GGF golf preview: Despite graduation losses, Riders can challenge state's best
Red River, which finished third at state last season, will be led by Saylor Kuenzel and Carson Skarperud.
GRAND FORKS — The Grand Forks Red River boys golf team finished third at the North Dakota Class A state meet last season, ending with four golfers in the Top 20.
All four of those golfers were seniors. Still, the Roughriders aren't in rebuilding mode and remain in contention this spring as one of the top programs in the state.
"The challenge will be everyone clicking at once," Red River coach Nathan Olson said. "When we play well, our upside can challenge anyone in the state."
Red River returns five state tournament qualifiers from last season in seniors Saylor Kuenzel, Carson Skarperud, Jack Miller and Zach Laframboise, as well as junior Grant Gardner.
Kuenzel and Skarperud have the highest potential to shoot the lowest. Skarperud, who was medalist in Red River's second meet of the year, has the Eastern Dakota Conference's seventh-best stroke average through the first four meets of the season this year. Kuenzel, an all-conference performer in 2022, has signed to play college golf at Bemidji State.
Red River has won one meet this year and finished second to West Fargo Sheyenne among EDC teams at three of the first four meets of the year.
The Mustangs have four of the top five stroke averages so far this year, led by Andrew Wilhelm and Nate Peyerl. The defending state champion, Peyerl, has signed with UND for golf, while Wilhelm is headed to Minnesota Crookston.
A boost for Red River this spring has been the play of junior Ross Koerner, who has the Riders' second-best stroke average so far. He ranks ninth in the EDC.
Ross' freshman brother Kolby Koerner also shot a 79 last weekend in his first varsity meet of the year, giving the Koerner brothers the top two marks for Red River at the meet.
With the poor spring weather in Grand Forks this season, the Riders didn't play outside until the first meet of the season.
"A few kids played down south during spring break and Easter but for the most part the kids have been in simulators and at Albatross," Olson said. "We had to get creative with two meets in South Dakota to start the year. They were thrilled in South Dakota to just see how green it was there."
GGF teams at-a-glance
GF Red River boys
Coach: Nathan Olson.
2022 finish: Third place at state.
Key returners: Sr. Saylor Kuenzel (all-conference, 77.2 average); sr. Carson Skarperud (79.0 average); jr. Grant Gardner (82.0 average); sr. Jack Miller (80.2 average); sr. Zach Laframboise.
Top newcomers: Jr. Ross Koerner; fr. Kolby Koerner; fr. Silas Dusenbury.
Coach Olson says: “We have a fair amount of experience with five individual state qualifiers. This group as a whole has struggled a bit with consistency. We’ve seen that with the tough spring. When we play well, our upside can challenge anyone in the state.”
GF Central boys
Coach: Alex Barta.
2022 finish: Eighth place at state.
Key returners: Soph. Mack Blue (87.2 average); jr. Evan Panzer (84.2 average); sr. Seth Wilhelmi (101 average); jr. Trevor Anderson; soph. Gunner Spicer.
Top newcomers: Eighth-grader Ryder Rivard; soph. Cole Wilber; jr. Dylin Harildstad.
Coach Barta says: “The part about these guys that makes the job fun and easy is they support each other, regardless of outcomes. They’re remaining energetic, no matter what.”
EGF Senior High boys
Coach: Kyle Thompson.
2022 finish: Didn’t qualify as team for Minnesota Section 8AA meet.
Key returners: Jr. Lucas Wavra; jr. Brady Pavlish; soph. Cole Bies (37th at Section 8AA meet); soph. Nick Corbett; fr. Micah Ellis (27th at Section 8AA meet).
Top newcomers: Fr. Gavin Rude; fr. Brody Johnson; soph. Ryan Rockstad; soph. Keegan Stromme.
Coach Thompson says: “You can look at the ages and see a lot of young guys. They love to play golf all summer long. These guys improved quite a bit. We’re looking to get our feet wet here with the late spring and just getting rolling.”
EGF Senior High girls
Coach: Paula Devine.
2022 finish: Sixth place at Minnesota Section 8AA meet.
Key returners: Sr. Brooke Kovar (39th at Section 8AA meet); jr. Kayla Thompson (all-conference, 17th at Section 8AA meet); soph. Jill Frost (all-conference, 29th at Section 8AA meet).
Top newcomers: Eighth-grader Madilyne Jamieson.
Coach Devine says: “We’re young. We have one senior, one junior, and we have a really good group of eighth-graders coming up. We’re in that stage of learning with a lot of new golfers. I’m excited we’re young and have a lot of new golfers with an opportunity to get better. Kayla was one of our top players and she’s back, so we have a good combination of veterans and newcomers.”