Cooper Freije is surprise winner at Red River Roughrider Invitational
The senior shot a 69 at King's Walk to top all golfers, despite not starting the meet on varsity.
GRAND FORKS — Cooper Freije was not one of the six varsity starters for Grand Forks Red River on Tuesday.
He was not the No. 7 or No. 8 boys golfer, either, who were eligible to shoot a state-qualifying score during the meet at King's Walk.
But the Roughrider senior shot the round of the year and won the meet, anyway.
Freije fired a 69 at the Red River Roughrider Invitational to edge Fargo Shanley's Jake Skarperud, the East Region's top golfer, by one stroke and win the varsity event. Grand Forks Central's Brady McGarry and Red River's Brandon Riesinger tied for third with 71s.
"Coming down the stretch the last couple holes I knew I was close," Freije said. "On the last hole, I was looking at the leaderboard the whole hole. I was scrolling to try to see what Jake did."
Freije dropped a 30-foot putt on the final hole, the par-four No. 5, to complete his round of 69. Skarperud bogeyed his last hole to finish with a 70, his best round of the year.
"My coach came up to me after and said, 'Now, I just feel dumb,'" Freije said about not playing on varsity. "He told me to plan on playing (varsity) Monday."
Prior to Tuesday, Freije's personal best at King's Walk was 71. He shot that score last summer.
During the 2022 high school season, his best round was 78, which he shot in Wahpeton to open the season. His only varsity score this season was an 85.
"I've been waiting to see this since I first saw Cooper swing a year ago," Red River coach Nate Olson said. "He's got a beautiful swing and a lot of athleticism. It's just a matter of him believing he can do it. . . and he put it all together today. It's pretty neat to see that for a senior, a good young man. He's definitely making decisions hard for me going into the last few meets."
In addition to his birdie on No. 5, Freije also birdied a trio of par-fives — Nos. 9, 14 and 18. His lone bogey came on the par-four No. 11.
"Honestly, I was hitting the ball really well," Freije said. "I was driving it off the tee well, hitting fairways. My wedges were iffy to start, but my putting was good."
Freije had to be good.
Due to uncharacteristically nice spring weather, scores were low. The top 10 individual finishers all shot their best scores of the season.
The top nine teams also posted their best scores of the year.
Fargo Davies won the team portion with a 295. It was the Eagles' first team victory of the season. Fargo North finished second at 298, followed by West Fargo Sheyenne (302), Red River (303), Shanley (307) and Central (320).
"Pretty pleased overall with what our scores were — 303 was a good score, our lowest of the year," Olson said. "It just wasn't low enough today with how great the conditions were and how well everyone else played."
Although many of the East Region's top golfers posted their best scores of the year Tuesday, it wasn't enough to catch Freije, who pulled off a rare feet by winning the meet despite not scoring for varsity.
"A few years ago, Jack Lindgren went along to an individual qualifier as the seventh or eighth player and won a meet," Olson said. "I think that was at Maple River. But that was one of the exceptions. It is very rare. It's a testament to our depth. Being at our home course, he had a high level of comfortability, too.
"I'm pretty pleased with how everybody did. Hopefully we can keep it going for a couple more meets."
Red River Roughrider Invitational
At King's Walk Golf Course
1. Fargo Davies 295, 2. Fargo North 298, 3. West Fargo Sheyenne 302, 4. GF Red River 303, 5. Fargo Shanley 307, 6. GF Central 320, 7. West Fargo 321, 8. Fargo South 325, 9. Valley City 386, 10. Horace 410, 11. Wahpeton 421
Top 5 individuals
1. Cooper Freije, RR, 69; 2. Jake Skarperud, Shanley, 70; 3t. Brady McGarry, GFC, 71; 3t. Brandon Riesinger, RR, 71; 5t. Landon Olson, North, 72; 5t. Carson Shultis, North, 72; 5t. Jayce Johnson, Davies, 72
Other RR scores
Skyler Syverson 74, Jack Miller 76, Grant Gardner 77, Carson Skarperud 77, Zach Benson 78, Zach Laframboise 78, Jake Grandstrand 78, Ethan Badolato 79, Saylor Kuenzel 80, Denver Flanagan 88
Other GFC scores
Kyle Fulton 80, Mack Blue 83, Trevor Anderson 85, Evan Panzer 86, Connor Litzinger 91, Hunter Anderson 91, Caden Johansen 104