Panthers were looking to make progress this spring
The Park Rapids boys golf team was hoping to move up in the conference standings, qualify for the section tournament.
Jeff Anderson was looking forward to seeing improvement from the Park Rapids boys golf team this spring.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Panthers’ head coach to wait a year to see that progress.
A year ago, the Panthers finished second in Northern Pines Conference play with 11 points and a 173.0 team average behind Walker-Hackensack-Akeley’s 6 points and 161.2 average, placed fifth at the Mid-State Conference meet with a 374, and took seventh at the Section 8AA North tournament with a 362 while averaging a team score of 376.1 with only three golfers who returned with varsity experience.
Entering this season, the Panthers were counting on five golfers to lead the way. That group featured juniors Tate Usher, Kenton Klein, Alec Nordin, Isaiah Phillippi and Blake Simpson.
“I felt good about this year,” said Anderson, who was going to have Tadd Usher as an assistant coach. “I was hoping (the distance learning) wouldn’t last long and school would be back in session so we could get outside and start practicing. When the season was canceled, it put a dagger to your heart, especially for the good players.”
Usher led the Panthers with an 84.3 average in seven 18-hole rounds. Usher carded an 83 at the Mid-State meet and an 88 at the Section 8AA North tournament. In the nine-hole Northern Pines Conference play, Usher had a 39.4 average (and was the medalist in two of the five meets) to earn First Team honors.
Nordin carded a 100.0 average in seven rounds, including a 106 at the Mid-State meet and a 100 at the subsection meet. Nordin also had a 46.8 average in five NPC meets.
Phillippi posted a 110.6 average in seven 18-hole rounds and a 49.4 average in five NPC meets. Phillippi carded a 107 at the Mid-State meet and a 100 at the Section 8AA North tournament.
Klein finished with a 110.5 average in four 18-hole rounds and a 49.3 average in four NPC meets while Simpson carded rounds of 120 and 122 in his only two varsity appearances while posting a 56.0 average in two NPC meets.
Looking to fill in for Cody Dravis (who graduated) and Kaelen Emerson (a senior who was not going out for golf this spring) were juniors Dylan Pike and Mason Smith; freshmen Hunter Harrison, Quincy Squires, Isaac Hartig and Junior Bates; and eighth grader Jack Moses.
Dravis qualified for the Section 8AA tournament and ended the season with a 90.4 average, led by a 78 to earn Mid-State Conference honors and an 86 at the subsection tournament. Dravis also earned Northern Pines Conference First Team honors with a 41.6 average and ended his high school career with rounds of 101 and 88 at the Section 8AA tournament. Emerson ended the season with a 95.0 average in three 18-hole tournaments and a 45.0 average in NPC play.
Detroit Lakes and Crosby-Ironton shared the Mid-State Conference title with 310s. Warroad (329), Crookston (334) and Roseau (334) were the three teams from the North to qualify for the Section 8AA meet. Detroit Lakes carded a 622 to capture the section title for the fourth year in a row. Roseau (647), Pequot Lakes (660), Fergus Falls (666), Crookston (666) and Warroad (725) followed.
“I felt pretty good about how well we’d do in the Northern Pines and the subsection this season. I thought we had a shot at winning the Northern Pines. Our subsection is tough, but I thought we could probably get the team out of the subsection. I thought we probably would advance two and maybe three (individuals) to sections. Our section is really tough, but I had high hopes that Tate would have gone to state,” said Anderson. “We didn’t have any practices, but I figured our five returning letterwinners would be the core of the team. I know Tate, Alec and Keaton played a lot of golf last summer. How well we would have done would have depended on how much golf the others played last summer.”
Although losing an entire season didn’t give the younger golfers a chance to experience playing against varsity competition, Anderson is thankful he’ll have his entire group back next spring.
“Without being able to see the new kids practice, it’s pretty hard to say how we’ll do next season. I think we could possibly move the team forward and get to sections next year,” said Anderson. “Even though this season was canceled, I told the kids to still think about golf and get out to the course and work on their game. If they do that, I honestly expect us to be really competitive next year.”