Athlete of the week: Mary Elmquist, Elk River, golf: the Great Outdoors

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Mary Elmquist found her favorite sports early, skiing at age 5 and golfing at age 8, tagging along with her parents and grandpa. She has stuck with them through high school and emerged as two-time all-conference pick and captain in each sport.

The 2013 Elk River graduate was named “most improved” twice in each sport, counting her JV years. Four all-conference awards and four most-improved awards – that might be some kind of record.

Her big push started the winter before last.

Mary Elmquist made all-conference twice each in golf and skiing. She'll play golf at Bemidji State. (Photo by Bruce Strand)
Mary Elmquist made all-conference twice each in golf and skiing. She’ll play golf at Bemidji State. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

“I made a big improvement in skiing my junior year, and it made me realize that the harder you work at something, the better your results are,” said Elmquist.

That spring, she broke into the varsity golf lineup at No. 5 and worked her way up to No. 2.
“I knew from skiing how to take the next step. If you practice more, you get good results.”

This summer, Elmquist is honing her game every day in preparation for joining the golf team at Bemidji State, where she will major in elementary education.

Elk coach Dave Bleyhl knows Elmquist very well, not only from golf but from their Catholic church, where she is a eucharist minister. He entrusted Elmquist to lead the team prayer before each meet.

“Mary is a good a kid as I’ve ever had, a wonderful person, great role model for our young players,” said Bleyhl. “Pretty good golfer, too.”

The senior captain had many promising junior high teammates in both skiing and golf and was delighted to help them along.

Elmquist, who drives in the 200-yard range and regards the short game as her strong point, averaged 85 strokes as a junior, then 87 as a senior when the season was delayed almost a month by a late winter.

In her breakout junior year, the 5-foot-4, 130-pound athlete helped the Elks win the conference championship, placing third with 81, and the section championship, placing sixth with a career-best 78. At state she was a respectable 51st with 92-88-180.

Elmquist’s senior highlight was notching her first invitational medal with an 81 at Purple Hawk in Cambridge. She shot 92 in conference for ninth place, helping the Elks finish second, and 85-84-169 at section for seventh place.

“Mary is always upbeat and positive. The the only time I ever saw her a little down was after she didn’t make state this year,” Bleyhl said.

In Nordic Ski her senior year, she savored her role on a young team that moved up several notches. At the Northwest Suburban Conference meet, she was third on the team and 17th overall among 77 entrants, helping the Elks place third. At Section 2, she was second on the team and 19th overall among 91 entrants, helping them place fourth. As a junior, she placed 24th in conference as the Elks finished sixth, then 20th at the section meet.

“We made a lot of progress this year,” Elmquist said. “We did five or six months of summer training. I love it. Skiing is my favorite sport.”

A three-sport athlete, Elmquist was a JV swimmer the last two years after running cross-country in grades 9-10.

“I loved swimming. My only regret is not starting sooner,” she said. “I wasn’t really good in cross-country.”

Along with being captain in two sports, Elmquist was chosen by peers to give a testimony speech her junior year at a gathering for district school teachers, and last fall she was appointed to represent Elk River High School at a sports leadership conference.

The golfer and skier said she enjoys just about anything that takes her outdoors, which affected her college decision.

“Bemidji was my seventh college visit, and I just felt, this is the one! The campus is right on the lake,” she said. “I love being in nature.”


Mary Elmquist
Mary Elmquist

Personal file — Age: 18 … Family: parents Kay and Darwin; brother Andrew, 15  …. Sports: swimming, skiing, golf … Academics: 3.5 GPA … Other activities: National Honor Society, LINK, Peer Ministry, Future Educators Club, Spanish Club … College plans: Bemidji State, elementary education, golf

Favorite stuff — Class: college algebra and physics … TV shows: golf, and college sports … Movies: “Pitch Perfect” and “Bridesmaids” … Music: Lumineers and Imagine Dragon … Food: “Mom’s tomato basil pasta” …  Drink: blue Gatorade … Team: Twins … Athletes: skiers Jessie Diggins and Kikkian Randall; golfer Ricky Fowler …  Wants to visit: Italy, especially the Vatican