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Park Rapids girls golf team dominated NPC play, peaked at end of season

The Park Rapids girls golf team overcame a late start to the season by peaking at the end of the season.

It took the Panthers only two meets to fulfill one of their goals by carding a round under 400 while eight winning scores during a revised Northern Pines Conference schedule resulted in a dominating title repeat. Park Rapids capped off the season by placing third at the Mid-State Conference tournament, placing third at the Section 8AA North tournament and finishing fourth at the Section 8AA tournament.

"We had a late start to the season. We didn't have our first meet until April 27 and it took us a while to get going. You can only do so much inside," said Park Rapids head coach Walt Harrison. "By the end of the season, we got into a groove. We had a good season."

Six golfers comprised this year's varsity squad with seniors Olivia Wallace and Olivia McDonald and juniors Chloe Johnson, Madison Johnson, Kinley Nordin and Olivia Ulvin leading the way.

In the season opener, Madison Johnson's 97, a pair of 101s by Wallace and Chloe Johnson, and a 109 by McDonald led to a 408 team score and an eighth-place finish at the Bemidji Invitational. Detroit Lakes took first in the 18-team field with a 329.

Carding three rounds under 100 led the Panthers to a tie for seventh place at the 17-team Park Rapids Invitational at Headwaters Golf Club. Madison Johnson and Chloe Johnson carded 98s while Wallace followed with a 99. McDonald's 101 gave the Panthers a 396. Detroit Lakes won that tournament with a 316.

Detroit Lakes also won the Mid-State Conference title at The Preserve with a 324 as the Panthers finished third out of five teams with a 380. Wallace carded a 90 to earn all-conference honors while Madison Johnson's 94 resulted in all-conference honorable mention honors. Chloe Johnson's 97 and McDonald's 99 rounded out the team score. Ulvin carded a 114 and Nordin carded a 116 as the Lakers won the conference title for the ninth year in a row.

At the Pre-Section 8AA North meet at Blueberry Pines, the Panthers finished third with a 418 as Chloe Johnson's 93, Madison Johnson's 100, Ulvin's 112 and Nordin's 113 led the way. Crookston took first in the six-team meet with a 418.

Park Rapids carded a 396 at the Section 8AA North tournament at Blueberry Pines to earn the final spot in the Section 8AA tournament. Chloe Johnson's 95, Wallace's 96, Ulvin's 100 and Madison Johnson's 105 led the Panthers, who also received a 107 from Nordin and a 110 from McDonald. Crookston led the eight-team field with a 345 while Roseau was second with a 377. East Grand Forks carded a 408 to finish fourth and miss a trip to the section tournament for the seventh year in a row.

Park Rapids capped off the season by placing fourth at the Section 8AA meet at the Bemidji Town & Country Club with a two-day total of 761. Wallace's 83, Madison Johnson's 95, Chloe Johnson's 97 and Ulvin's 100 led to a season-best 375 for fourth place on the first day while Wallace's 92, Chloe Johnson's 96, Madison Johnson's 97 and a pair of 101s by McDonald and Ulvin led to a 386 for fifth place on the second day. McDonald had a 110 and Nordin had a 111 on the first day while Nordin's 102 rounded out Park Rapids' squad on the second day. Wallace finished 11th overall with a two-day total of 175, missing a trip to state by three strokes. Madison Johnson was 17th overall with a 192 while Chloe Johnson finished 18th overall with a 193. Ulvin was 23rd with a 201, McDonald was 33rd with a 211 and Nordin tied for 34th with a 213.

Detroit Lakes followed a 320 on the first day with a 319 on the second day for a 639 to win the section title for the ninth year in a row. Crookston was second with a 691 while Perham took third with a 705. Roseau (765) and Fergus Falls (793) rounded out the six-team section field. Detroit Lakes went on to win the state Class AA title for the third consecutive season.

In those seven 18-hole rounds, Wallace led the way with a 93.5 average while Chloe Johnson (96.7), Madison Johnson (98.0), McDonald (105.0), Ulvin (107.6) and Nordin (110.3) followed. Wallace was named the Panthers' MVP, Madison Johnson was named Most Improved and Chloe Johnson was named Most Dedicated.

In Northern Pines Conference play, the format was changed from six 9-hole meets to four 18-hole meets because of the late start to the season. Park Rapids dominated the conference by winning every meet.

In the conference opener at Headwaters, Wallace claimed medalist honors with a 43 while Chloe Johnson's 47 and Madison Johnson's 48 led to a three-golfer round of 138 on the front side. On the back side, the Panthers carded a 157 behind Chloe Johnson's 41, Madison Johnson's 52 and Ulvin's 54.

The Panthers also led the field in the second conference meet at Blueberry Pines as a trio of 51s by Wallace, McDonald and Madison Johnson led to a 153 on the front side while Madison Johnson's 47, Chloe Johnson's 48 and a pair of 52s by Wallace and McDonald resulted in a 147 on the back side.

At Tianna Country Club in the third conference meet, Chloe Johnson's 46, Madison Johnson's 48 and Wallace's 49 gave the Panthers a 143 on the front side while three 48s by Wallace and the Johnsons led to a 144 on the back side.

Park Rapids concluded conference play at Castle Highlands with rounds of 141 and 135. Chloe Johnson carded a 41 to earn medalist honors on the front side while Madison Johnson's 48 and Wallace's 51 rounded out the team score. On the back side, a 43 by Chloe Johnson and a pair of 46s by Wallace and Madison Johnson completed the sweep.

In the four conference meets, the Panthers averaged a three-golfer score of 144.8 for nine holes. Chloe Johnson was the overall medalist with a 47.3 nine-hole average and was joined by Madison Johnson (third overall with a 48.5 average) and Wallace (fourth overall with a 48.6 average) on the First Team. Ulvin, who had a 55.6 average to finish 11th overall, was named to the Second Team. McDonald posted a 52.6 average while Nordin had a 55.8 average.

"One of our goals was to get under 400 and we did that a few times," said Harrison. "Another goal was to win the Northern Pines Conference and the girls were very happy about winning that. The girls also wanted to get back to the section tournament. We knew it would be close for the third spot. We knew if we could break 400, we'd have a good shot at it. Moving up from sixth last year to fourth this year (at the section tournament) was a nice way to end the season."

With the graduation of Wallace and McDonald, the Panthers have two key spots to fill next season. However, Harrison is counting on another successful season with the return of the four varsity veterans.

"It's going to be tough to replace the Olivias, but we're going to have four pretty good golfers with a lot of experience returning next year. The key will be how much they play in the summer. We'll need a couple younger girls to fill in the fifth and sixth spots, but I expect us to crack 400 pretty easily again next year," said Harrison. "Detroit Lakes is going to be the favorite to win the section and go back to state. The rest of us will be fighting for second. We should get back to sections and I think we'll have at least two girls who will have a good shot at going to state."