by Eric Oslund
It’s been a long time coming, but on Thursday, June 1, the Rogers girls golf team of Paetyn Levis, Emma Kangas, Izzy Erikson, Megan Secrist, Emma McKeon and Grace Alford made it official. For the first time in program history, and Royals girls golf team is going to the state tournament.
There have been a handful of individuals qualify for state since the program was established, but this is the first time the entire team has qualified.
Head coach Cyndy Meyer said that she knew this group of girls had the potential to accomplish this feat since the season began, the only thing standing in their way was themselves. And after the first day of the Section 5AAA tournament concluded, the girls were sitting in first and they started to believe they could do it too.
The problem was that they only held a 4-stroke lead over the second-place team, so that confidence also came with a lot of nerves.
“I know we were all dreaming big and we knew what was on the line,” Kangas explained. “Four strokes is nothing, one girl could change that, so we all had to have good days, but we knew we could play even better than we had the first day, which was kind of comforting. We hadn’t all had our best rounds ever. We knew we could improve on what we had done the first day.”
All but one player shot better the second day than they had the first, so by the time Levis made her way to the final green – she was the team’s No. 1 golfer after the first day, so she was the last to tee off on Day 2 – her teammates knew they had a good chance at making it to state.
“I know I came in on the 18th green and I looked at all them and they kind of looked at me like, ‘We’re in a good spot,’” Levis began. “Just right then I got a smile on my face and it was kind of hard.”
Not only was it hard to focus on finishing the hole, but it was hard to keep her emotions bottled up inside her. Every Royals player out on that course was ready to explode with cheers of excitement, especially after all the scores were officially added and they knew they clinched a spot at state, but they didn’t want to over due it.
After all, their coaches had taught them better than that.
“We talk about being humble and kind, so they very much kept things in check,” Meyer explained. “They’re excited about it. It’s an accomplishment, they’re proud of themselves, as they should be. I’m proud of them that they did as well as they did.”
But once they got out of the club house, and away from all the other teams, it was a little bit of a different story.
“Right when we found out, right when they completely added the scores, we went out to grab something in the van, and when we walked outside we were all screaming and jumping and stuff,” Levis said with a laugh. “It was so much fun. It was so cool and so fun for my entire team to be going with me too.”
Levis actually finished the section tournament with the fourth lowest score among golfers with a 169, so she was guaranteed a spot at state no matter what since the top-5 individuals not on the winning team advance. Kangas followed Levis with the seventh lowest score (172), and she was joined by Erikson (180), Secrist (185), McKeon (191), and Alford (204).
The team’s next goal is to not only enjoy the experience of going to the state tournament, but also have a good showing.
They know that they are going to be considered the new team, but are still hoping that they can give the more experienced teams a run for their money.
“I feel like we’re all working hard this week and then throughout the weekend,” Kangas said. “Practice rounds and working on our strengths and weaknesses and applying that to the course. I think we can go low at state. There’s tough competition, but I think we can compare, which is exciting.”
Then, once state is said and done with, the Royals are hoping they can use this experience as a building block for not only next year, but years to come.
They are only losing two seniors from this team, and have a lot of young talent waiting in the wings for their opportunity. It’s no longer a process of building this program up, but sustaining it, which is exciting for everyone involved.
“Right now, like us going to state for the first time, it’s kind of building a program for girls to come into. I know I’ve had to come into programs and help try to build programs, and that’s what we’ve been doing. So now it’s cool to think that girls can come in knowing that there is a program set and that they need to be good, and do this, and work hard,” Levis said. “I think that’s a huge stepping stone because next year we could go again, and the girls coming up, knowing they can go again. I think it was just a big belief thing now. Everyone believes you can go now because we did go, and I think that’s a huge part of it.”