Jorgenson's 90 and 97s by Leckner and Justin Dravis led to a 373 and a 14th-place showing at the Bemidji Invitational at the Town & Country Club. Detroit Lakes took first out of 15 teams with a 324.
The Panthers tied for third place with a 365 at the United North Central Invitational at Blueberry Pines behind Jorgenson's 82, a pair of 94s by Leckner and Cody Dravis, and a 95 by Justin Dravis. United North Central took first with a 342.
Detroit Lakes captured the Mid-State Conference title at Headwaters Golf Club with a 302 as the Panthers finished third out of six teams with a 340. Jorgenson earned all-conference honorable mention honors with an 80 while Usher's 83, Cody Dravis' 88 and Leckner's 89 rounded out the team score. Detroit Lakes won the conference title for the 24th year in a row.
Crookston tuned up for the Section 8AA North tournament by carding a 319 to top the eight-team field at the Pre-Section 8AA North tournament at Thief River Falls. Jorgenson's 80, Usher's 88, Justin Dravis' 91 and 97s by Cody Dravis and Kosel led Park Rapids to fifth place with a 356.
Park Rapids finished sixth at the Section 8AA North tournament with a 360 as Crookston claimed the team title with a 325. Thief River Falls (331) and East Grand Forks (337) earned the other team berths to the Section 8AA meet. Usher carded an 84 to advance as an individual for the section meet while Cody Dravis' 87, Jorgenson's 94 and Justin Dravis' 95 completed the Panthers' team score. Leckner and Kosel added 98s.
Usher capped off the season with rounds of 90 and 82 at the Section 8AA meet at Bemidji's Town & Country Club. Detroit Lakes carded rounds of 305 and 314 for a two-day total of 619 to win the section title ahead of Fergus Falls (628), Crookston (639), East Grand Forks (658), Perham (668) and Thief River Falls (683). Detroit Lakes went on to place third at the state Class AA meet.
Jorgenson, who was named the team's Most Dedicated Golfer, led the Panthers with an 83.4 average in seven 18-hole rounds. Usher played in nine 18-hole rounds and finished with an 87.6 average. Cody Dravis, who was named the team's Most Improved Golfer, finished with a 92.4 average in seven 18-hole rounds. Kosel played in five 18-hole rounds and had a 94.6 average. Justin Dravis compiled a 94.9 average in seven 18-hole rounds. Leckner also played in seven 18-hole rounds and had a 95.0 average. Bittmann carded a 105 in his only 18-hole tournament.
Also competing on varsity this season were senior Eric LaFountain (who carded rounds of 99 and 143) and freshman Kaelan Emerson (who carded an 89 in his only 18-hole meet).
"I thought we could get in the 320s, but it just didn't work out. We just couldn't get those third and fourth scores," said Anderson. "It was nice to win the Northern Pines. We beat two good teams in Walker and UNC after finishing second last year."
Next spring, the Panthers will have to replace the four seniors, but Anderson is counting on Usher, Jorgenson, Cody Dravis and Kosel to lead the way to an improved season.
"We have four golfers coming back who should give us a solid core," said Anderson. "We have some potential. I foresee a 340 being our high score next season. Our section is so strong, but I'd like to see us get two or three kids to sections."