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Panther girls expect more

By Staff | Apr 18, 2014

Offseason practice can’t be stressed enough in a sport like golf, which often sees its season shortened due to North Dakota’s erratic spring weather.

The Rugby High School girls golf team knows this all too well. The Panthers played in just three meets before regionals last year, but coach Leah Johnson knows her girls worked hard in the summer and fall.

“To improve you have to play, play, play,” Johnson said. “It’s tough to hit stride right away, but they ended on a good note last fall on their own and we can use that toward the team.”

The season opens on Thursday in Rugby after earlier meets were postponed to due to weather and course conditions.

The team is without a senior, but loaded with six experienced juniors, who guided the team to a seventh-place team finish at state in 2013. The Panthers are receiving a boost with the addition of Paige Johnson (no relation), who joins in a co-op with Leeds.

“That’s gonna help us a lot,” said junior Helen Johnson, the coach’s niece. “She’s a really skilled golfer and she’s really good friends with all of us, so team chemistry should be there.”

Junior Elizabeth Blessum led RHS at the state meet last year and was the only Panther to shoot below 200 in the two-day competition. Her 194 was followed closely by classmate Darby Deckert (200) and Helen Johnson (201). Graduate Rachel Mack and juniors ReeAnn Christianson and Hannah Voeller rounded out the team’s scoring.

“We’re finding a balance of what they want to do as individuals, but also as a team,” Leah Johnson said. “They know the game better now.”

Blessum was also the individual medalist at the Garrison Qualifier, which the Panthers won as a team. Blessum shot a 96 in that meet and with a strong core returning to back her up, RHS should contend for the top spot in Region 4.

“Elizabeth is so caring and kind and she’s pretty much like a coach,” Paige Johnson said. “Helen is a nice friend; Darby’s really talented, so I look up to here; ReeAnn’s funny and puts us together; and Hannah’s super funny and works really hard.”

The season will wrap up with the state tournament in Carrington on May 27 and 28.

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