Panthers go through rebuilding season

Terry Schroeder expected this season would be a rebuilding year for the Park Rapids boys golf team. Only one golfer returned from last year's team that finished fifth at the Section 8AA North tournament. Only two other golfers returned who played...

Hunter Utke
Hunter Utke led the Park Rapids boys golf team with an 87.3 average in six 18-hole rounds. Utke also qualified for the Section 8AA meet.

     Terry Schroeder expected this season would be a rebuilding year for the Park Rapids boys golf team.

     Only one golfer returned from last year’s team that finished fifth at the Section 8AA North tournament. Only two other golfers returned who played in a varsity meet last season.

     The Panthers had a tough time replacing Bailey Mueller (who carded a low round of 73 last season and carded an 80 at the subsection meet to finish with an 81.8 18-hole average), Dustin Bethel (who had a low round of 79 and carded a 93 at the subsection meet to finish with an 87.4 average), Wyatt Derman (who had a low round of 80 and carded an 84 at the subsection meet to finish with an 84.5 average), Ryan DeLaHunt (who carded a low of 87 at the subsection meet to finish with a 95.1 average) and Cody Brumbaugh (who had a low round of 78 and carded a 92 at the subsection meet to finish with an 88.2 average).

     The lone returning golfer from last year’s subsection meet was junior Hunter Utke, who carded a season-best 83 at the subsection meet and carded a 104 at the Section 8AA meet to finish with a 92.2 average in 10 rounds. Sophomores Jackson Leckner and Connor Shaw were the only other golfers back with varsity experience. Shaw played in four rounds with a low of 96 and a 106.3 average while Leckner played in two rounds with a low of 105 and a 106.5 average.

     Competing on varsity for the first time this spring were junior Ryan DeLaHunt; sophomores Jacob Bittmann, Jacob Gruis and Eric LaFountain; and freshmen Landen Burlingame, Samuel Huot, Luke Kosel, Carter Novak and James Utke.


     That lack of experience showed as the Panthers’ low round of the season was a 347. In eight 18-hole meets, the Panthers carded rounds under 400 only four times.

     The Panthers opened the season at the Detroit Lakes Invitational by carding a 343 on the par-64 Lakeview course for 10th place. Hunter Utke’s 76, Leckner’s 84, DeLaHunt’s 91 and Bittmann’s 92 led the Panthers. Detroit Lakes took first with a 289 in the 12-team field.

     At the Perham Invitational, the Panthers finished 10th out of 11 teams with a 430 as Shaw’s 95, Gruis’ 97, DeLaHunt’s 98 and Leckner’s 110 led the way. Alexandria led the field with a 308.

     Park Rapids carded a 457 to finish seventh at the eight-team United North Central Invitational at Blueberry Pines. DeLaHunt’s 105, Leckner’s 108, Kosel’s 115 and James Utke’s 129 comprised the Panthers’ team score. Ottertail Central took first with a 348.

     At the Park Rapids Invitational at Headwaters Golf Club, the Panthers tied for 11th place with a 393 as Shaw’s 95, DeLaHunt’s 96, Leckner’s 98 and Gruis’ 104 led the way. Mahnomen/Waubun led the 14-team field with a 312.

     Hunter Utke’s 80 led the Panthers to eighth place with a 394 at the nine-team Pre-Section 8AA meet at Longbow. A pair of 102s by Leckner and DeLaHunt and a 110 by Bittmann rounded out Park Rapids’ team score. Crookston took first with a 311.

     Detroit Lakes carded a 314 to win the Mid-State Conference title at Ruttger’s. The Panthers finished sixth out of six teams with a 432 as Leckner’s 94, Hunter Utke’s 95, DeLaHunt’s 116 and Gruis’ 127 comprised the team score.

     The Panthers opened the East-West Invitational by carding a 391 at Longbow. Hunter Utke’s 83, DeLaHunt’s 98, Leckner’s 101 and Kosel’s 109 led Park Rapids. The second day was reduced to nine holes because of rain as DeLaHunt carded a 46, Hunter Utke and Leckner had 47s and Gruis carded a 51. Park Rapids finished 11th out of 11 teams with a 589. Detroit Lakes led the way with a 453.


     Park Rapids concluded the regular season by placing ninth out of nine teams with a 410 at the Detroit Lakes Invitational. Hunter Utke and Leckner carded 96s, Shaw had a 108 and Bittmann carded a 110. Detroit Lakes took first with a 314.

     The Panthers competed in the Northern Pines Conference for the first time and ended up placing fifth out of eight teams with 25 points.

     In the conference opener at Bears Den, the Panthers took third with a 189 behind Leckner’s 44, 47s by DeLaHunt and Gruis, and 51s by Bittmann and Kosel. Walker-Hackensack-Akeley won the first meet with a 169.

     At Tianna, the Panthers finished fourth with a 197 as Leckner earned medalist honors with a 41. Shaw’s 48, Burlingame’s 58 and Novak’s 59 rounded out the Panthers’ team score. W-H-A took first with a 186.

     W-H-A again took first in the third NPC meet with a 167 as the Panthers finished sixth with a 208 at Cass Lake. Leckner’s 45, Burlingame’s 53 and 55s by Shaw and LaFountain led the Panthers.

     Park Rapids followed by placing fifth at Headwaters with a 206 as Deer River won the fourth NPC meet with a 176. Leckner and Kosel carded 48s, Shaw had a 54, and Gruis and James Utke had 56s.

     The Panthers ended NPC play by placing seventh at Castle Highlands with a 233. Deer River took first with a 166. Shaw’s 48, Leckner’s 56, Burlingame’s 63 and LaFountain’s 66 led the Panthers.

     W-H-A and Deer River tied for first place in the overall standings with 8 points, Cass Lake was third with 16 points and Nevis was fourth with 23 points. Northome/Kelliher (30), Red Lake (35) and Blackduck (39) followed the Panthers. Leckner was named to the Northern Pines Conference Second Team.


     The Panthers carded their best round of the season at the subsection meet with a 347 as Hunter Utke qualified for the Section 8AA meet with a 77. Leckner and DeLaHunt carded 89s while Kosel had a 92. East Grand Forks won the subsection title with a 292 while Roseau (293) and Crookston (296) claimed the other section berths.

     At the section meet, Hunter Utke carded a 93 while Crookston claimed the team title with a 313. Detroit Lakes was second with a 322. Crookston went on to place sixth at the state Class AA tournament with a 635. Mankato East and Blake tied for the state title with 602s.

     For the season, Hunter Utke had an 87.3 average in six 18-hole rounds, Shaw had a 99.3 average in three rounds, Leckner had a 99.8 average in eight rounds, DeLaHunt had a 100.6 average in seven rounds, Kosel had a 110.2 average in five rounds, Gruis had a 113.8 average in five rounds and Bittmann had a 115.6 average in five rounds. LaFountain (119 in his only 18-hole round), James Utke (129 in his only 18-hole round) and Huot (151 and 153 in his two varsity rounds) rounded out the varsity lineup.

     “I knew it would be a tougher season because of all the kids we graduated. We had our ups and downs, but we ended the season on a high note with our best team score,” said Schroeder. “I think the program is headed in the right direction. Some of the kids are playing a lot of golf this summer, which should set up things nicely for next year.”

1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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