BOYS GOLF BEST
It was a long time coming, but last Tuesday in Grand Forks, the West Fargo boys golf team did something it had never done in the history of the program.
With a team total of 315 strokes, the Packers hoisted the school's first-ever Eastern Dakota Conference trophy after a blustery spring day all too common for North Dakota. West Fargo beat out second-place Fargo South by two strokes, and bested defending champion Fargo Shanley by 10.
Even as the wind gusts seemingly approached gale force, the Packers turned up the heat.
"The weather was miserable," West Fargo co-coach Chuck Gad said. "But we're used to bad weather, I can tell you that."
From blizzards at Bully Pulpit earlier this spring, to the most recent windiness, Gad said this season has had some of the worst playing conditions he's seen in 30 years of coaching golf.
And that's saying something. For Gad and co-coach Steve Anderson, who were named EDC Coaches of the Year for the second year in a row, performing through adversity is a concept they've preached since Day 1.
"The thing we've absolutely drilled into their heads is adapt, adjust and concentrate," Gad said. "It's never fun to play in (those conditions), but our kids have really adapted to that, and they don't complain at all."
With their mantra rehearsed, the Packers were able to pull together as a team, which was critical to their eventual success. While top golfers such as Payton Johnson, Connor Holland and Logan Palmer normally can be relied upon to shoot low, it's the remaining members who utlimately can decide victory.
Case in point: Nick Evin. The junior shot a 78 to share fourth place with Holland. Palmer's 77 was good enough for third place, which improved on last year's results when he placed seventh. All three earned All-Conference honors, and it was Palmers third straight year placing in the Top 10 at EDC.
But Evin's score was significant because it emphasized what Gad said is so critical to the team's success.
"We have six really good kids and that's what's good about our strength," he said. "When one person has an off day, another is there to pick up the slack."
Payton Johnson, who placed ninth at last year's EDC tournament, shot an uncharacteristic 90 on Tuesday. But despite the scores, it does not detract from the fact that he's easily one of West Fargo's strongest golfers.
"The thing about Payton is, in our last two wins of the regular season, he was hitting in the mid-70s," Gad said. "But that's what helps our team; they like the pressure, but it's not pressure on just one, or two or three kids."
The pressure was spread equally on all of West Fargo's six teammates. Rounding out their scores were an 82 by Luke Olson and 85 by Riley Johnson.
Now the next step is the State Tournament, which ran Monday and Tuesday at Kings Walk Golf Course in Grand Forks. Results were unavailable when this edition of The Pioneer went to press.
Gad said he thinks West Fargo has a good shot at taking a title, and winning both conference and state distinctions would be the icing on the cake for an already impressive season.
And he and Anderson know the Packers are ready to play against the best golfers in North Dakota.
"The kids want to compete; they're not intimidated," Gad said. "They look for competition - they thrive on it."