Panthers relying on veterans
Jim Weinzierl will once again count on depth to make the Park Rapids boys golf team competitive this spring. Last year, 17 different golfers played in a varsity meet while another 16 competed in at least one junior varsity meet. All that competit...
Jim Weinzierl will once again count on depth to make the Park Rapids boys golf team competitive this spring.
Last year, 17 different golfers played in a varsity meet while another 16 competed in at least one junior varsity meet. All that competition for the six varsity spots helped the Panthers finish second in the Mid-Minnesota Conference Championship, tie for third at the Mid-State Conference meet with a 336 and place fourth at the Subsection 6A North meet with a 341.
Going into this season, Weinzierl has a veteran cast returning as the Panthers look to improve on those showings.
"I expect us to be very competitive again," said Weinzierl. "I expect us to step up to another level this season."
The Panthers graduated four golfers: Adam Johnson, Rory Mattson, Tony Berghuis and Chuck Eskola. Johnson shared Most Valuable Player honors after finishing second on the team with a 42.48 average in 27 nine-hole rounds. Mattson had a 49.35 average in 14 rounds, Berghuis had a 48.07 average in 13 rounds and Eskola had a 51.00 average in 12 rounds.
Returning to lead the Panthers this season are seven of the team's top nine golfers. That group features seniors Nate Wittenburg, Levi Goeden, Ryan Paulouski and Brian Hall, and juniors Justin Borchert, Ben Brandon and Justin Dennis.
Wittenburg led the Panthers with a 41.06 average in 29 rounds and just missed qualifying for the state Class A tournament by shooting rounds of 76 and 77 for a 153 to tie for eighth place at the Section 6A meet. The cut-off mark for the final state berth was a 152. Wittenburg earned Mid-State Conference honors with a 79 and Mid-Minnesota Conference honors with an 84 before ending the season with his two best rounds of the year. Wittenburg, who was the team's co-MVP last season, begins his fourth varsity season after averaging a 46.47 in 2003 and a 46.91 in 2004.
Goeden had the Panthers' third-best average last season at 43.44 in 25 rounds. Goeden had a season best 84 at Fergus Falls and at the Mid-State Conference meet and earned Mid-Minnesota Conference honors with an 85. Goeden shot an 89 at the subsection meet. Goeden also enters his fourth year on the varsity after averaging a 49.75 in 2003 and a 47.75 in 2004.
Borchert finished the season with a 44.65 average in 26 rounds, highlighted by earning Mid-Minnesota Conference honors with an 84. Borchert, who improved on his 2004 average of 46.67, shot an 88 at the Mid-State meet and a 94 at the subsection meet.
Paulouski dropped his average from 48.88 in 2004 to 46.00 last season. In 20 rounds, Paulouski had a season best of 88 at Bears Den and had a 102 at the Mid-State meet and a 92 at the subsection meet.
Brandon and Hall tied for the No. 7 spot on the team with 49.60 averages in 20 rounds. Brandon carded a 93 at Bears Den and a 95 at the Mid-Minnesota Conference Championships while Hall shot a 92 at Fosston/Bagley. Hall enters his fourth varsity season after carding averages of 51.10 in 2003 and 47.33 in 2004.
Dennis rounds out the list of returning letterwinners. In 20 rounds last season, Dennis had a 47.15 average. His low round last season was an 89 at Blueberry Pines.
In addition to that group, three other golfers competed in varsity matches last season. Senior Cory Melott had a 51.11 average in nine rounds, junior Mike Schupp had a 50.13 average in eight rounds and sophomore Nate Schmidgall had a 53.00 average in nine rounds.
Others competing for varsity spots include juniors Paul Massie, Ryan Criswell and Donald Selseth; sophomores Derek Holden, Jake Sauer, Lewis Deitchler, Justin Ryan, David Giese, Corey Kimball, Shawn Grover, John Kading, Tom Becker, Brian Hensel, Jake Sheeran and Elliot Lawrence; and freshmen Nate Leckner, Matt Offerdahl, Giacomo Siciliani and Ryan Moos.
"We have seven of our top nine golfers back, so we have a lot of experience coming back," said Weinzierl. "We have a great group of kids and with 30 boys in high school out for golf, our qualifying rounds are going to be interesting."
Last year, Pequot Lakes won the Mid-Minnesota Conference championship with a 419. Staples-Motley shot a 432 to finish third behind the Panthers' 428. Detroit Lakes dominated the Mid-State Conference meet with a 305 with Pequot Lakes second at 327 and Park Rapids tying Staples-Motley for third place with a 336.
In the subsection, Perham (with a 313) and Staples-Motley (with a 332) advanced out of the north with Pequot Lakes (340) and Park Rapids (341) trailing. Perham ended up winning the section title.
With both Perham and Pequot Lakes having to replace three of their top golfers and with five of the seven individual state qualifiers gone, Weinzierl sees the Panthers challenging for top honors in the Mid-Minnesota Conference and moving up in the section field.
"I expect us to be more competitive this year," said Weinzierl. "I look for us to do well this season."