Golfers ready to tee off at state

FAIRMONT – One last shot at prep golf greatness.

Half of the area’s eight state qualifiers and two of their three coaches will literally play out that last-chance scenario today when the Class AA and A state golf meets hit the Ridges @ Sand Creek and Pebble Creek golf courses in Jordan and Becker, respectively.

The Fairmont Cardinal girls golf lineup will look to make the ninth and final state team appearance under 26-year mentor Ron Kallheim a memorable one during the two-day Class AA competition in Jordan.

“I hadn’t really thought about it much until I started filling out the scorecards one last time,” said Kallheim, who’s retiring after Wednesday’s second and final 18-hole round at Ridges @ Sand Creek. “I’m sure that it will hit me more after the last hole’s completed.”

Like Kallheim, today and Wednesday’s state golf meet will be the last time that senior sensations Lizzie Larson, Megan Rosol and Elizabeth Kim tee it up for the Cardinals, in addition to both Fairmont boys coach Brad Haugen and senior standout Carter Welchlin.

Haugen officially stepped down as coach, effective following Welchlin’s last shot in Jordan on Wednesday.

“It has been a good run for the past six years … ” Haugen said in reference to his program’s two state-qualifying teams and three South Central Conference crowns. ” … I hope to return to help out some day.”

While Haugen and Kallheim will depart, long-time Martin County West mentor Jeff Ross will return next spring in hopes of helping guide Maverick junior standout Cordell Weber back to the Class A state meet in Becker.

Weber will look to begin defending his 2012 individual state title when the talented left-hander tees off the White Course at Pebble Creek at 8:51 a.m. today.

Weber has proven a model of consistency during the last three high-profile meets of the season, carding a 76 to tie for runner-up honors at the Section 2A Meet, penciling in a 77 to take second at the sub-section event and firing a 76 to earn the Valley Conference individual crown.

Weber will face challenges from five other returning top 10 golfers from a year ago in Mountain Lake Area sophomore Aaron Walzek, who shared third; Mille Lacs senior Grant Exsted, who placed sixth; Southwest Christian junior Luke Johanson, who netted seventh; and Mille Lacs freshman Dain Schultz, who tied for eighth.

While Weber will put his skills to the test against a formidable Class A field, Welchlin will seek a top 10 showing against a Class AA lineup that features four returning state medalists.

Detroit Lakes junior Michael Herzog, who shared seventh in 2012, tees off No. 1 at the Ridges course at 7:57 a.m. today, while Litchfield senior Josh Polingo – who tied Herzog a year ago – starts his round at 8:15 a.m. today at the first tee box.

Welchlin, who fired stellar rounds of 78 at the sectional, 79 at sub-sections and 81 at the SCC Meet, tees off at 8:33 a.m. today off of No. 1.

Delano senior Jordan Peters, who finished fourth in 2-12, fires off of the first hole at 9 a.m. today, while Class AA state runner-up Karter Smith of Detroit Lakes is scheduled for an 8:06 a.m. tee time today at No. 1.

Ironically, Karter Smith’s younger sibling – freshman Katie Smith – will seek to defend her individual state championship, as well as help Detroit Lakes thwart all challenges in duplicating the Class AA girls golf team crown today and Wednesday.

“After taking a look at the big three – Detroit Lakes, Minnewaska Area and Providence Academy (of Plymouth), realistically we’re in a three-team meet inside of the eight-team state field,” said Kallheim, whose lineup fired a two-day total of 794 to finish eighth last spring. “I think our best chances are against Hibbing and Visitation (of Mendota Heights) since we shot similar scores throughout the season.

“Our goal is to shoot for fifth place. If we were to accomplish that, it would be like a state championship for us.”

In order to hit that bull’s-eye, Kallheim thinks that his Cardinals would have to shoot in the 750 to 780 range, which is attainable.

Larson, who tops Fairmont with an 18-hole scoring average of 88, lowered her already low-scoring ways via a runner-up round of 81 at the Section 2AA Meet. Larson also will look to improve upon her 52nd-place showing of 186 at last year’s state meet.

Rosol also has proven as steady as a rock throughout the season by posting a stellar scoring clip of 91, and seems to be peaking during the playoffs. Rosol fired an 85 to win the SCC individual championship before carding an 87 at the sectional meet.

Rosol will look to climb the Class AA individual leaderboard during the next two days after posting a 187 to net 54th during the 2012 state meet.

Elizabeth Kim, who shot a 229 at last year’s state competition, has lowered her scoring average to a solid 101 throughout her senior campaign.

Elizabeth Kim also has displayed her consistency by firing a 100 at the SCC Meet, followed by a 99 at sub-sections and a 98 at the sectional.

Sophomore Emily Kim and the freshman tandem of Cassidy Krusemark and Alyssa Westcott round out Fairmont’s talented state-qualifying lineup.

Emily Kim has compiled the Cardinals’ third-best scoring clip of 99, fueled by excellent marks of 96 at the section and a 98 at sub-sections.

Krusemark, who averages a 118, returns with state experience after carding a 244 as an eighth-grader during the 2012 event in Jordan.

Krusemark displayed her skills by firing a career-best 108 at the Section 2AA Meet after shooting a 123 at sub-sections and a 121 at the SCC Meet.

Westcott also has proven a model of consistency out of the No. 6 spot in the Cardinals’ lineup, averaging a 126. Westcott fired her average at both the sectional and conference meets.

Westcott leads the Fairmont girls team off the No. 10 tee box today at noon, followed by Krusemark at 12:09 p.m., Elizabeth Kim at 12:18 p.m., Emily Kim at 12:27 p.m., Rosol at 12:36; and Larson at 12:45 p.m.

The Class AA and A tee times will be reconfigured for Wednesday’s final day of competition.