Age is a nonfactor in success of Lakers
Age does not discriminate, especially for the Detroit Lakes girls' golf team.
Entering the season, one would think the Lakers were in rebuilding mode, with no seniors or juniors on the roster.
No, the Lakers were heading into the 2010 season with just a couple sophomores and the rest seventh and eighth graders, making each meet almost looking like a junior varsity one.
But these young Lakers are not playing like junior varsity players; instead they are hanging tough with all the varsity teams in their meets.
DL has flown underneath the radar with its young lineup, but that hasn't stopped them from winning two meets already and consistently placing in the top three in the rest of them.
Although the majority of the team members don't even have their driver's licenses, these young ladies are showing a thing or two to their upper classmen opponents.
"I feel -- even though I'm an eighth grader -- when I go against a senior in my group, I want to beat them," said first-year varsity player Natalie Roth. "My goal is to be with the big dogs."
That attitude and confidence is well earned by the Lakers, who have a good smattering of experience throughout their lineup.
Sophomore Courtney Hedstrom knows what it's like to play as an eighth grader on the varsity.
Hedstrom was one of the six on the state-qualifying team two years ago, which finished third overall in Class 2A.
"Anything is possible," Hedstrom said when asked what she brought from that state experience as an eighth grader. "I'm just going out and trying to set a good example and play my best game possible."
Hedstrom is the elder statesperson, as just a sophomore.
She has played the underclassmen role the last two years, watching and learning under state qualifying veterans such as 2009 graduate Robin Hutchinson and 2008 graduate Danelle Olson.
Hedstrom does bring experience, and she is passing that on to her younger teammates.
"I just learned to do my best," Hedstrom said of learning under Robin Hutchinson and other past Lakers
The Lakers knew they would be pegged as "rebuilding," thus taking all the pressure off.
The first two meets went better than expected, then scores starting dropping for all the players.
"After the first couple of meets, we realized we were playing right with everyone," said eighth grader Trisa Hutchinson.
Hedstrom made a goal to become more consistent, Roth started breaking 100 and shooting in the low 90's, while eighth graders Matty Tschider and Hutchinson started carding scores in the mid to low 80's.
But it didn't start in April. Instead success started to be bred last June through August.
"We played a lot of golf and a lot of meets last summer," said Hutchinson, who is starting on varsity for the second year. "Gaining that varsity experience last year, too, was huge. I learned a lot about course management and started shooting below 100."
In fact, Hutchinson has shaved off almost 20 strokes from her seventh grade season, with her latest score being an 87 Thursday at Blueberry Pines under some inclement weather conditions.
There have been some challenges besides facing juniors and seniors on the course.
DL head coach Jen Hendrickson gave birth to a baby boy in late April, so assistant coach Cali Harrier took over as coach.
It was an easy transition, though, since the majority of the Lakers played under Harrier on the JV team, which went undefeated last year.
"I had some of the girls on the undefeated JV squad last year and Trisa and Matty were able to learn under Robin (Hutchinson)," Harrier said.
With the ceiling still very high for this Laker team, some lofty goals are being set out.
First is to win the Mid-State Conference Tuesday, which will be played on DL's home course at the Detroit Country Club.
But the ultimate golden ring is to get better in the next couple of weeks and hopefully, qualify for state.
"We don't feel any pressure because the expectations were not high for us heading into the season," Hedstrom said. "But our depth is huge and we've been playing well against the other teams.
"All we can do is play our game."
Roth also has played an important role as being the consistent No. 4 golfer on the team, which is crucial since the top four scores on the team are counted.
With Hedstrom, Hutchinson and Tschider consistently shooting in the 80s, Roth is very near to joining them.
"We don't have that player shooting in the 70s like we did in our other state years, but we potentially have our top four shooting in the 80s," Harrier said.
Roth has her sights set on breaking that 90 mark, and she is more than determined toget there soon.
"I know it's in me," Roth said. "First of all, I went into the season with a good attitude and that dropped my score right there. But I just need to play it day by day and just do my best.
"But I know I can break 90."
Hutchinson also has learned some valuable lessons, taught by her older sisters Robin and Betsy.
Robin qualified for four consecutive state meets as an individual, while both siblings were on the Class 2A state championship team in 2006.
This group knows they are carrying the torch for a program which is known as being one of the best in the state on a consistent basis over the course of the last six to seven years.
"Robin always told me to go out and just do my best and take it one hole at a time," Trisa said. "If you have a bad hole, forget about it."
But Harrier is preaching one aspect she hopes her players don't forget -- take it one round at a time.
"We can't get ahead of ourselves, we need to take it one day at a time," the DL coach said.
"But these girls know that and they want to be on the course. They are always wanting to learn and practice hard every day."
The other younger Lakers -- seventh grader Sydney Busker, eighth grader Emma Thompson and sophomore Ashley Friesen -- are also learning varsity on the fly.
All have contributed in the varsity meets and are providing quality depth -- while learning the intricacies of the varsity game.
"I am just so proud of these girls, they have done so well," Harrier added.
With all the success the Lakers have already tasted this season, it probably isn't even a shadow of what the potential DL has in the next three to four years.
"The next four years are going to be fun," Hutchinson said.
The 2010 season turned out not to be a rebuilding year, but instead an introduction to how good this Laker team can be in the future -- and present.