Cali Harrier has a humble and humorous perspective on being inducted into the Minnesota Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame this coming June.
“I know that it was a team thing,” she said. “It wasn’t me. It was the girls and the work ethic they had. That was a huge piece and they started that tradition and the students that followed them filled in and continued it.”
In seven seasons at the helm, Detroit Lakes won four state championships, had two runner-up finishes and a third place finish. The girls program has since compiled 11 state appearances with seven wins and podium finishes in the other four seasons.
Harrier’s parents got her into golf at a young age on a nine-hole golf course in Olivia.
She was a three-sport (volleyball, basketball, golf) high school athlete in Bird Island her freshman and sophomore years and joined BOLD after the schools consolidated her junior and senior seasons. She was a member of the school’s first girls golf team in 1988.
She graduated from St. Cloud State with a bachelor’s degree in physical education, a minor in coaching and an adaptive license.
She student taught in Sartell in 1996 and Detroit Lakes was one of six job interviews.
Upon reaching town, a struggle to find the admin building had any future as a Laker in serious doubt.
“I kept driving by the high school and middle school, by the time I finally found it I thought, ‘I don’t even want to live in this town, but good practice, I’ll just go in and do this interview anyway.’”
Awaiting her in the interview room were Roger Lee and Les Perry who both had ties to the Bird Island area. AD Ron Peterson asked her what she wanted to coach if hired and basketball was first on the list with volleyball and golf options also.
“You’ll never coach golf in this town,” Peterson said. “We have a list a mile long who want that job.”
Harrier wasn’t taking the job anyway so it didn’t matter until offers were on the table here, Sartell and in Hutchinson.
After discussing it with her then-fiance, now-husband Jason they decided, “Let’s go to the lakes and try it for a few years. We were thinking it would be a five-year, get your resume built and I’ve been here 23 years.”
Harrier started as an assistant in volleyball and Jen Hendrickson took over golf head coaching duties from Jim Buchholz in 2008 needing an assistant. Two years later, Harrier was the head coach, something she ribbed Peterson about.
Hendrickson left for maternity leave which gave Harrier the opportunity. Jill Schramel joined as an assistant and was an integral part of the coming success.
“That’s when it really started rolling,” said Harrier.
Harrier was familiar with a talented, young group of golfers coming up but there was no inclination of what was to come.
“That first year (2010) we did not even care about placing,” she said. “We were just happy to be there and the experience was so positive. I remember a lot of laughs and wow, we got third. That was fun.”
The team was full of youngsters with sophomore Courtney Hedstrom the oldest girl on the squad. Names now quite familiar to DL golf fans: Trisa Hutchinson, Natalie Roth, Matty Tschider, Emma Thompson were eighth-graders, Sydney Busker a seventh-grader.
Kate Smith was still in elementary school.
Harrier’s review of 2010 led to a deadpan punchline, “I think if we put a little more time in we could get better.”
That would prove to be a huge understatement.
Behind the laughs was a strategy and precise spreadsheet tracking of girls results annually at each course providing as much information to players as possible.
“We had our tricks that we could get these girls to take a few strokes off every year,” she said. “That was our way of knowing what we could do.”
Harrier’s coaching philosophy was summed up on a charm necklace she wore during her entire career with three words inscribed: trust, believe and laugh.
“Trust in the process; believe in yourself and your teammates and laugh,” she said. “That’s just got to be part of it. It’s not going to be perfect. We never tried to fix a swing in a meet or at the state tournament. It was the mental piece, being positive and enjoying the experience. I felt like my girls were always ready for any scenario. We had a plan on what we would do. I never made them overthink anything.”
Her players had enough pressure inside a group of six golfers that could have been a number one on any other team in the state.
“Whoever shot the best score that’s the number one golfer at our next meet,” Harrier said.
“It made us stronger. They were good teammates and really good at supporting each other.”
Each of the four state title runs (2012-14, 2016) were special in their own way.
The first sent Hedstrom, a senior, out as a state champion. It also completed a three-year streak of third place in 2010 and second in 2011. There was only one place to go - up.
The win led to an undefeated streak and three straight championships.
The fourth title run in 2016 is now the stuff of Laker legend and it started with Harrier’s walk up the final hole with her seniors - something she did at every state meet.
“That’s such an emotional experience because we had all these memories together and it was coming to an end,” she said. “In ‘16 when I had to do that with Kate and I kind of knew at that point it was time for me to be done coaching, I just remember climbing up the hill from 17 and just taking a deep breath thinking enjoy it because this was it.”
Smith was one hole away from a state record fifth consecutive individual title locked in a duel with Visitation’s Anni Heck. The team title was sealed but Smith had work to do on 18 to win.
The parents all knew what was happening, Harrier knew the situation but it was not in play on 18.
Harrier stressed self-control and not worrying about what other people were doing on or off the course.
“I wanted them to be thinking about what they can do and I think it worked,” she said. “Keeping it light out there.”
The two discussed the smell of chicken in the air staring at the 18th green where Smith eventually sank a dramatic, must-make, six-foot putt to secure her title, the record and the fourth team championship in five years.
The victory also sealed the Herzog family sweep at state with Maddie, a sophomore, becoming the fourth sibling to win a state golf championship.
After the awards ceremony, amidst tears, Harrier quietly whispered she was done coaching not making it a distraction to what the team had accomplished.
Every June had been an emotional bombardment on the 18th green at Ridges in Jordan.
“It’s such a fabulous experience but you go home and it takes a couple days because you’re physically drained,” Harrier said. “I miss being out on the course with the girls.”
Harrier has been able to watch her players and entire teams play at the collegiate level.
“I’m so proud of how they’ve moved on and been successful at the next level,” she said. “I think they all found coaches that had similar philosophies that I had.”
Resigning from the golf team was not an easy decision but Harrier’s two children Josie and Brock were in varsity sports and it was time to take her mothering and coaching duties back to her family.
She has returned to the coaching ranks as a volleyball assistant and head coach of the adaptive bowling team with hopes of expanding DL’s participation in that sport. The bowling team currently has her right back at a state tournament this week.
“I think that’s where I’m supposed to be right now,” she said.
Another place she certainly belongs is the Hall. When one thinks about Hall of Fame inductees it’s typically coaches that have been around for multiple decades. Harrier’s teams gave her a resume with more accolades than coaches already in the Hall and did so in only seven seasons.
The entire group of Harrier’s former players are planning to be in attendance at the Hall of Fame ceremony during this year’s state tournament, aside from Trisa Hutchinson who will be in Peru.
The class AA state tournament banquet will be held Monday, June 10 at The Park Ballroom in New Prague at 7 p.m. Tickets are available by calling Mike Frankenfield at 507-413-2632 or email: Michael.Frankenfield@s-sm.org
2008-09 Assistant Coach
2010-2016 Head Coach
State Tournament stats
2010 Third place
2011 Runner-up, Academic state champions
2012 State Champions, Academic state champions
2013 State Champions, Academic state champions
2014 State Champions, Academic state champions (Tournament record low team score 509)
2016 State Champions
Individual state champions
2012-2016 Kate Smith (State record five times)
2013 Natalie Roth (Tied with Smith)
Coach of the Year
MSHSL Record low team score - 284
All-State golfers - 8 (Kate Smith, Matty Tschider, Courtney Hedstrom, Trisa Hutchinson, Natalie Roth, Sydney Busker, Abby Schramel, Maddie Herzog)
Mid-State Conference championships - 7
Section 8AA championships 7
Minnesota course scoring records: 15