Laker golf programs have makings for dynasties
For the second time in three years, both the Detroit Lakes boys' and girls' golf teams will be playing for a Class 2A state championship.
With each Laker team qualifying for state again this year, it's just another block added to the foundation of not one, but two, golf dynasties.
There is just one golfer out of the 12 DL players combined who played in the 2008 state golf meet in Jordan.
Meaning, there wasn't any rebuilding of the Laker boys' Class 2A Co-Championship team of 2008 -- which included all seniors -- or on the state's third-place girls' team, which returns only sophomore Courtney Hedstrom.
Youth dominates both Laker lineups for this year's Class 2A state meet, which will be held Wednesday and Thursday, June 16-17, at the Ridges at Sand Creek Golf Course in Jordan.
The DL girls' lineup resembles a junior high roster, with four eighth graders, a seventh grader and sophomore on it.
It includes eighth graders Emma Thompson, Matty Tschider, Trisa Hutchinson, Natalie Roth, seventh grader Sydney Busker and Hedstrom.
"It's so amazing we get this kind of chance being this young," said Laker eighth grader Emma Thompson. "I'm really looking forward to the future of this team."
For the boys, an eighth grader won co-medalist Section 8-2A honors, while the remainder has two freshmen, two juniors and one senior.
The lineup for state will include eighth grader Michael Herzog, senior Nate Ginnaty, juniors Connor Hedstrom, Tanner Lane and freshmen Austin Rusness and Karter Smith.
The Laker boys were shy a few strokes of winning last year's section meet, which in the end, motivated them to break through this year.
All the golfers from this year's boys' team played some varsity meets during the 2008 state championship run.
But this version of the Lakers didn't feel any pressure of "filling the big shoes" the 2008 seniors left.
"After they won state that summer, it was hard not to play as much as we could because we knew all of them were seniors," Hedstrom said. "We've just played in a ton of tournaments during the summer to get better. Last year, we lost everyone from the year before and we didn't have any experience returning, so that pushed us."
The Lakers developed unbelievable depth over the course of the last two seasons, with nine different players winning medalist laurels throughout the 2010 season.
DL head coach Bob Gorden had to leave a couple of top-notch contributors off the section team this year, which will only make the future brighter because of the tough competition in-team each day in practice.
"We've had a good golf program here the last 10 years and we are deep," Lane included. "Last year we wanted to be in this spot and weren't. We're here now and that's all what counts."
Added Smith, "We have all played in a lot of varsity meets, so we are experienced."
There will be some differences between this year's state team and the 2008 state championship team -- which included Mike Brodsho, Ben Osowski, Ryan Kuehne, Ben Bergquist, Adam Thielen and Josh Herzog.
For one, the 2008 DL team held the No. 1 ranking in Class 2A for most of the season. This year's team has been in the top five, but not as near the attention as two years ago.
Instead, the team which tied DL in 2008 for co-championship honors -- Orono -- comes into the state with top-dog honors.
"No one is giving us the respect we deserve because Orono has been a state champion the last two years," Lane said. "We'll just have to play our game and see how it goes."
All the Lakers believe they haven't seen their best game as a team, yet.
Obviously, they hope it comes next Wednesday and Thursday.
"If all six of our guys play as well as they are capable of on the same day, no one will keep up with us," said Hedstrom, who shared section medalist honors with Herzog with a one-over par 73.
But with the pressure not necessarily on the Lakers this time, all six can go out and just have a good time.
What happens, will happen.
"No one is expecting us to do anything, so there's not a lot of pressure on us," Herzog said. "We want to go out and beat the best."
The elder golfer on the team, Ginnaty, also sees a potential breakout of the Lakers.
"We're capable of winning it, we just need all six to play up to their potential," the senior Laker added.
Although it will be with an entire new group of players, the Lakers are determined to repeat history come Tuesday and Wednesday in Jordan.
Entering the season, no one would blame the term "rebuilding" used when referring to the Laker girls' golf team.
They had a couple of players returning, but they only were entering the grades of eighth and 10th.
The remainder of the roster were first-time varsity players, also in the middle school age group.
But a strange thing occurred during this "rebuilding" process.
They got good, real good and in a hurry.
"Going in, we had a lot of young girls, but a lot of talent, too," said DL head coach Jen Hendrickson. "I didn't go in with high expectations, just the thought of going at it one hole at a time and improve."
After taking a few weeks off for maternity leave, Hendrickson returned and saw the vast improvement first hand.
"I came back during a practice with some fresh eyes after being gone for a few weeks and I was just amazed at the improvement," the DL head coach said. "It was unbelievable."
It seemed like a long time ago when the first meet of the season resulted in a team score of 392.
But improvement and patience paid off as this young group of Laker girls won the section and now are heading off to state.
"My expectations for the season were extremely low and there wasn't any pressure on us at all," Hedstrom said. "Nobody was paying any attention to the girls golf team. They thought we were rebuilding and this year was the year to just improve.
"Next year was going to be our big year."
But that "big year" came a bit more early than first predicted.
"Everyone just gave a great effort to get better," Roth said. "I think we really opened everyone's eyes and that if you work hard enough, you can do anything."
But after a few weeks into the season, the scores were dropping like an anchor was attached to it and the belief started to creep in the minds of the Lakers.
"This was suppose to be our warm-up year, but after a while, we saw that we had a shot," Hutchinson said.
One factor which didn't come into play was intimidation of eighth graders playing with juniors and seniors.
Instead the young golfers thrived on beating the upperclass players, as they dismantled team after team leading up to the section meet.
"Last year it was a little intimidating playing seniors (as a seventh grader)," Tschider stated. "But after playing them this year, we saw that we could play with them and beat them."
Hutchinson, in fact, would sooner go up against elder golfers.
"I love playing against seniors," she said. "I wondered just how they felt after losing to an eighth grader."
The Lakers had one meet at home where all four of their counted scores were in the 80's, while all six broke the 100's.
If that can occur again, DL will be right in the hunt for its second state title, the first coming in 2006.
But it will be that one-hole-at-a-time philosophy in which the Lakers will be following.
With these current Lakers expecting to be around for quite sometime, the future of the program is looking pretty good -- which is an understatement.
"Even after making state this year, the future is nothing but looking up," Hendrickson said.
Assistant coach Cali Harrier, who took over the coaching duties while Hendrickson was on leave, saw the improvement first hand and she knows it can continue into the next several years.
"The first day we had a season-low, they broke it in the next meet," Harrier said. "And it just kept snowballing. I told the girls that some high school athletes work their entire career to get to just one state tournament, so this is a special accomplishment."
The Laker girls' team will tee-off in Jordan at 7:30 a.m. both Wednesday and Thursday, while the boys' tee time is set for 11:40 a.m. both days.