Girls Golf: Park Rapids returns veteran lineup
The Panthers enter the season with high expectations.
PARK RAPIDS – Led by two state qualifiers, the Park Rapids girls golf team enters the season with high expectations.
Last spring, the Panthers dominated Northern Pines Conference play by winning all six meets, placed fourth at the Mid-State Conference meet and just missed advancing to the Section 8AA tournament by finishing fourth at the Section 8AA North meet. Anna Eckmann and Mady Maninga capped off the season by qualifying for state with Eckmann carding rounds of 76 and 88 for a two-day total of 164 to finish third overall and as the No. 2 individual qualifier while Maninga had rounds of 93 and 82 for a 175 to finish sixth overall and as the No. 4 individual qualifier at the section meet. In their state Class AA debuts, Eckmann tied for fifth place with a pair of 81s for a 162 while Maninga tied for 28th place with a 180 after rounds of 91 and 89.
Returning to join Eckmann (a sophomore) and Maninga (a junior) from last year’s team are senior Emily Schulz; juniors Natalie Backmann, Emma Vrieze, Louisa Etter and Maria Wagner; and sophomore Lexi Usher.
In addition to qualifying for state, Eckmann was the overall medalist in NPC play with 161 strokes on her best four rounds while Maninga was second with 167 strokes to headline the Northern Pines Conference First Team. Usher had 208 strokes and Schulz had 217 strokes to also earn all-conference honors. In the six NPC meets, Eckmann had a 42.8 average, Maninga had a 43.5 average, Usher had a 54.0 average and Backmann had a 63.3 average. Schulz (54.3 average) and Vrieze (57.5 average) played in four NPC meets while Wagner had an 84.5 average in two meets. The Panthers had a 137.7 average team score in the six NPC meets.
Maninga shared medalist honors with an 80 and Eckmann was fourth with an 82 to headline the all-conference team as Park Rapids placed fourth at the Mid-State Conference tournament with a 383. Usher’s 105 and Backmann’s 116 completed the team score while Vrieze had a 119 and Schulz carded a 121. Detroit Lakes claimed the team title with a 345 in the six-team field.
At the Section 8AA North tournament, the Panthers missed advancing to the Section 8AA tournament after placing fourth with a 408. Eckmann carded a 73 to earn medalist honors while Maninga carded an 88 for third place to qualify for the Section 8AA meet. Backmann (109), Usher (115), Schulz (116) and Vrieze (119) rounded out Park Rapids’ subsection team. Crookston (375), East Grand Forks (379) and Hawley (379) earned the three trips to the section tournament.
Eckmann finished with an 81.6 average in nine 18-hole rounds while Maninga had an 87.3 average. Usher had a 108.2 average in five 18-hole rounds, Backmann carded a 112.5 average in four rounds, Schulz had a 114.4 average in five rounds and Vrieze had a 124.0 average in five rounds. Etter carded a 148 in her only 18-hole appearance. The Panthers had a team average of 386.8.
Providing depth for the Panthers this season are newcomers Massie Lee, Amelia Bagstad and Ella Marrotte.
The Panthers should be favored to repeat as the Northern Pines Conference champs. In addition to Crookston, East Grand Forks and Park Rapids, Bagley/Fosston, Red Lake, Roseau, Thief River Falls and Warroad will comprise the Section 8AA North field as those eight teams will compete for the three spots in the Section 8AA tournament.
“The top six were pretty consistent last year. I see these girls holding tight to their spots in the top six, however, as we all know golf is a crazy game and I have some competitive girls on the team,” said Park Rapids head coach Brent Vandal. “I expect the team to do very well this year and be competitive within both our conference and subsection. Last year we fell a little flat as a team during subsections, but I attribute most of that to nerves and the fact that we were such a young team. The team's goal this year is to make it to the section tournament and have at least a couple girls competing beyond the section up to our state tournament. With Eckmann and Maninga making it to state last year, I am hopeful that we will make another appearance at state. These girls all have tremendous drive and work ethic and I'm excited to see how this year unfolds.”