STATE GOLF: Marshall golfers use strong finishes to post solid scores in opening day of state
JORDAN – The opening round of the state golf tournament is a very nerve-wracking experience for all of those involved, no matter what skill level you are.
For the Marshall girls golf team, those initial jitters were felt, but just like they have all season long, they found their groove and never let go.
The Tigers bounced back from a difficult front nine with an impressive scoring display on the back, with the team firing an opening day score of 327.
Marshall coach Gretchen Flynn said they’re strength as a team is being able to rely on any one of their players and it helps take pressure off the team.
“Our team this is where our strength lies because we count on Ana [Schwarz], Kaylee [Gossen] and Olivia [Peterson] to be there for us but then when Rachel [Schwarz] comes in and puts on a score that counts for us, that’s where our strength lies,” Flynn said. “We know that we’ve got six girls that can score at any time and that takes the pressure off some of the other girls to know they don’t have to be the ones to have to score that day.”
Gossen said they definitely felt the nerves right away, but were reassured by Flynn and assistant coach Charlie Kost and were able to find their groove going into the back nine.
“Definitely after the first hole, I think our nerves were getting to us,” Gossen said. “But our coaches came to us and told us ‘Hey, there’s a lot of golf left,’ so even after our first nine, we thought ‘It’s a brand new nine’ and we just settled down and put out some good scores.”
Peterson led the way for the Tigers with a 79, followed by Gossen with an 80, and both Ana and Rachel Schwarz shooting 84s. Megan Kock (91) and Ashtyn Eben (92) rounded out the scoring for Marshall.
Another highlight of the opening round came from Red Wing juniors Sophia Yoemans and Leah Herzog. Yoeman shot a front nine round of 30 and back nine of 33 for a blistering 63, which broke the Minnesota State High School League record as well as the course record. Herzog was equally brilliant, shooting 32-34 for a first round score of 66 to help lead the way for the Eagles, who currently sit two shots back of Marshall at 329.
“That is just amazing golf and it’s nothing but great news for girls golf, that’s for sure,” Flynn said.
The Tigers currently sit in second place as team, just six strokes behind leader Detroit Lakes, who fired a 321 on Tuesday. Flynn said their biggest takeaway is they need to shoot their averages and play the way they’re used to, and they’ll have a chance of making up the difference.
“We’re six strokes behind Detroit Lakes right now; we just need to get into our games sooner. We need to not let down like we did a couple of times on holes and the girls just need to shoot their averages,” Flynn said. “They don’t need to have a superman or superwoman round, they just need to be out there and shooting their averages. If we can do that, we’ll bunch up our scores and pick up those six strokes.”
Gossen said if they focus on their own games and not on what’s going on around them, they’ll be okay.
“Definitely to focus on our game and not other players’ scores, because there are some good players that we’re going to play with and we’re going to have to compete hard,” Gossen said. “But if we focus on our games and how well we know what we can do, we’ll be just fine.”
Flynn added she’s looking forward to watching her team go out and have fun in the final round and watch the seniors cap off their amazing careers.
“That’s exactly what I’m looking forward to, watching these seniors that have been working so hard since junior high to get to this point and just relishing in the fact that they did and they’re here,” Flynn said. “We talked on Sunday about just remembering to have fun out here. There’s over 300 girls golf teams in the state and only 24 of them get to play at State, and they’re one of them. To watch the improvement this year and to cap off the season and hopefully we can produce the numbers we’re looking for today.”
Meanwhile on the boys side, Marshall junior Spencer Ehlers had a strong round of his own, carding an opening day of 78 to sit tied for 31st. He said he was able to hit strong approach shots and give himself scoring opportunities and felt he played better than his score indicated.
“I got off to a slow start but was able to even it out going around the turn. I hit my approach shots well and was able to hit a lot of greens which was good,” Ehlers said. “My putting wasn’t very good, but I played a lot better than my score indicated, especially with a triple bogey to shoot 78. But I’m satisfied with how I played and if I can go out and clean up my mistakes, I’ll have another good round.”
Ehlers fired a consistent round throughout the afternoon, shooting a pair of 39s on either side of the scorecard. Marshall coach Kari Ehlers said that level of consistency was able to help Spencer out on the course with his shot selection and felt he did what he needed to do in the end.
“I thought all in all Spencer was consistent with his targets. This is a course where you can’t just go out and hit driver every time; you have to place your shots, and I thought he did a good job with his club selection,” coach Ehlers said. “He had a lot of opportunities for birdie and his up and down game was decent. Aside from a couple of bad swings, all in all he was very consistent with his round.”
This is Ehlers’ first appearance at the state tournament after just coming up short the past couple of seasons. He said even though he’s played this course multiple times, he felt a little nervous when he approached the first tee.
“It’s definitely a different atmosphere with the crowds there and everything. I was a little nervous at first, but once I settled down and got into my groove, I just wanted to play ‘boring golf,’ and not put that added pressure on myself throughout my round.”
Ehlers said it was also nice to have the support of his family and teammates out there on the course as well as having the chance to play a round with his mom close by.
“It was definitely nice to have a good support system from my family and friends cheering me on like that,” Ehlers said. “And it was also great to be able to spend time with my mom out there playing golf and doing something that we love.”
Going into the final round, coach Ehlers said their biggest takeaway is to continue to play consistent golf and have another strong day on the course.
“Going into Tuesday’s first round, our approach was to be consistent and make smart plays, which he did,” coach Ehlers said. “He’s excited to come out and try and play 18 solid holes and I think if he wants to go for a 75 or better, he’d be really happy.”
Day 1 scores
Detroit Lakes 321
Red Wing 329
International Falls 336
O. Peterson 41-38 – 79
K. Gossen 37-43 – 80
A. Schwarz 45-39 – 84
R. Schwarz 45-39 – 84
M. Kock 49-42 – 91
A. Eben 45-47 – 92
S. Ehlers 39-39 – 78