Bixby third at state girls golf tournament
In past years, girls golfers playing at the state tournament have been met with adversity, not only from the competition, but from the unpredictable and often miserable fall weather.
For the first time in a while, this year's golf season concluded amid sunny, semi-calm and unseasonably warm temperatures.
Maybe that helped scores, maybe it just made things a bit more bearable, but one thing was certain: you were not about to hear any complaints about the weather last Monday and Tuesday at Edgewood Golf Course in Fargo.
With fair skies overhead and a third-place finish during the Eastern Dakota Conference tournament a week earlier on the same course, West Fargo was hoping for a spot in the Top-5, coach Dan Wolf said. But by the end of the two-day stretch, the Packers fell just short of their goal.
With an opening round of 378 and a final team total of 748, West Fargo took sixth place; 20 strokes off fifth-place Minot and nearly 100 shy of champion Fargo Davies.
Grand Forks Red River product JoDee Wheeler continued her EDC dominance with the state individual title. Wheeler led by two strokes after Day 1, and finished with a two-day total of 152. She was named North Dakota Senior Athlete of the Year.
As for the Packers, sixth place overall is a two-spot improvement from 2010. And combined with the finish at region, it's the best a West Fargo girls golf team has done during the postseason.
"I'm not disappointed at all with where we finished," Wolf said. "To get everyone to play at their very best for two consecutive days is a lot to ask. You can catch lightning in a bottle for one day, but the second day is tough."
The Packers may not have been able to harness that lightning twice, but they received strong performances from the entire clan when it mattered most.
"Four of our girls shot their lowest rounds of the season during the state tournament, and the other two did it at the regional," Wolf said.
Leading the Packers was Ashley Bixby. The freshman shot an 82 to tie for third with Fargo Davies' Jennifer Marsh and Red River's Ashley Knecth after the first day. But Bixby distanced herself in the final round, shooting a season-low 78 to take third place outright and beat Marsh by two strokes.
"This was the round she had been waiting for," Wolf said.
Bixby greatly improved from her performance at last year's state tournament, in which she finished 15th overall.
"We all knew she had all the tools to put this round together," Wolf said. "This time, she stayed focused all the way through. She played very, very well."
With third place, Bixby earned a spot on the All-Tournament team, another feather in her cap to be added alongside her All-Conference and All-EDC Tournament team honors.
But the Packers could not have finished as well as they did without a complete team effort.
Lexi Wasem tied for 23rd after shooting a 91 on the first day, and a 93 the second day. Back tied for 45th was Brittany Rheault, who shot a 102 on Day 1, but improved by six strokes the following day to finish with an even 200 tournament total.
Lauren Johnson also shot two strokes better on Day 2 to finish with a tournament 204 and take 52nd place.
Some of the more remarkable improvements came from Sierra Peterson and McCall Brown. Brown shot seven strokes less on Day 2, and Peterson improved by an incredible 16 strokes to tally her lowest score of the year.
With improvements through the season, and at the end when it mattered most, it would be easy to assume next year's Packers girls golf team will be better yet. But Wolf is not about to count his chickens before they hatch.
"We'll have to see who might come out again next year," he said. They stand to for sure lose two seniors in Johnson and Wasem. If all the underclassmen come back again, however, and especially the ones who had some varsity experience, West Fargo could still have a chance to make some noise.
"I feel good with who we have, but we'll have to ask for even more than what they gave this year," Wolf said.