Young Laker girls' golf team proves they are up and coming
A crowd was gathered around the Ridges at Sand Creek Golf Course's holding pond near the 18th green to watch the Class 2A championship Minnewaska girls' team do the traditional jump into the algae-thick water.
Included in that crowd were the Detroit Lakes girls' golf team, holding their heads high as well, after finishing third in the state with a score of 726.
That trip into the Ridges at Sand Creek pond is one the Lakers want to make one day, but for now, they are more than happy and proud for taking state bronze this year.
"It's unbelievable we are able to do this with how young this team is," said DL eighth grader Trisa Hutchinson. "It's amazing what we were able to do at this age, just wait until we are seniors."
It's a sentiment held by many state observers this year, after seeing a Laker team made up of four eighth graders, a seventh grader and a sophomore.
"When we were being introduced (Wednesday) before the first round, they were mentioning our grades and a lady sitting in front of us said, 'Yep, they'll be back,'" said sophomore -- and eldest golfer on the team -- Courtney Hedstrom. "This state experience is huge for our future. We still need to work that much harder in the summer and keep getting better."
The Lakers fended off a torrential wind and hard-charging Albany squad, which finished fourth at 21 shots off DL.
Hedstrom led the way for the Lakers with a 176, after carding a 90 Thursday to take 30th overall.
Hutchinson finished strong by making two pars in her final three holes to shoot a 93 Thursday and a 181 total for 40th overall.
Eighth grader Natalie Roth had a breakout meet, after she stroked an 89 Wednesday and a 95 Thursday for a team third-best 184 and 44th overall.
Eighth grader Matty Tschider rounded out DL's team score with a 185 for 47th, while seventh grader Sydney Busker fired a 203 for 68th and eighth grader Emma Thompson a 219 for 77th.
"These girls gained the experience of learning how to play under pressure and on a tough course in some tough conditions," said DL head coach Jen Hendrickson. "This is great motivation for them to work hard in the summer."
The wind certainly made its self known -- in the form of 30-35 mile per hour gusts -- with elevated scores throughout the tournament, but the DL girls played more than well enough to claim their second third-place finish in three years.
"This is the windiest day I've ever played in," Hutchinson said. "You just have to adjust your swing, but it even affected your putting."
After Roth shot her second 89 of the season, she came back Thursday and beat her Albany counterpart in her group by 17 strokes.
"I felt more pressure today after shooting my 89," Roth said. "I just was playing for the team and wanted to do the best for the team."
Roth keyed her round Thursday by making three straight pars on holes 12-14, while just missing a five-foot birdie putt on 13.
"I just get into a groove and start believing I can do it," Roth said of her strong streak on the back nine. "The ball just goes where I want it to go."
DL assistant coach Cali Harrier has seen Roth improve all season, and peaking at state was a great way to cap the year.
"All season, Natalie would turn it on after the third hole and she just has improved all season long," Harrier added.
Hedstrom said the team was more than ready to clinch the bronze after heading into the final round 17 strokes up on Albany.
"We just came in with our heads up high and wanting to represent Detroit Lakes as well as we could," Hedstrom said.
With this season's berth in the state and the chance to make the podium, the Lakers had the opportunity to watch the current dynasty at work in Minnewaska, which won its fifth-straight state title, and had the co-medalists of the meet in Sarah Roering and Allie Ostrander with a six-over par 150.
DL was able to see how the Minnewaska golfers approached each shot and eventually, make that jump into the pond, which has become tradition for Class 2A champions to do.
"For one, we know we have to do better than we did this year," Roth said of the team's chances of returning to state for the next few seasons. "But we know we can do it."
Hedstrom, who had the opportunity to golf with Roering, said it was a great experience she and her teammates can take into the next several years.
"It was fun playing with some great girl golfers," Hedstrom added. "Maybe we can be the next Minnewaska. I know we would love to follow in their footsteps."
But the state berth was more than extra gravy, with an added helping of a third-place finish.
It's just another step in the rapid progression of one of the youngest teams in the state.
"They were just able to experience state and take it all in," Harrier said. "Most players never get to experience state their entire careers."
There is lots of work yet to do for these young Lakers, but they are well on their way to that dirty pond near the 18th green at Ridges at Sand Creek Golf Course.
Class 2A state girls' golf meet at Ridges at Sand Creek Golf Course, Wednesday-Thursday, June 16-17.
Team results -- Minnewaska 632, Red Wing 647, Detroit Lakes 726, Albany 745, Hermantown 765, Becker 785, Visitation 810, Mankato East 812.
Top 6 individuals (All-State) -- Co-Medalists: Sarah Roering (Mwska) and Allie Ostrander (Mwska) 150; Anna Laors (Breck) 154, Jordan Price (Byron) 159, Katie Kesti (Red Wing) 150, Sam Falk (Mwska) 161, Holly Karkela (Perham) 162, Marisa Toivonen (RW) and Danielle Brooks (RW) 163.
Laker results -- 30. Courtney Hedstrom 176; 40. Trisa Hutchinson 181; 44. Natalie Roth 184; 47. Matty Tschider 185; 68. Sydney Busker 203; 77. Emma Thompson 219.