The primary objective in the early going for the Northfield girls golf team is to spend as much time on the course as possible.
Entering 2021, the Raiders possess only one player — junior Anna Nesseth — with any significant varsity experience. Other girls on the roster this season for the Raiders are playing competitive varsity golf for the first time this spring.
“Between now and the end of next Friday, we’re going to try and get as many holes as possible so I can figure out who my top players are for the varsity and JV,” Northfield coach Mel Miller said last week. “Because of how young we are, that 12-person roster will probably change a lot as the season goes on.”
Miller himself is a varsity and high school golf coaching newcomer, as he was first hired prior to the 2020 season, which was cancelled.
In his first extended run as coach this spring, he’s spent the past few weeks drilling the short game.
“Right now we’re focusing a lot on chipping and putting, because to me that’s the easiest place to save strokes on the golf course,” Miller said. “Watching everybody swing and see how solid they hit the ball, so that I can determine who the top players are. There have been several pleasant surprises that I’ve seen so far with some of these young kids. You can tell they’ve played some in the past.”
Part of the challenge once the season starts is getting that switch to flip between experience playing golf recreationally and purely for fun, to playing the sport competitively. That’s where Miller is grateful that even though the Raiders do not possess a bounty of varsity golf experience, many of his players have garnered that varsity experience in other sports.
“Some of these kids have played varsity sports or at least played at a JV level, so you can see when they’re hitting balls that they carry themselves differently,” Miller said. “They’re more confident in their swing, even if it’s not going where they want it to right now because it’s so early in the year. They understand what’s required.”
Individually, Miller said the goal this season is to try and qualify a golfer for the Class AAA state championships at the end of the season. Nesseth has spent the last two seasons without high school golf competing in Junior PGA events, as did freshman Emerson Garlie, giving Miller a reason to believe both can compete at the section tournament.
On a team-wide basis, Miller believes he’s starting to see the foundation of a team capable to competing at the section tournament as well.
“I’m thinking we can get our team score down by the time we get ready for sections and have a pretty good idea who the top six are and who can help else advance in sections and get past the first day, where we might have a shot at a top four or five finish in the sections,” Miller said.
Kelsie Clossen, senior
Emma Butzler, junior
Elle Gisvold, junior
Avery Hasse, junior
Evelyn Jordan, junior
Anna Nesseth, junior
Peyton Sullivan, junior
Isabelle Balvin, sophomore
Alexis Finstuen, sophomore
Marie Labenski, sophomore
Paige Mier, sophomore
Lucy Rand, sophomore
Rori Daughtery, freshman
Emerson Garlie, freshman
Elise Garlitz, freshman
Anika Gisvold, freshman
Elise Hoekstra, freshman
Lauren Holz, freshman
Alivia Kortuem, freshman
Eva Ness, freshman
Ingrid Rustad, freshman
Annika Johnson, 7th grader
Karina Johnson, 7th grader
April 12 — at Winona, 2:30 p.m., Bridges Golf Course
April 19 — at Mankato West, Rochester Century, 2:30 p.m., North Links Golf Course
April 23 — at Chanhassen Invite, noon, Bunker Hills Golf Course
April 24 — at Chanhassen Invite, 10 a.m., Bunker Hills Golf Course
April 26 — at Red Wing, Rochester John Marshall, 2:30 p.m., Mississippi National Golf Links
April 29 — Big 9 Conference meet, 10 a.m., Bridges Golf Course
May 3 — at Austin, Mankato East, 2:30 p.m., Austin Country Club
May 6 — Northfield Invite, noon, Willingers Golf Club
May 13 — vs. Albert Lea, Owatonna, Rochester Mayo, 1 p.m., Northfield Golf Club
May 17 — vs. Faribault, 1 p.m., Northfield Golf Club
May 25 — Big 9 Conference meet, 10 a.m., Faribault Golf and Country Club