Panthers peaked at perfect time
Midway through the season, Jim Weinzierl was a little concerned about the scores the members of the Park Rapids boys golf team were carding. Entering the last part of the season, the Panthers' best score at an invitational meet was a 347. In addi...
Midway through the season, Jim Weinzierl was a little concerned about the scores the members of the Park Rapids boys golf team were carding.
Entering the last part of the season, the Panthers' best score at an invitational meet was a 347. In addition, Park Rapids stood in third place in the Mid-Minnesota Conference standings with two meets to play.
Part of the problem was the condition of the greens at Headwaters Country Club. Having to practice on temporary greens hurt the Panthers' short game and not being able to host a home meet at HCC took away another advantage.
Despite not being able to work on their short game, the Panthers were able to peak at the end of the season by challenging for a spot in the Mid-Minnesota Conference Championships and placing third at the Mid-State Conference meet. The highlight of the season was winning the North Subsection 6A title to qualify for the Section 6A tournament. The last time Park Rapids played in a section meet was back in 1998. The Panthers placed fourth with a 328 at the Section 8A meet that year.
"Our short game was not there. The kids were striking the ball well, but they weren't putting well," said Weinzierl. "We appreciate all Headwaters does for us. Unfortunately, the situation with the greens at Headwaters this spring didn't give us an opportunity to practice our short game and it showed. Fortunately the kids came through at the right time."
In the first half of the season, 17 different golfers competed in a varsity match and all 17 struggled with consistency.
The Panthers opened the season with a 378 to finish 11th out of 14 teams at the Detroit Lakes Invitational at Wildflower. Park Rapids shot a 368 to finish ninth at the 18-team Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Invitational, a 347 to finish 17th at the 26-team Perham Invitational, a 370 for 15th place at the 19-team Fergus Falls Invita-tional, a 382 for 14th place at the 18-team Bagley/Fosston Invitational, a 359 for sixth place at the nine-team Deacon's Lodge Invitational, a 381 for 11th place at the 14-team Staples-Motley Invitational, and a 404 for 19th place at the 19-team Bemidji Invitational.
In addition, the Panthers finished third in the first Mid-Minnesota Confer-ence meet at Wadena with a 236 and took second at the second conference meet at Staples with a 231. Park Rapids also had to move its annual invitational best ball/scramble tournament from Head-waters to Longbow Golf Club in Walker.
A 344 for third place at the 13-team Menahga-Sebeka Invitational at Blue-berry Pines began the Panthers' turnaround. Park Rapids followed by carding a 221 for second place in the third conference meet at Blueberry Pines. That moved the Panthers into second place in the overall conference standings.
After carding a season-best 329 for third place at the 10-team Nevis Invita-tional at Bears Den, the Panthers shot a season-best 210 in the final Mid-Minne-sota Conference meet at Bears Den, which served as the site for Park Rapids' home conference meet. Unfortunately, that score wasn't enough to qualify for the Mid-Minnesota Conference Champ-ionships as Staples-Motley and Wadena-Deer Creek claimed the two berths in that meet. Park Rapids followed with a solid 341 to finish third out of six teams at the Mid-State Conference meet at Staples.
The main highlight of the season was carding a 333 to win the North Subsection 6A title at Fergus Falls. Perham and Hawley/Ulen-Hitterdal followed with 335s while Staples-Motley shot a 336.
The Panthers capped off the season by shooting a 346 for third place at the Section 6A meet at Fergus Falls. Minnewaska Area claimed the section title with a 302 while Perham was second with a 320. Wheaton took fourth with a 351.
"It was nice to see the kids come through when they had to," said Weinzierl. "We were able to beat teams that had beat us most of the year. Winning the subsection was great for our program."
Leading the Panthers this season were the 12 letterwinners: seniors Nate Wittenburg, Levi Goeden, Cory Melott, Brian Hall and Ryan Paulouski; juniors Justin Borchart, Justin Dennis and Ben Brandon; sophomores T.J. Becker, Nate Schmidgall and Derek Holden; and freshman Giocomo Siciliani.
