Even with a developing team, Fertile-Beltrami is still shooting with the best of Minnesota this golf season. After taking its third consecutive Section 8A crown at Bemidji Town and Country Club, the senior-less team will be competing in the Class A State Tournament at Pebble Creek Golf Club.

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This year they are led by junior Rylin Petry, who instantaneously jumped from budding sophomore to top of the pack after a decimated COVID year.

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“It was a big change. We were coming back after taking third place at state with everyone returning,” Petry said. “I was one of the younger guys, just two years younger than the seniors we had on our team. Now I’m kind of a leader on our team.”

He outshined the field by a wide margin at Bemidji, shooting a 70 day one and a 71 day two. He credits being able to play in tournaments during the vacated year as a key in keeping his game sharp heading into this tricky year.

It’s a year that started tricky right away. The Falcons knew they were going to have a younger team coming in, but some more twists and turns came up after the season commenced.

“They knew they had to step up because we had such low numbers this year,” head coach Keith Pederson said. “We only started the year with 11 kids and by the end of the year two of them had quit, so we were down to nine and really only seven of them were varsity caliber.”

In return, the Falcons have been consistently stepping up the state rankings this year. They now sit at 34th on Minnesota State Golf Association’s high school rankings.

They have been able to find consistency on their scorecards, which is always key in amateur golfing.

“We had one meet this year where all six guys were at 45 or under. They’re all capable of shooting well, it’s just a matter of going out and doing it,” Pederson said.

Having a strong group of freshmen come in and be able to compete and contribute right away is something every contender hopes for. F-B has seen that and then some with its underclassmen.

Freshmen Masen Nowacki and Caiden Swenby were near the top of the individual leaderboard at the Section 8A Championship. Nowacki’s 159 total put him fifth and Swenby’s 169 total slotted him 10th.

Pederson was impressed with the group’s seamless transition into the varsity level.

“Seeing their scores for the junior-high meets, I knew that they had the capability of shooting low. To come out that first meet and shoot as well as they did, I knew we were going to be OK for the season,” he said.

Petry, who is currently ranked 20th by the MSGA, has also been impressed with the underclassmen. The other two freshmen, Derek Sorsenson and Daniel Ivanov have pushed the pace of which they have been asked and sophomore Ethan Finseth is a stable scorer as well.

“I think they’re taking it really well. We had two new freshman and a sophomore this year that had never played on a varsity level, but I think they’ve been playing really great lately,” said Petry. “I’ve been with them a lot, helping them out and they’ve listened well. Hopefully they can continue to do well and we can make a run at the state tournament.”

Perhaps being pushed into a leadership position rather suddenly, Pederson has seen Petry’s character grow over the course of the season.

“He’s done an excellent job. He’s stepping up during practice, helping guys fix little errors they have in their swing and helping them get set up. We’re both sort of working with some of the kids and he’s been a complete leader this year,” said Pederson.

The confidence level is riding high with the Petry, Pederson and the Falcons. They have a section championship under their belt and that came at a very difficult course in Bemidji.

Pebble Creek offers its own challenges, but after being able to overcome an obstacle in Bemidji certainly boosts the attitude heading into a scenario where everything is on the line.

“It gave us all a lot of confidence that they can play that well in that kind of atmosphere. For the most part both the courses are pretty similar minus the elevation,” Pederson said.

F-B will travel to Becker on Sunday before the two-day Class A State Tournament takes place Tuesday and Wednesday.