STATE GOLF: Marshall golfers focused for state meet

Independent file photo Marshall’s Rachel Schwarz watches her tee shot during the Big South Championships on May 21. The Marshall girls team will be competing in the Class AA meet as a group for the first time since 2006.

MARSHALL – For the past few seasons, the Marshall girls golf team have seen its success at the state tournament come through its individual play.

This time they get to experience it together.

For the second time overall and first since 2006, the Tigers will be represented as a team in the Class AA tournament. Marshall clinched its state berth after taking first place in the Section 3AA Tournament on May 30.

“It was so exciting; it’s definitely something that we’ve been working for since I was in eighth grade,” Ana Schwarz said. “We’ve had individuals go every year, but we’ve never gone as a team. We do goals before each season and that’s been on the list every single year, so to finally get it accomplished is super exciting.”

The Tigers enter the state tournament as the top seed and will compete against Detroit Lakes, Red Wing and Visitation. Marshall girls coach Gretchen Flynn said they’ve been focusing on having the players stay competitive in their practice rounds and have been trying to keep it as close to tournament play as possible.

“We’ve been trying to keep them in competition mode. We have our own Ryder Cup setup that we’ve been playing and we had a best ball scramble with teammates as well as [Marshall Golf Club pro] Emily Roering, Karen VanKeulen and our assistant coach Charlie [Kost],” Flynn said. “They had a lot of fun doing that and we’ve just been focusing on making sure they’re practicing like they would be playing in a tournament and then working on short game putting and specific shots. Mainly just keeping their swings in check and make sure that their game is still flowing.”

The Class AA tournament will be held today and Wednesday at the Ridges at Sand Creek Golf Course in Jordan. Schwarz said the biggest thing is to pick out your targets and have a good sense of what each hole will bring. She added that by playing in team format, they don’t want to get too caught up with what’s happening around them and just stay focused on their own games.

“It’s definitely a target course, which means you’re not always using your driver. Sometimes you have to pull an iron off a tee or just go down to a hybrid and hit it to certain spots. Our coaches have been really good about prepping us for the course; we have little booklets that show us the course and we’re going to try and make ourselves familiar with those,” Schwarz said. “It’s hard sometimes when you’re playing with girls who are really good at golf, so we’re just going to try and not compare ourselves to them and play our own game because we know we can do it.”

Joining Schwarz on the links will be her younger sister Rachel, Kaylee Gossen, Olivia Peterson, Ashtyn Eben and Megan Kock. Kock said her goal is to shoot in the 80s and just breathe when she gets up on the opening tee box to help stay calm.

“My goal is to not shoot 90 because I know I can do better than that,” Kock said. “To get rid of the nerves, I always just stop and breathe and know that I’m there for a reason and that we made it. I know I shouldn’t be nervous because it’s the final thing that we have to do, so there’s nothing really for us to lose other than to go out and play how we want to.”

Last season, Ana Schwarz participated in the state tournament for the second straight year as a individual, placing 31st. This year, she and her team set some goals before the season started but want to go even higher after what they’ve accomplished.

“Right away before the season started, my goal was for our team to obviously get to state which we did and then once we did get there to get Top 3 and I definitely know that is possible,” she said. “Now, after seeing some of our scores this season, we’ve talked about winning it, which we’re going to have to play well to do it but we definitely have a chance. For me individually, I want to have a two-day score in the 150s and I want to be Top 10.”

Kock said she’s looking forward to getting to experience her first trip to state in her final season, and getting to do it with her teammates is even better.

“Just saying that I made it,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to go to state but never got there until this year, so it’s cool that my whole team can be there with me and that I can support them too.”

This is the first team Flynn has been able to bring to state, and said that it’ll be a whole other experience as a group. She added that they’ll also be recognized for other achievements at the banquet and hope that continues as the week goes on.

“I think just the whole experience of being at state, especially with your whole team. We’ve been up there the last couple of years with individuals and the atmosphere is a little more different with the individuals,” Flynn said. “Starting with the banquet on Monday night, just celebrating that, and we were also the Section 3AA academic champs so we’ll be recognized for that as well. We’ll also have three individuals that will be recognized as All-State in Kaylee, Ana and Olivia. We’ll get some celebration there and then going into today and Wednesday, hoping that that recognition continues.”

On the boys side, the Tigers will also be represented, as junior Spencer Ehlers will be playing in the individual tournament after earning the final spot with a playoff win on the second day of the Section 3AA tournament with a par.

“I was definitely really nervous and really excited throughout the whole playoff and before. During the playoff I was nervous; there was a bunch of people watching and I just wanted to show everyone what I could do, so I went out there and just tried to play one shot at a time and I ended up making a par,” Ehlers said. “Like Charlie [Kost] said, pars are like birdies in playoff holes, so you’re just trying to play for pars and that’s what I ended up doing.”

Marshall boys coach Kari Ehlers said it was great to watch Spencer finally punch his ticket to the state tournament after finishing just short the past two years.

“Spencer has finished sixth the two previous years, so he’s been one place out of going to state individually. I think that was kind of a monkey on his back and he didn’t want that to happen again this year. I think he was smart enough to keep his cool on the playoff hole and definitely showed his maturity and his experience as a golfer,” coach Ehlers said. “Throughout his round at Oakdale, I get to watch the kids but don’t get to watch them for long periods of time with me trying to coach, but I knew he wasn’t playing well. It’s hard to separate sometimes being the mom and being the coach but I really try hard to do that and think what will be, will be and I know Spencer has the maturity and experience to get to state. I wasn’t happy with the way he was playing but was very proud of the fact on the back nine he reached deep down and pulled it out of thin air and was able to make some good birdies and pars.”

Coach Ehlers said they’ve just been keeping it simple when preparing for the tournament and not making any big changes.

“I think preparing for any big tournament, you don’t want to make any big swing changes or thought changes,” coach Ehlers said. “We’ve just been going out and having some easy practices, putting, chipping, getting over the ball and knowing that his game is at a level that he can compete at the state tournament. There are going to be some awesome golfers and kids he sees every summer at tournaments. I think if Spencer can go and shoot 75 for both days, I think he could do that.”

This is the first trip to the state tournament for Ehlers. He said he got some advice from his teammate Mason Plante, who played in his first state tournament last season.

“I remember last year his big thing was just trying to stay calm because it’s definitely nervewracking your first time,” Ehlers said. “I’m just going to go out there, take my time play, calm and just play boring golf and do my thing.”

Ehlers said he’s looking forward to competing against some of the best players in the state and is excited to see what he can do.

“I’m excited to see how I can stack up against the rest of the good players in southern Minnesota. I’ve been out here practicing a lot this week and just trying to make the most of the opportunity,” Ehlers said. “I want to do what’s good for me. I want to go out and put up a couple of mid-70s rounds, so we’ll see how that can do. That might not win, but I just want to play good for my own ability.”