Grand Forks Red River golf brings large group for shot at a state title
The Roughriders, who won three-straight state titles from 2017-19, qualified 11 golfers to this week's state meet at Rose Creek in Fargo.
GRAND FORKS — Before the high school golf season started, Grand Forks Red River coach Nathan Olson set a goal of qualifying 10 of his players for the North Dakota Class A state meet.
The Roughriders qualified eight players last season and Bismarck Century will bring eight players this year. That's considered a high number for the state meet.
"Qualifying 10 was a bold goal," Olson said. "I can't remember anyone bringing nine or 10."
The Riders, though, have exceeded that bold goal. Red River will bring 11 golfers to the state meet, which runs Tuesday and Wednesday at Rose Creek Golf Course in Fargo.
A golfer can qualify for state by holding one of the Top 10 scoring averages in the EDC or finish within seven strokes of par — or the leader — during one of two regular-season qualifiers. You can also qualify if you finish within seven of par or the leader at the EDC meet.
The Red River golfers to qualify for state are Cooper Freije, Carson Skarperud, Jake Grandstrand, Ethan Badolato, Brandon Riesinger, Zach Laframboise, Grant Gardner, Jack Miller, Saylor Kuenzel, Skyler Syverson and Zach Benson.
Riesinger and Kuenzel were EDC all-conference based on regular-season scores, while Riesinger, Kuenzel, Granstrand and Freije were all-region based on their EDC meet finish.
Giving more golfers the state experience has its benefits, but the team title is still decided by your core best. Before the meet, coaches must select the six golfers who will figure to the team's official score.
It's not always an easy decision. A year ago, Olson said if he would have included Riesinger in his top six, the Riders would have won the state title, rather than losing by a few strokes.
This year, Olson has chosen his six at state to be Riesinger, Kuenzel, Grandstrand, Skarperud, Freije and Syverson.
"We're riding with the six that are the hottest right now," Olson said.
The Riders, who won three-straight state titles from 2017-19, are among four or five teams that could make a run to a state team championship in 2022.
Red River won the first three EDC meets of the season but didn't win the next six. The Riders finished second to Fargo Davies by a single stroke in the EDC meet.
Olson said he thinks early in the season, the Riders were taking advantage of the bad weather conditions, something his golfers run into often at King's Walk in Grand Forks.
"We seem to do our best when things are a little tougher," Olson said. "When the weather is nice and good, I don't know if we've been taking advantage of that.
"I like to think that translates well to state, where you've got to play with a little more pressure. That's what I'm hoping for anyway."
Red River's consistency could also be a boost. Although the Riders have struggled to win meets late in the year, Red River also has only finished worse than second one time.
"I think the fact that it's two days is good for us," Olson said. "We also have experience. Of these 11, we have six seniors, four juniors and one sophomore. A lot of the kids have played a lot of golf and seen this course."
Tee times begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Grand Forks Central qualified six for the state meet: Connor Litzinger, Mack Blue, Evan Panzer, Kyle Fulton, Brady McGarry and Hunter Anderson.
McGarry has been Central's top finisher, ending the season as an all-conference pick with a 76.0 average this season.