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2014 Preview: St. Croix Central golfers ready to build upward

Sophomore Sarah Phillips works to improve her play with her irons during a St. Croix Central practice last week. 1 / 2
Sophomore Carolyn Morris follows through on a drive during a recent practice round for the St. Croix Central golf team at the Hammond Golf Club. 2 / 2

With three experienced upperclassmen in place, the St. Croix Central girls golf team has the base for a successful season.

But with seven girls total to start the season, there is also room to build for the Panthers this season.

Chance Langeness is the new coach for the Panthers, taking over for the retired Dave Larson. One of Langeness’ first actions was to let it be known that the team is looking for more girls and will continue to accept them to help the program grow larger.

The building blocks are in place for the Panthers to have a successful season. Senior Brittney Nabors ranked 12th among the Middle Border Conference individuals last year. Junior Emma Landry was also in the varsity lineup the whole season. Senior Ana Erickson saw some varsity action last season too. The Panthers finished fifth among the eight teams in the MBC last season.

It didn’t take Langeness many practices to see that Nabors was playing like a number one golfer and that Landry had the poise and leadership skills to fit in as a number two player.

Erickson had already made an impression on Langeness last spring, when Langeness was Central’s junior varsity softball coach. Erickson started the season on the JV, but that soon changed.

“She wasn’t on our radar in softball. Her work ethic is unbelievable. She batted leadoff the second half of the varsity season,” Langeness said.

Finding the fourth and fifth players to fill the varsity lineup will be one of the early priorities for the team. Junior Hailey Schultz, sophomores Carolyn Morris and Sarah Phillips and freshman Audra Scott will all be given the opportunity to step up to the varsity level. Langeness said Scott has shown strong golf fundamentals in the team’s early practices and appears to have a strong sense for the game.

The mix of experience levels on the team has been a challenge, but Langeness has given the older girls a chance to mentor the less experienced players. He’s also seen the team’s experience show in several aspects of the game. He said he has been surprised at how well the girls drive the ball and how accurate they’ve been with their chipping.

Putting is the area that has been scrutinized the most in the early season practices. Langeness said the girls realize they can make quick improvements to their score by improving their putting, so they’re out to eliminate three-putt holes.

Improving on the fifth place performance in the conference is a goal for the Panthers. Langeness said all indications make it appear that Osceola and New Richmond will again be the teams to beat in the MBC.

One of the goals set by the girls is to advance to the WIAA Division 2 sectional tournament level this year. The Panthers missed qualifying for sectionals by five strokes last year.

The Panthers will have one thing working in their favor at this year’s regional tournament. It will be played at Pheasant Hills Golf Club, one of the Panthers’ home courses. Langeness has scheduled several meets and practices at Pheasant Hills so the girls are fully familiar with the layout of the course when they play in the regional meet.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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