Of that group, Wittenburg, Goeden, Borchart, Dennis, Brandon and Becker comprised the section-qualifying squad.
Wittenburg was named the Panthers' Most Valuable Golfer after leading the team with a 42.42 nine-hole average. The senior co-captain earned Mid-Minnesota Conference honors by carding an 87 at the conference meet and led the team with a 79 at the Mid-State Conference meet. Wittenburg earned medalist honors at the Menahga-Sebeka Invitational with a season-best 76 and capped off the season by carding an 81 at the subsection meet and an 85 at the section tournament. Wittenburg had averages of 46.47 in 2003, 46.91 in 2004 and 41.06 in 2005.
Goeden, the other co-captain, finished second on the team with a 44.70 nine-hole average. Goeden's best rounds of the season were a pair of 82s at Perham and Bears Den. Goeden also qualified for the Mid-Minnesota Conference Championships and shot a 101 at that meet. Goeden ended the season with rounds of 89 at the Mid-State meet, 86 at the subsection meet and 84 at the section meet. Goeden also completed his fourth season on the varsity. Goeden had averages of 49.75 in 2003, 47.75 in 2004 and 43.44 in 2005.
Borchart ended the season with a 45.17 average, highlighted by a team-best 80 at the subsection meet. Borchart also earned Mid-Minnesota Conference honors with a 91 at that meet and carded rounds of 90 at the Mid-State meet and 88 at the section meet. Borchart had averages of 46.67 in 2004 and 44.65 in 2005.
Dennis saw his average drop from 50.64 in 2004 to 47.15 in 2005 to 45.30 this spring. Dennis' best round this season was an 84 at Bears Den and an 87 at Blueberry Pines. Dennis was also the medalist in the third Mid-Minnesota Conference meet at Blueberry Pines with a 38. Dennis ended the season with rounds of 94 at the Mid-Minnesota Conference Championships, 91 at the Mid-State meet, 90 at the subsection meet and 91 at the section meet.
Brandon also sliced his average from 46.90 in 2005 to 46.35 this season. Brandon carded a career-best 83 at the Mid-State meet and followed with an 86 at the subsection meet and a 91 at the section tournament.
Becker rounded out the Panthers' section squad, finishing the season with a 47.11 average in his first year in golf. Becker's best round was a 90 at Deacon's Lodge and he ended the year with a 99 at the Mid-State meet, a 92 at the subsection meet and a 95 at the section tournament.
Melott saw his average drop from 51.11 last year to 48.50 this season. Melott's best rounds were an 88 at Bears Den and a 91 at Bemidji. Melott was named the Panthers' Most Improved Golfer.
Hall concluded his fourth varsity season with a 49.30 average, highlighted by an 88 at Bears Den. Hall had a 51.10 average in 2003, a 47.33 average in 2004 and a 46.90 average in 2005.
Siciliani compiled a 50.42 average with a best of 99 at Perham, Schmidgall had a 51.08 average with a best of 93 at Bagley/Fosston, Holden had a 53.25 average with a best of 101 at Staples, and Paulouski had a 47.75 average with a best of 94 at Fergus Falls. Paulouski had averages of 48.88 in 2004 and 46.00 in 2005.
Also seeing some varsity action this season were juniors Mike Schupp and Ryan Criswell; sophomores Jake Sheeran, John Kading, Jake Sauer, Cory Kimball, Brian Hensel, Lewis Deitchler, Elliot Lawrence and Shawn Grover; and freshman Matt Offerdahl.
Looking ahead to next year, the Panthers will have to replace their top-two golfers from the section team. However, with four golfers returning from that subsection championship team and 14 other golfers returning with varsity experience, Weinzierl is looking for Park Rapids to contend for another berth in the section field again next spring.
"I see us being competitive again next season," said Weinzierl. "Winning the subsection showed the kids that we can compete. We lose five seniors with Nate and Levi being our No. 1 and No. 2 golfers. We need a number of kids to pick up their games a lot to fill those spots. If these kids play a lot of golf over the summer and improve their games, I can see us being in the hunt in most tournaments and getting back to the section tournament."