Girls golf team gets off to hot start on cold day

The Monticello girls golf team didn’t start the year amidst the best conditions.

They officially started the season Monday, hosting a 14-team invite at the Monticello Country Club on a blustery spring day where temperatures peaked in the mid-30s, barely above the strength of the wind gusts. They also started it, and will continue it, without Amber Eckstein, one of their top two golfers the past couple of seasons who has elected to focus on swimming, where she has a bright future, year-round.

Maree Smith opens her round with a tee shot on the tenth hole Monday afternoon. Smith shot a 43 on the back nine at the Monticello Country Club, earning a third place individual finish at the 14-team invite. (Photos by Clay Sawatzke)

Maree Smith opens her round with a tee shot on the tenth hole Monday afternoon. Smith shot a 43 on the back nine at the Monticello Country Club, earning a third place individual finish at the 14-team invite. (Photos by Clay Sawatzke)

But on Monday, the Magic made the most out of the less than ideal conditions. And with a senior-laden squad, Coach Peter Bergquist expects the Magic to continue to do that all year long. Monday, the girls finished third at their own invite, shooting a total score of 194, coming in behind just Buffalo (175) and Bemidji (189).

The Magic were led by Maree Smith, as they expect to be all year, as their number one golfer turned in a nine-hole score of 43, good for third place behind two girls from Buffalo. Christine Lui, golfing in the number two spot, totaled 47 strokes over nine holes. Kenzie Hedge and Annie Dockendorf, the team’s lone captain, each posted a score of 52 to round out Monticello’s four scorers. Bergquist said the conditions provided an extra test for the girls on Monday.

“It’s a different world,” he said. “If you’re not playing well and it’s like this, it’s a double-whammy.”

But having four seniors and two juniors make up the top six gives Monticello an advantage over their opponents, especially early in the season.

“I don’t think it affects them as much as it might some other teams,” said Bergquist. “They know what they need to do.” While losing Eckstein is a blow, Bergquist said the team continues to have high expectations for the season. “We’ll have to battle to stay where we’ve been in the conference,” he said, alluding to their recent second-place finishes.

Buffalo is expected to be the team to beat in the conference, something they punctuated with their dominant performance Monday, but the competition for second appears to be relatively open.Bergquist believes having Smith at the top and balance through the lineup will be keys to Monticello being successful.

“Maree is definitely going to put up good scores,” he said. “It will be nice to have a number one putting up solid numbers.”

Christine Lui, Monticello’s No. 2 golfer this season, follows through on a shot out of the bunker Monday afternoon. Lui posted a 47, helping Monticello to a third place team finish at the invite.

Christine Lui, Monticello’s No. 2 golfer this season, follows through on a shot out of the bunker Monday afternoon. Lui posted a 47, helping Monticello to a third place team finish at the invite.

Just as importantly, Bergquist doesn’t see a big drop when he looks down the list of golfers, from the three who joined Smith as scorers Monday to Maggie Traver and Hannah Bocken, juniors who have solidified themselves as Monticello’s fifth and sixth golfers early in the season.

“Like every year for us, we don’t have a score that we know we’ll throw out,” said Bergquist. “I don’t think we fall off very far.”

Bergquist knows he has talented and capable girls on the roster. He’s seen them post low scores numerous times over the last few years. Now the hope is that the experience emboldens the consistency and that those low scores start showing up every meet, rather than every other week.

“The biggest thing for us is consistency,” said Bergquist. “They have all been really focused this year, and I think they are all poised for a good year.”

Bergquist said before Monday’s meet that the conditions meant it might not tell them a whole lot about what to expect for this season. But he does expect next week to be a good measuring stick, as Monticello plays in two conference meets, going to Becker on Tuesday and Buffalo on Thursday.

“I think that will be a big indicator,” he said. “That will really start to show where teams fall.” First, the Magic are scheduled to play an invitational at Pebble Creek Golf Course in Becker this afternoon. The meet was scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

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

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