Girls Golf: Wingers ready for next challengeWhen Red Wing graduated four starters from last year’s state championship team, head coach Mark Herzog knew it would leave a void on the team but a bridge to the future was left.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
When Red Wing graduated four starters from last year’s state championship team, head coach Mark Herzog knew it would leave a void on the team but a bridge to the future was left.
That bridge was Marisa Toivonen and Katie Kesti, now seniors.
“Honestly, we had a big hole last year when we lost four but I knew we had two girls who had been at it a long time,” Herzog said. “I know we have four newcomers and they’ve helped a lot obviously but nobody has put the time and effort in like these two girls over the years. They’ve just been at it a long time.”
And the extra work is paying off. Both players averaged less than 80 throughout the season, the first time the Wingers had two players shoot that low during Herzog’s tenure.
“They put the time in without any guarantee of having any success,” Herzog said. “There’s no guarantee that they’re going to play good next week, no guarantee they’d play good in the section. One thing was guaranteed, they were going to prepare.
“That’s the only thing you can control. If you prepare well and things don’t go well you can always say I have no regrets because I did the best I could to get ready and that’s how they’ve always done things.”
Toivonen set an unofficial state record by shooting a 66 May 17 at Mississippi National Golf Links in Red Wing and finished the season averaging a 77. Kesti was nearly as good, tallying a 79-stroke average.
“Even though we lost four kids last year I thought we might be pretty good this year,” Herzog said. “I didn’t know we’d be quite as good as we were but I thought we’d be pretty good just because we have those two. They’re just so reliable.”
Kesti and Toivonen are leaders by example. Before the Wingers compete in the state tournament, they will complete five practice rounds to better prepare for a tough Bunker Hills Golf Course in Coon Rapids. The team joined for a practice round Friday but Kesti and Toivonen consistently make the extra effort.
Before last year’s state tournament, they both played five consecutive mornings at 8 a.m. or earlier.
“The fact of the matter is you could play five straight days and go over there and play poorly,” Herzog said. “The one thing they can always say is they prepared well.”
Bunker Hills plays long, a 5,809-yard par-73, and that might help the Wingers. But in a deep Class 3A, all the top teams can hit the ball with length off the tee, Herzog said.
“It’s a long course, a tough course,” Herzog said. “The best team’s going to win. You got to be able to hit the ball. You’re not going to be able to hack it around and score low.”
Kesti said Red Wing has power off the tee but in order to be successful at state, the Wingers will need to maneuver around the greens.
“We’re a long-distance hitting team,” Kesti said. “That’s beneficial to us but you’re not going to be able to break 80 without the short game.”
Red Wing will also need help from Nicole Schammel and seventh-grader Stephanie Herzog, who were integral to the Wingers’ success this year.
Schammel, a standout hockey player, didn’t get any practice time until the girls hockey team was eliminated from the state tournament but still averaged 83 throughout the season and shot a 75 during the second round of the Section 1AAA meet at Cannon Falls Golf Club.
“I kind of like the pressure of having to score a meet,” Schammel said. “Playing with better golfers also makes me better because I’m competitive. Pressure is good.”
Stephanie Herzog has had little trouble adjusting to varsity despite being just a seventh-grader. The team helped her feel comfortable right away, she said, and her consistent play can be counted on round after round as she averaged an 84 during the season.
Ninth-grader Reagan Haley and junior Maddie Flack complete Red Wing’s lineup. Haley shot a career low 84 during the second round of the Section 1AAA meet and Flack averaged 91.
Mark Herzog said the girls aren’t focused on winning because Red Wing could play great both days and still come up short against great competition. The Wingers have a chance to contend for the title but if they focus on one shot at a time everything will take care of itself, he said.
“The worst thing you can do is to fear failure,” Herzog said. “The odds are much higher you’ll do well if you think … I could play great today. I think they’ll be satisfied if they play well.”
The bridge to success didn’t crumble before this season because of Toivonen and Kesti. Now, they’ll try to extend construction with a final run at the Class 3A state girls golf meet Tuesday at Bunker Hills Golf Course in Coon Rapids.
“They’ve been a nice bridge but you’ll find that the bridge isn’t all the way built yet because these kids have all played just one year,” Herzog said. “Replacing two might be harder than four just because there’s nobody else that’s played as long as them coming back. There will be a huge hole when they’re gone.”