Fairmont golfers continue making strides

HITTING THE FAIRWAYS — Members of the Fairmont Cardinals girls golf team opening the season by competing in the Worthington Invitational on Saturday morning in Worthington include, front row (l-r): Rianna Rivera, Lauren Scott, Maggy Totzke, Brynn Gustafson and Solveig Senf. Back row: Bailey Martinson, Bergen Senf, Anna Nordquist, Isabell Geiger, Anika Haugen and assistant coach Mike Martinson. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)

FAIRMONT — After a season of growth, the Fairmont girls golf team is ready to keep striding forward.

With only two seniors on the team this year, Cardinals head coach Brad Haugen said he looks to the older players to show the younger players how to put in the work.

“We have two seniors in Anna Nordquist and Lauren Scott. Those two have continued to improve year after year,” Haugen said. “I was really bummed last year because Lauren got off to a really good start, but we got stuck in a rut and couldn’t really play. She’s a girl that’s just worked every day in practice, same thing with Anna Nordquist. Anna is asking questions every day because she wants to get better. To have seniors put their time in and continue to improve, that’s what you want these younger girls to see.”

The Fairmont girls team placed third in the Section 2AA Meet behind Minnewaska Area and Marshall, while junior standout Bergen Senf was the lone Cardinal to qualify for state, with freshman phenom Maggy Totzke finishing two strokes away from a qualifying spot.

Haugen said Bergen Senf and Totzke will be leaders on the 2019 team.

“We’re led at the top by Bergen Senf,” Haugen said. “She’s a grinder. She’s going to hit those extra 100 balls, she’s going to putt those extra 10 when she needs to.

“It’s crazy because she’s only a freshman, but Maggy Totzke continues to show a lot of leadership. She’s positive no matter how she shoots that day. She’s always encouraging the other girls. For a freshman to be doing that for your team is exciting.”

Bergen Senf went on to shoot a combined two-day score of 165 at the state competition last year, good enough for 16th place overall. It was Senf’s second time competing at the state course and she’ll be trying for a third consecutive attempt this year.

Haugen said Senf has a lot of talents, but her best one is her drive to improve.

“One of Bergen’s greatest strengths is she is never satisfied,” Haugen said. “No matter how good her day is, she wants to work hard and be better. I thought she had a pretty good couple of days at state last year, but she was bound and determined she wanted to crack the top 10 and even the top 5 at state. So everything since then has been putting in the hours to get to that point. The sky is the limit for Bergen.”

Haugen said he has big expectations for the girls after shooting their best team score of the year at the section meet.

He said this year he hopes the girls can compete for a top-two finish in the section meet and a state berth.

“The way the boys might raise eyebrows this year, I think the girls did that last year,” Haugen said. “We’re excited and want to build off last year’s section third-place finish. It’s going to be interesting going forward to see if we can take that next step in improvement and get into the battle with Minnewaska and Marshall.”

Fairmont assistant coach Ryan Stevens said the improvement in both the girls’ and boys’ programs in recent years is due to the youth summer program Paul Baldus and many parents started at Interlaken golf course.

He said the increase in participation has played a big role in the recent success.

“One of the most important things that has happened over the past few years is the junior golf program, which Paul Baldus really started with the help of many parents,” Stevens said. “The whole community has come together really well. The program is seeing the upside of that, we’re getting seventh and eighth graders coming in with a lot of potential. It’s been a big growing piece of our program.

“I think it’s awesome that just four years ago we had just 14 kids out for both boys and girls combined, now we’re looking at about 40 this year. If you’ve got more people to fill those spots, you’re gonna have that competitiveness and camaraderie. You’re gonna have people having fun.”

With Baldus gone from Interlaken, new golf pro Jon Vee has taken over the youth program and Haugen and Stevens agreed in their belief he will do an excellent job.

Haugen said after a year of great improvement in 2018, the girls need to realize that growth comes with a cost.

“The biggest thing coming off the last couple of years is the itch to improve,” Haugen said. “The girls drastically saw that last year, so now it’s understanding that didn’t come without a price. All those balls we hit indoors, we didn’t get out until April 27th last year for that first match and that was actually our first day on the course, too. That’s where that improvement came from, it wasn’t magic. Now that we are getting outside here about 20-some days before last year, we know we can still improve that much more.”

The Fairmont girls open their season Saturday at Worthington’s varsity invitational where they will face off against Adrian, Fulda, Hendricks, Jackson County Central, Lac qui Parle Valley, Luverne, Murray County Central, Pipestone Area, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, Wabasso, Windom and Worthington at 9 a.m.