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Season Preview: Boys Golf

West Fargo's Logan Palmer hits an approach shot during last season's North Dakota Class A boys state high school golf tournament in Bismarck. File Photo.

Two years ago, the West Fargo boys golf team took third place at the state tournament. Last year they placed second.

The Packers' goal this year?

"We want to win the conference title - and region and state. After you've won third and second place, it's just the natural progression of things," Packers co-coach Steve Anderson said.

In theory, this makes sense. But putting it into practice could be a whole different golf game. Don't think, however, that Anderson is just throwing trivialities into the air to see what sticks. He and co-coach Chuck Gad, who were named both Eastern Dakota Conference and State Coaches of the Year last season, know what it will take to make West Fargo's goals come to fruition.

For starters, they need six strong, consistent, and talented players to perform week-in and week-out. This can be easier said than done.

"We need that help from those fifth and sixth guys. There's a lot of potential there," Anderson said.

Last year, the Packers were second in the regular season, the East Region meet and the state tournament. A strong performance from their Top 6 will be needed if they want to beat one of the state's strongest teams: Fargo South.

"When you take your top four players, it's likely that one guy won't have their best day. That's why South was so good last season, because they'd have their sixth guy come in and shoot a 76," Anderson said.

Who to watch

With the late spring and, ultimately, the late start to the season, one equalizer with all the state's team is that of a lack of practice.

Although a few Packers did get a chance to hit the links this winter in Arizona, Anderson said, a majority only just recently got the chance to test their swings after the long winter.

"We started (April 12), that's when the course opened," Anderson said, of Village Green Golf Course. "We got some practices in and playing in. Wednesday we were able to get everyone out, too."

Every bit of time on the greens is time well spent, especially if the entire season gets condensed down to a few weeks thanks to cancellations and postponements. West Fargo had been slated to kick off its season Tuesday at Kings Walk in Grand Forks, but the most recent spat of wintry weather meant another cancellation. If all goes well (knock on wood) they'll finally get in some competition Tuesday, April 26, at Village Green, where they're set to take on the rest of the EDC teams.

As for players, that's where Anderson and Gad get their optimism. Their two big losses were seniors Jared Cowden and John Sund, who easily were West Fargo's strongest golfers, but enough talent remains for the Packers to compete with the rest of the state.

To put things in perspective, both Sund and Cowden were ranked in the Top 10 of the EDC. Sund was second on his team with a 77.14 overall average, while his top three scores put him at No. 7 in the conference. He also placed fourth at the conference meet, which earned him All-EDC honors. Cowden was right behind Sund a No. 3 with a team average of 79.4 strokes, and his conference average of 77.3 put him at No. 10.

So although their losses won't be completely unfelt, West Fargo is returning some punch.

"Logan Palmer and Connor Holland with be our No. 1 and 2 spots," Anderson said.

The leader likely will be last year's No. 1 Palmer. The senior was third in the EDC last season with a 74.3 shot average, while his overall stroke average of 75.14 was two strokes ahead of Sund on the team. Palmer also placed at both the EDC and State meets, taking seventh and fourth, respectively.

Holland also finished last season strong with a seventh-place effort at state. He returns a 75.7-stroke average in conference play, which put him fifth in the EDC. Overall, Holland averaged 76.14 strokes and was fourth on his team.

Rounding out the top four will be the Johnson brothers, Payton and Riley.

Payton was West Fargo's only other placer at the conference meet after he finished ninth overall. The junior comes in carrying over a 79.33 stroke average. Meanwhile, Riley Johnson, a freshman this year, got some critical experience last season when he played in the state tournament. He finished the year averaging a tad over 83 strokes.

Although the No. 5 and 6 spots could fluctuate, Anderson said he sees Steve Moroz and Nick Evin filling in. Neither got much varsity competition time, but they both played in plenty of JV meets.

So with their pieces in place, the Packers are ready to compete; whenever the weather decides to play along. When it happens, the team to beat likely will be the Bruins again , Anderson said.

"They're going to have a very strong team again. Last year, everyone was playing for second place," he said.

With time and experience, West Fargo will get the ball moving in the right direction and, hopefully, to a state title.

"It's just like anything: the more times you do it the better you get," Anderson said.