WAHPETON, N.D. — Trailing by four strokes entering the second day of the Class A boys state golf tournament, Grand Forks Red River felt no reason to panic.
“Last night we were in the hotel room talking and we were like ‘We’ve been in this position before. We know we can come back," said senior Seth Badolato, whose team trailed Fargo Davies after the first day each of the last two seasons. "And we did it.”
One year after overcoming a six-stroke deficit, the Roughriders came back from four shots down, capturing their third consecutive state title with a score of 589, three strokes better than runner-up Grand Forks Central.
“Unless you’re (down) 10, you like where you’re at," Red River coach Nathan Olson said. "Our kids are really comfortable, they’re really resilient. They were just really excited to play today."
Fargo Davies shot a 304 Wednesday to finish third with a two-day score of 597.
After overtaking the Eagles early, the Roughriders had to deal with a pesky Knight squad aiming to win its first state title since 1972.
Medalist Cole Hanson kept Central in the mix all day, and the Knights briefly took the lead after Brady McGarry sunk an Eagle put on the par-five 16th hole.
But Badolato, who finished second overall with a plus-one score of 143, led a late Red River rally by connecting on birdies on 16 and 17. Teammate Jack Lindgren, who tied for sixth, then all but put the match away with a birdie on 18.
With a new head coach and the loss of several key contributors, including 2018 state medalist Adam Van Raden, Red River players and coaches said they felt a bit overlooked during the season, and took immense pride in building on what previous teams started.
“People didn’t really talk about us much this year," Olson said. "The kids kind of took that personally. I’m really proud of them.”
"I’m so proud of ever guy on this team," Badolato added. "We worked our butts off.”
Though he coveted the team title, Hanson did end another long drought for Central, as he became the first Knight to earn medalist honors since John Novick brought home a state title in 1986.
“It means a lot," Hanson said. It’s been a long time since a Central golfer won state. I had a nice golf career and it’s nice to end it on top.”
West Fargo's Zach Teske, who tied for second at the 2018 state tournament, had the top Metro area finish, placing fifth with a 146. Shanley's Jacob Skarperud was one stroke back in sixth while Sam Suppes had the top finish for Davies, tying for eighth with 148.
Was this Don Johnson's last meet?
After more than three decades as the boys and girls golf coach at Fargo Shanley, Don Johnson has already stepped away as the Deacons' girls coach.
Will his time with the boys program be ending as well?
“It could be," he said through a sly smile Wednesday. "I haven’t really made up my mind what I’m going to do. But I’m going to miss it when I do.”
If it is the end, Johnson, who began his varsity coaching career in 1988, will walk away having won seven state titles -- four with the girls, three with the boys -- while coaching four players to six individual titles.
In watching Skarperud, just a freshman, play near the top of the leaderboard, Johnson says he got to spend the week doing what he loved most.
“The kids make it," he said. "To watch them mature, it’s amazing. Just to see them get better, that’s what I’m here for.”