FAIRMONT - Fairmont girls golf mentor Ron Kallheim's original 'Iron Five' and an eighth-grade phenom will hit the fairways at Ridges at Sand Creek during today's Class AA state meet in Jordan.
The Cardinals fired a 374 to squeeze past Belle Plaine by three strokes for the Section 2 team championship June 4 in New Prague to earn the program's eighth overall state appearance and first since 2003. In fact, Fairmont produced its highest-ever team showing - third place in Class AA - during the then two-class state format.
"Detroit Lakes would have to be considered the favorite after shooting a 309 to win their section meet," Kallheim said in reference to the 2011 Class AA state runner-up - one of four teams returning from a year ago. "They're just plain good and young. In fact, their highest placer (a tie for fifth) from last year's state team is just an eighth-grader (Kate Smith)."
HITTING THE FAIRWAYS — Members of the Fairmont Cardinal girls golf team hitting the fairways at Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan today and Wednesday in the Class AA state meet include, from left: Elizabeth Kim, Megan Rosol, Cayce Craig, Emily Splinter, Lizzie Larson, Cassidy Krusemark and head coach Ron Kallheim. (Photo courtesy of Ron Kallheim)
Minnewaska, who placed third at state last spring, along with Hermantown (fifth) and St. Croix Lutheran (seventh), round out the returning qualifying teams. St. Cloud Cathedral, Stewartville an Providence Academy join Fairmont as this year's Class AA state newcomers.
"We're capable of shooting in the 370s, so hopefully the girls can do that over the course of two days and see where we finish," said Kallheim, whose lineup carded a season-low 365 to capture the South Central Conference Meet championship at St. James Golf Course on May 21. "Hopefully, our girls will have a chance at a top 15 individual finish, too."
Junior Lizzie Larson, who enters the state meet with a team-low nine-hole scoring average of 46.1, earned the Cardinals' sixth and final tee time of 8:15 a.m. today off of No. 10.
"She's been steady all year long for us," Kallheim said in reference to Larson, who also leads the red-and-white with 67 pars on the season. "Megan (Rosol) has been fairly consistent, too, while Elizabeth Kim has really done a nice job of taking a lot of strokes off of her average during the last five meets."
Rosol holds the No. 2 scoring clip on the Cardinals at 46.4 to complement team-bests of five birdies, 126 fairways hit and a 17.2 putting average. Meanwhile, Kim has lowered her scoring average to 49.9 behind a third-best team total of 39 pars in combination with an 18.2 putting mark.
While Rosol hits the No. 10 tee box at 8:06 a.m. today, Kim will pull out her driver at 7:57 a.m. Senior Emily Splinter starts her opening round at 7:48 a.m. today, while senior Cayce Craig and eighth-grader Cassidy Krusemark tee off at 7:39 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., respectively.
Splinter enters the state meet with a 50.4 scoring clip and 36 pars, Craig has produced a 52.8 average and 25 pars, while Krusemark has chipped in a 64.8 scoring clip and one birdie during the postseason to fill the sixth and final spot in Fairmont's lineup.
"Our top four players have been shooting near their averages or better during the last couple of weeks, so it's a nice time of the year to have that happen," said Kallheim. "Hopefully, playing the Jordan Invitational back in April will help us (today and Wednesday).
"It's nice that our conference will have three individuals at state too."
Blue Earth Area junior standout Autumn Drake, who fired the fifth-best 18-hole round at the Section 2 Meet, will tee off of No. 1 at 8:24 a.m. today in the individual portion of the state competition.
Buc senior Allie Curtis will tee off at the exact same time as her teammate, only off of No. 10. Waseca's Melissa Bartz, the third and final SCC individual girls qualifier, tees off at 8:33 a.m. off of No. 10.
Becker senior Kourtney Williams, who holds the No. 1 Class AA ranking this spring, headlines the field's three top five golfers returning today and Wednesday. Williams, who earned runner-up state honors in 2011, will be joined by Jackson County Central senior Kaylee Benson (third) and Detroit Lakes' Kate Smith (fifth).
While Kallheim's crew will vie for Class AA team honors, Blue Earth Area senior Andy Aukes and Fairmont junior Josh Baldus will step to the No. 10 tee box at 12:34 p.m. and 12:52 p.m. today as the area's two individual boys qualifiers at Ridges at Sand Creek.
Baldus, who helped guide the Cardinals to a sixth-place team showing in the 2010 Class AA state meet, earned his initial individual state bid by firing the third-best total of 78 at last Monday's Section 2 Meet in New Prague.
Aukes, who netted the sixth-best sectional score of 82, returns to the state meet on the heels of firing a two-day total of 154 to earn a tie for 28th place last spring.
Max Deutz, who guided Marshall to state team runner-up accolades to Detroit Lakes in 2011, returns to defend his Class AA individual state championship against the likes of Byron's Conner Hedlund and Hermantown's Trent Sundbom - both a part of his 12:07 p.m. foursome today - and Litchfield's Josh Polingo. Hedlund and Polingo tied for second overall a year ago, while Sundblom netted ninth.
In the Class A state meet at Pebble Creek Golf Club in Becker today and Wednesday, Martin County West sophomore standout Cordell Weber will seek his first individual championship after shooting a 3-under 69 to breeze to the Section 2 gold medal at North Links Golf Course in North Mankato eight days ago.
Weber, who penciled in a 12th-place finish of 158 during the 2011 Class A state meet, will tee off of the White Course at 1:10 p.m. today. Weber's foursome will include one of three golfers - Frazee's Beau Hanson - returning after tying for third place overall last spring. Northeast Range's Sam Eisenhuth and Mille Lacs' Grant Exsted shared the bronze medal with Hanson.
In the Class A girls state field, Martin County West eighth-grade phenom Logan Weber joins Granada-Huntley-East Chain senior standout Chelsea Green as returning qualifiers.
Weber, who placed 44th with a 193 during her state debut in 2011, carded a 92 at the sectional meet to earn a tie for fifth place overall. Green, who tied for 37th with a 191 last spring, fired a 90 to share the No. 3 spot during sectional play last Monday.
Green and Weber share the same tee time of 8:51 a.m. today, with Green starting on the White Course and Weber on the Red Course.
Legacy Christian Academy senior Rachel Gray and Lewiston-Altura senior Kaitlyn Hennessy - who tied for third in 2011 - along with Lewiston-Altura sophomore Elli Hennessy and senior teammate Kayley Borkowski top the list of returning medalists. Elli Hennessy and Borkowski tied for seventh a year ago. The Hennessys and Borkowski also will look to help L-A defend its state team crown.