Magic girls stay in the hunt

The Magic girls golf team is currently looking to secure second place in the Mississippi 8, but they aren’t looking to settle for it.
Playing their third conference meet of the year Monday, this one at their home course, the Magic girls continued their pursuit of Buffalo, while distancing themselves from the rest of the conference.

Amber Eckstein hits a tee shot on the Par 3 seventh hole at the Monticello Country Club. Eckstein shot an 81 Monday, the third best individual score at the seven-team meet. (Photos by Clay Sawatzke)

Amber Eckstein hits a tee shot on the Par 3 seventh hole at the Monticello Country Club. Eckstein shot an 81 Monday, the third best individual score at the seven-team meet. (Photos by Clay Sawatzke)

The Magic, led by Amber Eckstein’s 81, posted a team score of 353, an effort that left them 13 shots behind Buffalo, but also left them feeling satisfied.
“There was a lot of wind in play and the girls still battled,” said Coach Peter Bergquist. “353 is for sure a top five team score over the last four years.”
It was also the best score so far in what has been a compact, and sometimes crazy year.
“It’s definitely been stressful,”  said Junior Maree Smith about the busy schedule, which often holds 3 to 4 meets a week. “But it’s been fun. It’s something we’ll remember.”
Currently, the Magic are trying to remember it as the year they caught Buffalo.
To do that, it’s going to take a team effort. Buffalo’s top two golfers are possibly the two best in the conference, and Bergquist believes their top golfer, Lexi Bollant, might be top-five in the state. But Monticello has their own advantage.
“We definitely have more depth than them,” said Eckstein.
After Eckstein and Smith, Monticello’s top two, the Magic turn to captain Erin Swendson, the varsity’s lone senior. The No. 3 player has been striking the ball well according to Bergquist, and posted a 91 at the home meet Monday. After Swendson, it’s a bit of a revolving door. The Magic have four other golfers who have proven capable of stepping up and providing a fourth low score any given day. Monday it was Mackenzie Hedge, a junior who shot a 94. Other times it’s been Annie Dockendorf, Christine Lui or Maggie Traver.

Christine Lui watches her tee shot on the sixth hole at the Monticello Country Club Monday.

Christine Lui watches her tee shot on the sixth hole at the Monticello Country Club Monday.

“We don’t always have a score that matches a top score from other teams,” said Bergquist. “But our No. 3 and 4 scores are always the best 3 and 4 scores.”
“We have to win by winning as a team.”
Still, they rely on Eckstein and Smith to be able to compete with other top competitors, and recently they’ve been doing just that.
Before Eckstein’s 81 Monday, she posted a career-best 80 last Wednesday at Greystone golf course.
Smith shot an 87 on Monday, which is two shots back of her best performance on the year. She shot an 85 at Riverwood National.
Both golfers appear to be honing in on low scores as they near the conference stretch run. And it’s not by luck.
The girls have been the leaders of a hard-working team. As they try to make up time in this compact season, they’ve both found themselves putting in time after practice. Smith was even at the course at 6 one morning trying to work on her driving the morning of a big meet.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Bergquist, of his team’s work ethic. “Our seventh and eighth graders see these girls. They see what a work ethic you need to have to get there. They see that Amber is staying after, they see that Maree is coming early and staying late, they see that our older girls, for fun on the weekends, will come out and golf.”
“It makes a girl a good golfer to do that,” he added. “But it also makes a good program.”
With only one senior on the team, it’s easy to keep an eye on the program’s future. But they haven’t given up on the present.
While the Magic were 13 strokes behind Buffalo, they were 17 strokes ahead of third-place St. Michael-Albertville. They are growing more confident that they can close the gap in front of them and getting less worried about the gap behind them.
“We are solidly right behind [Buffalo] with not a whole lot coming after us,” said Bergquist. “We definitely haven’t given up on the fact that we could surprise them in a conference meet.”

Contact Clay Sawatzke at clay.sawatzke@ecm-inc.com

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