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Panthers look for new leaders: Girls hoping to break 400 with return of five players with varsity experience

Shooting a round under 400 was the main goal of the Park Rapids girls golf team last season. The Panthers managed to reach that goal twice, carding a 393 and a 390 late in the season. Those two scores were the first sub-400 rounds since the 2001 ...

Shooting a round under 400 was the main goal of the Park Rapids girls golf team last season.

The Panthers managed to reach that goal twice, carding a 393 and a 390 late in the season. Those two scores were the first sub-400 rounds since the 2001 season.

Even with their three best golfers gone, head coach Walt Harrison is confident the Panthers can make a charge late in the season to shoot a round under 400 again this spring.

Leading the Panthers last season were the senior trio of Lexi Aho, Eleonore Waterkeyn and Megan Goebel. Aho qualified for the state Class A tournament by placing fourth at the Section 6A meet before capping off her senior season by placing 39th in her state debut. Aho led the Panthers with an 18-hole average of 93.1. Waterkeyn was second on the team with a 104.0 average while Goebel was third with a 106.3 average.

Looking to step into the roles as the Panthers' top golfers this season are the five returning letterwinners: juniors Megan Law-rence and Mindy Lawrence and sophomores Kirsten Erickson, Mary Kading and Kallie Zeller.

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Megan Lawrence finished fourth on the team with a 109.8 average in nine tournaments. Lawrence shot a season-best 101 at Blueberry Pines before carding rounds of 108 at the Mid-State Conference meet at Wadena and 109 at the subsection tournament at Fergus Falls.

Mindy Lawrence competed in 10 meets and finished with a 115.8 average. Lawrence, whose best round was a 105 at Headwaters Country Club, ended the season by carding a 108 at the conference meet and a 123 at the subsection meet.

Kading had a 113.8 average in six meets, highlighted by a 105 at The Pines. Kading shot a 109 at the subsection meet.

Zeller posted a 114.9 average in eight meets, led by a pair of 107s at Crosby-Ironton and Headwaters Country Club.

Erickson competed in six varsity meets and had a 124.8 average. Erickson's best scores were a 119 at Detroit Lakes and a 120 at the conference meet.

Competing for the other varsity spot will be juniors Katherine Jacobson and Maggie Shallbetter and eighth grader Allie Bade. Comprising the junior varsity will be eighth graders Katelyn Kristofferson and Katie Walsh; and seventh graders Jessica Andersen, Grace Bateman, Kaylee Hilmanowski and Hannah Williams.

"The one thing we have going for us is the five players we have back got a lot of experience for us last year," said Harrison, who will be assisted by Tadd Usher. "We might not have the low scores Lexi, Megan and Eleonore shot for us, but I think our average will be comparable."

The Panthers will compete in a new section this season since golf has been divided into three classes. Park Rapids will compete in Section 8AA, joining Ada-Borup, Breckenridge, Crookston, Detroit Lakes, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, East Grand Forks, Fergus Falls, Frazee, Hawley/Ulen-Hitterdal, Pelican Rapids, Perham, Roseau, Thief River Falls, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley and Warroad. The subsection and section meets will be held at Wildflower.

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"It's hard to judge how we'll do since we haven't been outside yet, but I think we have a realistic shot at breaking 400 this year," said Harrison, whose team is scheduled to open the season Monday at Staples. "We have some girls who played a lot over the summer. If we can get two scores in the 90s and two scores just over 100, we're going to be competitive with schools our size. I'm looking forward to the season."

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