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Golf: After six years, Herzog bids farewell at state tournament

Playing in her sixth state tournament, Red Wing's Stephanie Herzog finished in sixth place at the Class 3A state championship meet at Bunker Hills Golf Club in Coon Rapids. Joe Brown / RiverTown Multimedia

COON RAPIDS — With a tear in her eye, Stephanie Herzog completed a masterful six-year varsity career.

Her last hole didn't look great on the scorecard as she needed three putts to finish up the round. But give the Red Wing senior the benefit of the doubt: It's hard to putt when the ball is a blur.

"I could barely see the ball because I was already tearing up," Stephanie said. "I was just trying to get it in the hole at that point.

"But it's been a great career. I've been truly blessed to be on a good team."

The build-up to state was an emotional time for Stephanie and the rest of the golf-oriented family.

"Even at sections, there was a couple tears from Steph, from me, my dad and everyone else a little bit, because it was like, 'Well, now we know when her last tournament is going to be,'" said Leah Herzog, Stephanie's youngest sister. "The whole week, knowing it's the last tournament, it was hard to believe until I saw the last putt."

Added Mark Herzog, Red Wing's head golf coach and Stephanie's father, "After the banquet Monday night, she was crying. Before her round on Tuesday, she goes, 'I can't believe this is the end.' We had to just try and focus on golf."

A mainstay at state since making the Wingers' varsity as a seventh-grader, Stephanie medaled for the second time with back-to-back 76s in the two-day Class 3A state tournament at Bunker Hills Golf Club, which was good for sixth place. Her best finish at state came in 2015 when she tied for fourth in the Class 2A tournament, the same year Red Wing won the state championship at Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan.

On Sunday, Stephanie, the state's No. 1-ranked girls' golfer, was named Minnesota's Ms. Golf, which is awarded by the Minnesota Golf Association to the state's top high school senior.

"I've had a great career. I couldn't ask for anything more," said Stephanie, who shot an average of 71.8 per round as a senior.

Throughout her varsity career, Stephanie and Mark were inseparable. Every tournament Stephanie played in, Mark was walking the course with her, binoculars in hand to scope out other golfers on the team.

"He knows me so well. He knows my moods pretty well and he knows what I need," Stephanie said. "Whether it's a scolding because I'm having a terrible attitude or encouragement. He seems to know what I need."

A teary Mark added, "For six years, she's been sitting in the front of the van. Every tournament we go to, there she is with me."

After her final hole, the final thing Stephanie needed was a hug.

"We didn't really talk. We both teared up," Stephanie said.

"I just told her I'm the luckiest guy in the world to coach her for six years," Mark said. "I said, 'You didn't play quite as well as you would have liked, but you've had a fabulous career and year and you should be proud of yourself.'"

And while Stephanie resumes her golf career in college at the University of Iowa, Mark will roam the courses for two years with Leah.

"I got a couple years to walk with Leah," Mark said. "Leah and Stephanie are best friends. It's been fun to have them as teammates. They were able to jump into the pond a couple years ago (after the state championship win)."

Leah chimed in, "I like having him there. That'll be nice. It'll be different because I'm used to him being with Steph."

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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