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Heads of the Class: Region 5 girls golf trio looking to continue success amongst Class B elite

Throughout much of this decade, a trio of teams have reigned atop of the Region 5 mountain. As Bowman County, Hazen, and Heart River work toward continuing their streaks of consecutive state appearances, each team has also defined their reasons f...

Heart River eighth-grader Campbell Clarys tees off on No. 1 during Wednesday's practice at Pheasant Country Golf Course. (Parker Cotton / The Dickinson Press)
Heart River eighth-grader Campbell Clarys tees off last season on No. 1 during practice at Pheasant Country Golf Course. (Parker Cotton / The Dickinson Press)

Throughout much of this decade, a trio of teams have reigned atop of the Region 5 mountain.

As Bowman County, Hazen, and Heart River work toward continuing their streaks of consecutive state appearances, each team has also defined their reasons for success.

The Bison won six state championships during a 14-year stretch ranging from 1996-2009 and have qualified for the state tournament every year since. According to head coach Josiah Pratt, Hazen's past achievements are a product of the seeds planted by the Berglund family.

"I think the main reason why the program has been so successful probably has to do with the Berglunds, Kathy and Darrell Burglund, who started the programs, laid down the foundation and got going for the program," Pratt said. "Carrying it on and how we've been able to continue that success for the girls is probably mainly because of our junior high coach Joel Marshall, the basic swings and fundamentals that he does for the junior-highers and it just helps them so much when they get to high school. They can just focus on the mental side of it and not worry about the basics from day-to-day."

As for the Cougars, their program has qualified for the state tournament the last five seasons, winning the Region 5 tournament each of the last three years.

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"It took a while to grow the program and when we finally started having success, success breeds success," Heart River head coach Kirby Robb said. "People are anxious to be on varsity because we've had a lot of success."

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are swinging for their fourth consecutive appearance at the state meet. Bowman County second-year head coach Todd Frie largely credits his team's work ethic.

"I think we have a pretty dedicated group of ladies," Frie said. "This year, we've only been outside for one day, it can be pretty boring inside, but they seem to stay on task and they know what our goals are as a team this season. That's kind of what drives them during these 'not so spring' spring days."

With Heart River, Hazen, Bowman County earning third-, fourth- and sixth-place finishes, respectively at the state tournament last season, most of the same cast of characters will be back on the greens this season.

The Cougars will bring back seniors Kenadee Kudma and Bayli Krance, junior Katie Keator, and freshman Campbell Clarys, who each finished in the top-40 at the state meet. Keator returns after back-to-back top-ten state finishes, taking third last year with a two-day score of 172, the highest-placing Region 5 competitor.

Even with experience back in the frey, Robb says he really won't be able to gage how his team will perform until they have a chance to step outside.

"When you return everybody, you are always trying to shoot for that state championship. I'm glad I got everybody back....but I guess you won't know until you start getting on the course because they haven't swung a club outside since September," Robb said. "It's such a hard season for this sport. ... I'm hoping for a good year because my two seniors have been in the state tournament five years in a row. We have a lot of experience coming back which makes me excited, everybody has been in the state tournament so they know what to expect."

Bowman County will also return all of their top-six golfers from a year ago. Without a senior on their roster, the Bulldogs will be led by junior Brooke Peterson, who earned All-State honors last season after tying for fourth-place at the state meet.

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Peterson will be joined by fellow junior Emily Belland, sophomore Elise Fisher and freshmen Logan Blakenbaker, Kaylee Schaff and Harley Lardy.

"The coaching staff and myself, we're optimistic about the season. Yeah, there's pressure, but our girls don't really feel that," Frie said. They know that if they perform their best with our capabilities, we can be a top-three team this season. As a staff, that was our goal, and we talked with the girls too. Our goal this season is top-three in state as a team and to get Brooke to compete for a state championship, I think we have two top-10 individuals this year as well. The optimism is present practices, they know what's expected of them and they're going to put the time in to get to those expectations."

Hazen will also be a team void of a senior on its roster. Juniors Makaela Unterseher, Karlee Schmitt and Megan McCarthy bring valuable experience to the table having each played in three state tournaments.

However among the trio, the Bison are the team that suffered a loss due to graduation.

Bethany Leier earned a runner-up state finish in 2016 and completed her career at Hazen by taking eighth-place in the state tournament last year.

"She meant a lot. Through her whole four years, and I wasn't here for all four years, she consistently provided the low scores and was someone you could count on no matter how other people were doing," Pratt said. "She really didn't have very many meets where she was off. It really gave the girls someone to look up to and strive to be. She pushed herself and her teammates and really helped that foundation started by the Berglunds to continue."

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