GRAND ISLAND — The Minden girls’ golfers aren’t settling for just the experience this time around at the state meet.
The ‘happy to be here’ feeling? That was so last year. And the year before that.
Instead, Minden will make the trek to the state golf meet with clear goals in mind, and they believe they have the talent to accomplish what they’re seeking.
“It’s one of those things where I’m glad that we’re going to be there because it’s an accomplishment,” junior Jessica Rehtus said. “But I also want to do well because the last two years, it’s been ‘Oh, we’re here, let’s just play golf.’ But this year we want to compete and place lower than fifth and actually be in the top three.”
The Whippets sailed in to the event with an 18-stroke victory in the District C-4 meet Tuesday in Grand Island. Now, sights have been turned to Quail Run Golf Course in Columbus for the Class C state meet this Monday and Tuesday.
Minden wants to improve on the last two seasons, when it finished eighth in 2011 and sixth in 2012.
Coach Steve Exstrom said he thinks he’s got a team that can do that.
“We’re looking to move up the totem pole a little bit,” Exstrom said. “We’ve really set our sights on maybe a top-3 finish and possibly looking to bring home some hardware, but that’s going to take four solid scores.”
The team knows where it will get three of them — from a trio of golfers that have been the mark of consistency this season and that bring an ample amount of previous state golf experience.
Rehtus and junior Ashton Boldt will be making their third state golf appearance, while sophomore Paige Kristensen will return for the second year. On a windy day at districts, it was Kristensen who shot a team-low 93. She was followed by Boldt at 96 and Rehtus at 99.
And those scores, partly due to strong winds, were not as low as Exstrom knows they can shoot. While he said it was a very solid outing from his team at districts, he thinks the scores can drop.
“We know what we have to do,” Exstrom said. “It’s just a matter of preparation and getting ready to do that.”
Kristensen was quick to add that with the experience of the top three, the fourth golfer’s role is just as important. Junior Kayla Shullaw and sophomore Sophie Pinkham each carded a 114 at districts.
“The consistency of the top three spots helps so much and Kayla’s been great as our fourth player,” Kristensen said. “Really, just collectively, there’s a lot of pressure on her, I’m so proud of her, we really need her score and she’s competitive with those top three scores.”
With a top-three team goal in mind, Rehtus said an important step will be blocking out the nerves with the crowds watching and pressure that comes along with the state event.
“It’s really nerve-wracking because when you finish, there are just so many people watching and sometimes there are so many people, even when you’re not finishing,” Rehtus said. “They are everywhere. It’s nerve-wracking because in case you have a bad shot.”
To assuage those nerves will take focus, she added.
“We really have to focus and understand that ‘Hey we’re here’, but also that we have to work hard and we have to practice hard,” Rehtus said.
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Holdrege set for Class B state
HOLDREGE — Brenna Gnuse knows what it’s like to play the state meet with a team and while going solo.
As a sophomore, she competed alongside her teammates and then qualified as an individual last season.
Now, she gets to bring her team along with her to the Class B state golf meet at Holmes Golf Course in Lincoln as the Dusters advanced out of District B-3 with a second-place finish.
“It feels great,” Gnuse said. “Last year I went by myself and it was still fun, and this year it’s going to be even better having everyone there.”
Coach Tim Mattson said his goals for the team at the meet are pretty simple.
“We’ll sit down and talk to them about what our expectations are,” Mattson said. “We just want to go and have fun, relax on the course and let them know they are playing against the course and not anybody else.”
Gnuse finished with the second-highest overall score at the district event with a 93 and has clear-cut goals for herself at the state meet.
She improved from a 36-hole score of 217 at the 2011 state meet to a 187 score good for 28th place in 2012.
“My goal is definitely to place at the meet,” Gnuse said. “I want to sneak in there and get 15th place.”
If the team focuses on its own game and plays the course instead of focusing on the other teams, Mattson said his goals will be met.
“We’re going to go down with expectations to shoot our best round of the year and not worry who will be there,” Mattson said.