Getting on the green
Golf season is starting at Rugby High School, with practices already underway for the girls’ team and beginning soon for the boys.
The girls’ team finished fourth in the region last year, with their only senior tying for the regional title.
A young team this year, coaches Leah Johnson and Brian Olson will be looking to the team’s two junior golfers, Jacquelyn Blessum and Allyson Kleespie, to lead.
Freshman Aly Mundahl played on the varsity team as an eighth grader last season, so her coaches will be looking to her for another great season.
According to Johnson, for the other two freshmen on this year’s team, Kelsie Ebach and Morgan LaRocque, this season will be an adjustment period. Going from playing nine holes in junior high to 18 holes on varsity can be difficult and requires a lot of stamina.
Johnson and Olson are excited to begin working with the junior high golfers. “When you have 13 players that are in junior high, it’s going to be a lot of teaching,” Johnson said.
“We should see a lot of improvement from the beginning of the year to the end,” Olson added.
In eighth grade, Sarah Blessum, Riley Grove and Isabella McCabe will be playing, and Nevaeh Christianson, Saige Connot, Katelyn Duchscher, Kiah Gault, Alyssa Harmel, Anna Johnson and Annika Johnson will round out the team for the seventh grade players.
Because golf is both an individual and team sport, Johnson and Olson are predicting that the younger players will be focusing on learning the sport and the older players will be prioritizing individual gain.
“Golf is the only sport in which kids need to referee themselves,” Johnson said. “It takes a lot of coordination to be a golfer.”
To get the girls ready for the season, Johnson and Olson are working on what they call the fundamentals of golfing, including how to hit a ball, how to swing a club, putting and reacting.
“People like to see the ball fly, but sometimes that’s not what makes the difference,” Johnson said. “Golf is a thinker’s sport. You have to know how to react, but you have time to think about it. That’s not easy to teach because everyone thinks differently.”
With the girls varsity team’s biggest competition being Garrison, Northern Lights and Bottineau, Johnson and Olson are gearing up to play against these teams at the regional meet in May.
“Regionals will be tight this year, but our girls could really do some amazing things. We hope they do, and we’ll be pushing them to do that. We want them to be as successful as they want to be,” Johnson said.
The girls’ varsity team’s first meet will be held on April 20 in Garrison, and the junior high team’s first meet will be April 18 in Bottineau.
Boys’ golf coach Mike Santjer is looking to begin practices with his team within the next few days.
Seniors on the team this year are Ben Hershey, Brett Berginski, Jacob Christianson, Kyle Lashman and Thor Shjelver.
Juniors Alex Hoffert and Brock Haakenson are also on the team. Sophomore Kevin Vetsch, who missed going to state by one stroke last season, is a player to look out for this year.
Santjer will be preparing for the upcoming season by focusing on putting and shots from 100-150 yards and in. Other things he wants to teach his players are the pace of play and how to fix divots.
He also will be teaching the rules and etiquette of golf, such as honesty in how many strokes a player takes.
“Golf is labeled as the ‘gentleman’s game,’ and I want to teach them the rules that they can carry with them throughout their playing,” Santjer said. “[Golf] is something that these kids can play for years, even after high school. Golf is more of a life game than other sports.”
As first-year head coach, Santjer said that this season may be a little different than what the boys are used to. He wants to work more on course management and conditioning with his team this season. When the weather isn’t nice, the team will be in the weight room working on stamina and endurance.
“It’s really about getting out and playing. Repetition is good in this game,” Santjer said.
The boys’ first tentative meet is April 11, although the majority of the season starts on April 17.
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