The Laker girls’ golf team’s checklist is getting bare, now can they be considered the...best ever?
The progression the Detroit Lakes girls’ golf team was able to accomplish over the course of the last five years was like no other seen on the high school level.
In 2010, as one girls’ golf dynasty was running strong as Minnewaska was winning its fifth-consecutive state championship, another one was in its infancy stage, as a group of fresh-faced Lakers finished in a surprising third place.
The elder of that 2010 group was sophomore Courtney Hedstrom, with the rest being seventh or eighth graders.
The evolution continued with a runner-up finish in the Class 2A state meet, with Minnewaska putting the wraps on its dynasty with its sixth-straight title.
But during that 2011 state meet, a glimpse of what was to be was made after the Lakers led after the first day of play.
“That’s when it really was kicked off,” said DL head coach Cali Harrier.
The 2012 season brought the Lakers’ second-ever state championship, with a 2013 state title kick-starting the talk of “dynasty” after DL won the state meet handily by 35 strokes, ironically, over Minnewaska.
The world of Minnesota girls’ golf was dominated by the Lakers, with Kate Smith becoming the youngest girl golfer to win state medalist honors in 2012 as an eighth grader, then repeating the feat in 2013, just this time with teammate Natalie Roth – thus becoming the first duo to share low honors who resided on the same team.
The goals kept being set high and the goals kept being gobbled up by the Lakers.
This past season with DL obliterating Minnewaska’s all-time state meet record by eight strokes with a 284, which saw all six Lakers shoot under 80, the “dynasty” talk has now been switched to “best ever.”
It’s a tag which is usually used with hyperbole, but with this group of Lakers, it’s a legit claim as they enter the 2014 Class 2A state meet with one more goal in mind – to win their third straight state title.
The road to greatness started early
Golf is considered an individual sport, one which usually pits oneself against the course.
For the last five years, the Lakers found a perfect formula of turning individual success into team greatness.
Simply put, with each of the six golfers improving leaps and bounds over the course of the last five years, pushing each other and supporting one another was the key to the Lakers’ success.
The group of Lakers who have been together in one way or another the last five years have had a one-tracked mind throughout it all – get better.
“Golf is a funny game, no matter what you shoot, you can do better,” said senior Trisa Hutchinson. “Until you shoot an 18, you can always have a better score. If you come in with your lowest score ever, you still left a shot out there.”
The four seniors on the team will be wrapping up a prep career not many can replicate.
All four have committed to play college golf this coming fall, with Hutchinson and Roth heading to North Dakota State University, Emma Thompson going to Jamestown College and Matty Tschider committing to Augustana College.
All four were on the 2010 third-place state team as eighth graders, along with Sydney Busker, who was a seventh grader at the time.
That team bond was strong then and only stronger now.
“It’s crazy how fast it has gone,” Thompson said. “The great thing is four of us will be going on to play college. It’s not over, there’s more improvement and more goals to reach.”
There was also talk of a very good sixth grade golfer who would be coming up to play varsity in 2011, with her name being Kate Smith.
Her brother, Karter, was already a strong player for the Laker boys’ team as they were starting to win state titles. He is currently playing for the Drake University (Iowa) men’s golf team.
In 2011, Kate Smith made an already young and up-and-coming team that much stronger, as she quickly established herself as DL’s top golfer.
The Lakers finished as state runners-up in 2011, as they were preparing themselves to catch the dynasty Minnewaska squad.
After the first day of the state, the Lakers led the entire pack, but ultimately, finished second to Minnewaska.
But it was a moment in time which can be looked back upon when things started coming together.
The Lakers stormed on the scene during that 2012 season, losing just one meet in Red Wing, then claiming the state title by 35 strokes.
Smith became the youngest golfer to ever win state medalist laurels with a 140, as well.
Fast forward to this coming Tuesday, where the Lakers enter the Class 2A meet in Jordan with a 36-meet winning streak and the new holders of the all-time state meet record. It could be a while until another team like this comes around.
Goals, goals and more goals
At the start of this season, all the Laker players had three numbers pasted in their phone’s window display.
