Season in Review: Boys Golf
West Fargo boys golf co-coach Chuck Gad summed up his team's season thusly: "It's hard to be disappointed."
The Packers finished the regular season second in points, and followed suit by placing runner-up at both the East Region tournament and state tournament.
The finishes may not have been in first, but it was a successful season for the team and coaches nonetheless.
"We actually achieved every goal but winning the state tournament," Gad said. "Our program has progressed just the way we wanted it to."
This season, Gad co-coached alongside first-time coach Steve Anderson. Though West Fargo couldn't wrench the top spot from perennial points-leader Fargo South, the duo's performance during the season and postseason didn't go unnoticed. For their efforts, Gad and Anderson were named EDC and State Co-Coaches of the year.
It was an honor to get the recognition from West Fargo's conference, Gad said.
"In the EDC, we have a great bunch of coaches," he said. As far as state, however, "the West, sometimes they have more schools than we do. So teams tend to vote for their own (division). We must have had some West guys voting for us. It's kind of rewarding. I think they heard we beat South a few times, or something."
West Fargo was "by far the best of the rest of the state," Gad said.
The Packers have the numbers to back up that statement, too. They finished just five points behind the Bruins in regular-season play, and beat South twice during that time - the only team to do so. West Fargo also had four players crack the EDC Top 10 scoring average: Logan Palmer (74.3 for third place), Connor Holland (75.7, fifth), John Sund (76.2, seventh) and Jared Cowden (77.3, 10th). The Bruins had just three.
If not for another almost supernaturally efficient performance by South, the Packers very well could have received their first conference and state titles. At state, especially, the Bruins were tough opponents.
"South just came out that first day and blew everyone away," Gad said. "After that, we knew first place wasn't realistic. Our goal was to get second."
It was a hard pill to swallow for the Packers, who had their hearts set on a state title, but they came out swinging regardless and put up a phenomenal final performance.
In the end, West Fargo finished with a two-day total of 610 strokes - a full 25 behind the Bruins, but 13 strokes ahead of third-place Bismarck Century. Gad said he and Anderson were happy with their team's ability to rebound after a challenging first round.
"We were extremely proud of the kids because that could have been a mental letdown," he said. "We got third place last year and second this year, so by God, We'll go for first next year."
For their efforts, Palmer and Holland each earned All-State honors. Palmer finished in fourth place with a two-day total 147 and was just two strokes behind tournament winner Coy Papacheck of Fargo South. Holland was seventh with 149. Palmer, Sund and Payton Johnson also were named All-Conference for finishing in the Top 10 at the East Region tournament.
One of the biggest feats during the state tournament, however, may have come from eighth-grader Riley Johnson. After a first-day total of 80, he was working to catch up in the second round, but hit a snag.
"He hit in the rough," Gad said. "It had a scuff and he asked to switch balls."
Later on, Gad said, Riley Johnson reached into his pocket and realized he had hit the wrong ball.
"He could have not said anything, but he spoke up. He came forward and told his opponents that he had to (disqualify)," Gad said. "He said 'Oh man, I blew it,' but his mom and dad were so proud. That's a guy that loves the game. We thought it really showed the class in our kids.
"I know I'm prejudiced, but what the (heck) other sport can you see a kid doing that?"
Riley Johnson is the younger brother to Payton Johnson. "They live for golf," Gad said, and both practice together a lot.
The Johnson brothers aren't the only Packers dedicated to the links, however.
Veterans Sund and Cowden led by example during their senior season. The duo were Nos. 2 and 3 for stroke average after hitting 77.14 and 79.14, respectively. Though they will be missed, there are others ready and able to take charge.
One in particular is Palmer. The junior finished arguably his best season to date, and stands to improve even more over the summer.
"His schedule is full," Gad said.
Palmer, like many of the West Fargo golfers, will continue to participate in tournaments throughout the year, such as the American Junior Tournament in Wisconsin.
"We encourage it, and convince them that's what they have to do," Gad said of summer contests "We are starting to get kids who are really looking for a higher level of golf."
Because of the state's short summers, it's really the only time for them to advance their games. By August, the coaches will hold tryouts for next season.
"It's the kids that go out and dedicate themselves in the summer that do well," Gad said.
Holland will almost certainly be in one of the Top 4 starting positions if he continues his winning ways. "If he continues, he'll be looking at big time. He's got that talent," Gad said. The No. 5 and 6 spots are a bit more uncertain, though. One potential starter is Steve Moroz. Though he didn't log as many varsity hours as some other Packers, Gad sees potential in the soon-to-be senior
"Steve played really well for us," he said. "He went right down to the wire for that sixth spot. ... By golly he's gritty and has some good rounds. If he goes out and works on his game, he's going to be really good."
Other Packers on the bubble include sophomores Nick Evin and Luke Olson, and freshman Chase Pulczinski.
In reality, all the Packers have the ability to go far.
"They were really quality kids," Gad said "Steve and I just loved coaching them. They are very responsive to coaching. By the end of the season, the only coaching we did was to knock out any negative spots."
It's up to the golfers to do what they have to do, however.
"Golf is kind of an individual sport," Gad said. "They commit to it and love it, and you can't hold them back."