Season preview: Champs begin title defense one down
The two-time defending Class AA state champion Detroit Lakes girls golf team return four golfers from last year’s state lineup but begin the year with an unexpected absence in senior Lauren Tschider.
Tschider has been a consistent three-sport athlete, but has chosen to skip her senior golf season to concentrate on soccer. She is the first Division II scholarship soccer player to come out of DL and will be playing at Augustana in the fall.
“That will be a huge loss to the team,” senior Maddie Herzog said. “I was disappointed and we’re all going to miss her; she was a great teammate.”
Tschider was strong in the fifth spot placing 31st overall at state, a jump of seven places from the prior season. Graduated senior Abby Schramel (15th) and Anna Cihak (17th) added top 20 finishes to complement Herzog and Shelby Busker in the top seven.
The Lakers stepped out of the shadow of five-time state individual champion Kate Smith last year and continued to dominate the state meet recording the program’s fifth state championship in six years.
The team posted their best score of the season and erased a five-stroke deficit to state favorites Lake City after the opening round flipping the score around on day two winning by four shots.
Starting the quest to repeat a state title without the only other senior on the team makes for a more interesting story, but also adds some uncertainty. For Herzog, it’s a strong motivator and as the team leader, she has rallied her teammates before anyone has even taken a swing at practice.
“It fuels the fire a little bit,” she said. “I want to do well; I’ve set some good goals to consistently shoot mid-70s. I told Shelby and Anna that we’re going to compete to beat each other and we’re not going to get mad when one of us wins or beats each other. We’re going to be supportive and we all have the same goal to win state.”
Cihak, a sophomore, came through in the clutch at state shooting the best golf of her young career. She sent the team to the back nine tied with Lake City after posting a team-best, two-over 38 on the front nine of day two.
Eighth-grader McKenna Mallow earned her spot on the postseason roster of six playing consistent golf down the stretch and gained valuable state experience in her seventh-grade year. She beat out a large group of junior varsity golfers and likely jumps up to the four-spot in the lineup with Tschider’s absence.
“McKenna, that one year of state experience is huge and she’s set some goals for herself,” said Herzog.
Last year’s team proved it takes four solid rounds to win at state. Tschider had been that golfer before. She was the fourth scoring golfer on Kate Smith’s last team championship in 2016.
Busker, a sophomore, brings two seasons of experience having made a huge jump from 48th place at state two years ago to a podium finish last year.
Herzog placed fifth individually and took command of the team in the postseason chipping in on the final hole of the section meet to claim a share of the individual 8AA title.
She has committed to play collegiate golf at North Dakota State University this coming fall and keeps a Detroit Lakes tradition going as former Lakers Trisa Hutchinson and Natalie Roth are finishing their senior seasons this spring. NDSU was not in Herzog’s original college plans.
“I talked to Trisa about it last summer and she gave it a positive review. I toured the facility and was impressed the business school and I just liked it overall,” she said.
But first, the Lakers have to get on the course as weather has delayed practice for Head Coach Kris Smith and the team.
Smith used a hands-off approach down the stretch last year and the confidence and experience inherent in the most successful AA team the past decade showed as meets became more important. This year might prove to be a different scenario with Herzog the obvious senior leader and every other golfer a sophomore or younger.
However, the Lakers have a wild card for a potential Tschider replacement in junior Emily Larson. Larson had been a standout track and field runner but suffered a knee injury in soccer this past fall that has made golf a better alternative to track. Larson brings a fiery attitude and a lot of athleticism.
“She’s all or nothing; that’s what is good about her,” said Herzog. “She’s like Anna. Anna picked up golf so fast and she’s come a long way in just a short few years.”
The team is also aware it isn’t what happens in April and May that matters as much as playing the best golf at the end of the season to finish atop the podium in Jordan.
Four Lakers shot scores in the seventies to bring home the championship on day two of state led by Herzog and Busker with 77s. Schramel posted a 79, along with Cihak. Cihak started the season shooting in the 90s and dropped a ton of strokes to help the team win in June.
The last day of the season was the first time all four Lakers had broken scores of 80 in the same round.
The state title was the sixth in program history for Detroit Lakes (2006, 2012-14, 2016-17). A win this season will match a program high of three in a row. From 2012-2017, only Red Wing has bumped DL from the top spot. The Lakers were the 2015 runners-up to the Wingers by three strokes. The Lakers were runners-up in 2011 and placed third in 2010.
Red Wing dropped down from Class AAA this year and will be the preseason favorite to challenge for the AA championship. The Wingers were the AAA runners-up in 2017 led by co-champion Sophia Yeomans, the 2018 No. 1 ranked golfer and University of Missouri commit. Second on the team is Herzog’s cousin Leah. She placed seventh at state last year.
DL will be the odds-on section favorites to repeat. Crookston was the last team to advance out of 8AA other than Detroit Lakes. The Pirates were the main contenders last season but DL won by 20 strokes to capture their eighth consecutive title. Herzog and Crookston’s Ally Tiedemann shared medalist honors. Tiedemann also returns for her senior season.
DL opens the new campaign at the Lady Bulldog Invitational at Pebble Creek in Becker Thursday, April 12.
“I think it’s going to be a good year. It’s going to be interesting to see who fills those spots,” said Herzog.
Fans get a rare chance to see the Lakers in action early in the season at the Pelican Rapids Invite at Wildflower Tuesday, April 17. Another area meet on the docket is at Park Rapids (Headwaters) Monday, April 23, site of the subsection championships; also: Bemidji Town & Country, site of the section meet, Friday, April 27.
The Lakers added a new event, the two-day Pequot Lakes Invitational May 1-2 at Deacon’s Lodge on day one and Crossroads Golf Course day two.