The number “291” was a daily reminder of the Lakers’ No. 1 goal, since 292 was the all-time state meet mark set by Minnewaska during their historical run.
The Lakers already held the state meet’s all-time low with their 297 last year and also had two state titles safely tucked away.
But 291 was the carrot which kept the Lakers motivated as they tore through meet after meet.
“State championships are awesome and we want another one, but that goal of breaking that state record was the big one,” Thompson said.
“We were going for 291, it’s just incredible how much talent this team has and we knew we could do it,” Roth said. “The night before, we all had a good feeling, we knew there was only a few meets left. We knew we needed to get it done.”
And they certainly “got it done,” as all six DL golfers shot under 80 en route to a mind-blowing four-under par 284.
The timing was perfect and the course was also working in DL’s favor, since Wildflower is one of the team’s most comfortable venues to play on.
And even though only four scores are counted officially, all six Laker golfers can take a piece of that record with them.
After all, a 75 and 77 were not used in the final tally.
“I don’t think it will be touched in quite a while,” Hutchinson said of that 284. “We could have used any six of the scores and still broke the record.
“It’s only a number, but that number ties us all together. It shows we did it as a team. I can’t go out there and break a team record by myself.”
The 284 mark was the ultimate payoff, as well.
“It shows that’s how hard we worked, how much sweat and tears we put into our games,” Tschider said. “We happened to have an awesome day, we couldn’t have been happier that day.”
The only score which didn’t reside in the 70’s was Smith’s four-under par 68.
“It’s something you will never forget,” Smith said. “Four-under par as a team? It’s crazy how that played out.”
Only Busker and Smith will be returning next year, but they will be coming back after one of the most memorable runs in the state’s girls’ golf history.
“All four seniors are such great leaders, every one of them has given something new each day in practice,” Busker said. “They are all kind and willing to help you no matter what.”
But if the probable comes comes true and DL wins its third-straight state title, can they be considered as one of the best teams to play in Minnesota girls’ golf history?
Minnewaska certainly has a claim to that tag after winning six state championships in a row.
But one thing which could separate the two is one number – 284.
Over-confidence or complacency does not inflict this group of DL golfers. They are all modest about their accomplishments, because they all know they can do better – even though this goal-oriented team has basically accomplished everything they have set out to do.
“I know I never heard of another girls’ team which has done what we have been able to do,” Smith said. “Minnewaska always had that scoring record, but now we have that. The goals we set out to get, we broke them, which is an attribute to our coach, Cali, who is very goal-oriented.”
One thing the DL team has going for it, is they have done it all together through five years of competition.
“We have a motto on this team, ‘Together We Achieve More,’ or TWAM,” Hutchinson said. “Scoring a 284 was our big TWAM moment.
“But we are constantly keeping a level head. The next day, it was a new course, a new meet. We had so many goals as a team and all were pretty darn high. We accomplished almost all of them.”
The Lakers do have a couple more items to pick up and add to their conquered list and that’s state title No. 4 (overall in DLHS history) and setting the all-time two-day state meet record.
Last year after DL set the one-day record with a 297, the second day was cut short to nine holes due to weather.
So there will be no lack of targets for the Lakers to shoot for Tuesday and Wednesday.
It is also the last two days of high school golf for four of the Lakers, making it a bitter sweet ending.
When that last putt is shot on the 18th green at Ridges at Sand Creek Golf Course in Jordan, plenty of emotions will be running rampant for all Lakers involved.
“First, I hope it goes in,” Roth laughed after being asked about her final putt as a Laker. “I am going to take every stroke one shot at a time. Like I told Cali, I will keep all emotions out of it until all holes are done.
“One shot at a time, that’s what I’ve heard for the last six years.”
Added Tschider, “I will think of all the great memories I’ve had with this team. Hopefully it will be a great finish. It was an amazing run.”
“There will be happy tears and sad tears,” Hutchinson said. “It will be hard, but we are so close, it won’t be goodbye.
“TWAM, that is what I think of. I’m so proud to be a Laker and so proud to be a part of this program.”
It’s not finished just yet, as the Lakers have the grand opportunity to claim another state title and potentially put an exclamation mark behind their remarkable five-year run and solidfy their place in golf history.