Class A golf: LQPV aims for an ACK at state
Defending state champion Eagles are champs in the classroom, too
BECKER — The academics-comes-first Lac qui Parle Valley High School girls golf team will take its ACK acronym to the Class A state tournament, which begins Tuesday.
Assertive, confident and kind.
Lac qui Parle Valley's girls golf team, the defending Class A team state champion, not only follows that acronym on the golf couse, but also in the classroom as it earned the gold academic award for its achievements.
The Eagles' combined for a cumulative grade-point aveage of 3.93 this academic school year, as they have stressed the importance of school and academics coming first.
With an opportunity to repeat as the Class A team state champions, Lac qui Parle Valley head coach Kipp Stender hopes the team can finish in the top three to earn a medal.
"The girls seem to be relaxed, calm, and confident," Stender said. "Our goal is to get to state and after we qualify, we talk about placing. I don't put that pressure of winning [state] on them. We just go and try to golf our best. If we can stay relaxed and golf our average, we'll be OK."
The Eagles won the 2021 Class A team state championship after combining for a 720, 26 strokes ahead of second-place Park Christian School.
While achieving the team state title, Lac qui Parle Valley senior Sarah Halvorson was a co-champion with Park Christian's then-senior Emily Stueland for the 2021 Class A individual state title at 166.
While Stueland graduated, Halvorson has the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of her older sister, Rachel, and win a second-consecutive individual state championship.
"I just know that I have to play my own game. I can't worry about what everyone else is doing. I have to focus solely on myself," Halvorson said. "I'd be really stoked to repeat the [individual] title. It would be super cool since my older sister did it too."
Halvorson believes the team is confident that it can repeat its success from last year. Lac qui Parle Valley has five golfers from its championship team on this year's team.
A leader on this team, Halvorson's pursuit for a team and individual title will come as her fifth and final opportunity. She didn't have the opportunity to compete in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Sarah is our leader — our number one golfer throughout the year," Stender said. "She's done a really nice job of talking to the girls about the experience and talking to them about pressure and more. They seem to be following, doing a nice job of taking her experience, and utilizing it."
Alongside Halvorson, Stender mentioned junior Isabella Jacobs and sophomore Kaitlyn Kittelson are two Lac qui Parle Valley golfers to keep an eye on as the tournament begins.
Jacobs finished in third place (169), three strokes behind Halvorson and Stueland in the 2021 Class A individual state tournament.
As for Kittelson, Stender said she has "really come on" throughout the year and has improved due to her strong work ethic and competitive attitude in pursuit of becoming a better golfer.
"[Bella Jacobs] did well at state [last year] and she's getting into a groove again," Stender said. "I think [Kittelson] will continue to progress in our program over the next few years, but she's had some really nice rounds and some personal bests this year. She's on track to do well at state."
With everything on the line for a state title, eighth-grader Kate Ulstad will tee off first at noon for No. 16 ranked Lac qui Parle Valley at Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan, Minn.
Other tee times for the Eagles: sophomore Grace Vacek (12:09), Kittelson (12:18), eighth-grader Molly Halvorson (12:27), Jacobs (12:36) and Sarah
'Why not us?'
The Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (BBE) boys golf team punched its ticket to the Class A state tournament for the first time after winning the Section 5A Championship on June 1 .
Jaguars head coach Matt Goodwin, an alum of BBE, could not be more excited for his team's opportunity that awaits as the boys state tournament kicks off Tuesday.
"The overall experience, not just the golf, but just being able to have the guys together — a banquet, a practice round — and them getting to play on a stage they've never played on," Goodwin said of what excites him about the Jaguars' opportunity at Pebble Creek Golf Course. "The entire atmosphere of being at the state tournament and everything that goes on, we're just excited for all of it."
Goodwin has high hopes for his Jaguars boys.
While looking at the eight-team field, Goodwin puts his team among the best in Class A.
Goodwin knows there are a couple of teams that are ahead of the Jaguars, but he has confidence that his team can finish in the top three, where it would take home a medal.
Fertile-Beltrami. ranked No. 17 in the state in all classes, and Marshall School of Duluth, ranked No. 39 in the state, are two schools Goodwin mentioned that are a little bit ahead of his team.
Goodwin believes his team and Lakeview are the next two teams to round out the top four at the competition.
"We feel like we're right there," Goodwin said. "Now, that's not saying there's not another team that can't sneak in there, but we feel those are the top four schools ... We've got a solid group of six."
Senior Gannon Walsh and junior Brady Schwinghammer are two of BBE's players to keep an eye on, Goodwin mentioned.
Walsh finished second overall in the Section 5A Championship, while Schwinghammer finished third.
As far as mentality goes, Walsh and Co. are going into the state tournament with a "Why not us?" train of thought.
"I think not really just being there, but knowing that we can actually do something while we're there and having in the back of our minds that if we play well, we could win," Walsh said of what excites him about the state tournament. "We're not favored to win next week, so we have no pressure ... No one even is looking at us to win."
The development of Goodwin's team over the past four years is what impresses him the most. He credits the work ethic of his players, which has helped BBE get to state.
"Four years ago, our team was literally in last place every single meet and it was basically the same crew," Goodwin said. "They decided a few years ago that they wanted to be good at gold and that's the reason why they're here — the time they put in on the course. I'm just excited that those guys took it upon themselves ... It's awesome to see as a coach."
Junior Matthew Walz will be the first golfer to tee off for BBE at 7:30 a.m. at Pebble Creek Golf Club, as junior Eli Gregory (7:39), senior Jack Paulson (7:48), senior Spencer Lundberg (7:57), Schwinghammer (8:06) and Walsh (8:15) follow.
Class A State Golf Championships
Where: Pebble Creek, Becker
Monday: Class A practice rounds begin at 7 a.m.
Tuesday: Class A tournament 1st rounds begin at 7:30 a.m. for boys and noon for girls.
Wednesday: Class A tournament 2nd rounds begin 7:30 a.m. for boys and noon for girls.
Teams competing - Class A (Boys)
Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, Fertile-Beltrami, Lakeview, Marshall School-Duluth, New Life Academy of Woodbury, Park Christian, Rushford-Peterson and United South Central.
Teams competing - Class A (Girls)
Fertile-Beltrami, Fillmore Central, Lac qui Parle Valley, Legacy Christian Academy, Murray County Central, North Woods, Park Christian and Sleepy Eye United.
Area individual competing athletes
Class A Boys: senior Isaac Minchow, Benson; senior Collin Swedzinski, Dawson-Boyd; freshman Carson Besonen, Lac qui Parle Valley; senior Gavin Husman, MACCRAY; freshman Ryan Schrupp, Renville County West
Class A Girls: senior Alissa Maurer, Benson; sophomore Kenna Henriksen, BOLD; senior Leslie Snow, BOLD; eighth-grader Alyssa Swedzinski, Dawson-Boyd; freshman Lindsey Lund, Dawson-Boyd