Park golf: Wolfpack looking to create its own history in 2008-09
In 2008 the Park boys golf team provided the school with its first-ever boys state championship and the Minnesota high school golf community with one of the best stories of the year.
Park, which was tied with Edina heading into the final nine holes of the 36-hole, two day Class AAA state tournament, shot a 3-over-par 147 on the back nine to pull away from second place Edina by eight strokes.
The Wolfpack shot a 295 on the second day and a 596 total, to finish ahead of second place Edina, which shot a 302 on day No. 2 and a 604 total. Since 1943 Park had been to state only two times previously. In addition, Park 2008 graduate Billy Barnhart won the Class AAA individual state championship, with a two-day 3-under par 141.
The win gave Park head boys golf coach Hank Tressel his first state championship in 48 years of coaching.
This year, Tressel, 75, returns to head the ship, short three crew members from the state championship team, including Barnhart and 2007-08 team captain Beau Anderson -- who finished fourth in the state with a two-day 145 score.
"It's hard to just plug in people with the ability of those two guys," Tressel said. "They were both all-state and had played since they were seven, eight years old. One thing about those guys, they liked to practice and practiced a lot. They would forego playing to practice or after playing they would practice."
However, the Wolfpack returns three of six scorers from the state championship squad -- Jake Miller, Jack Barnhart and Dylan Sawicki -- and not one of them is a senior.
"We have to create our own history," Tressel said. "We have to enjoy the good feeling, but once we're into the first match, we have to forget about last year, make our own history and improve bit by bit. They have the ability and the desire."
Miller, a junior, finished in a tie for 38th place at the state tournament, turning in Park's third-best score at state. Miller nearly matched Barnhart and Anderson on the second day of state, shooting a 2-over par 74, which included an even-par final nine holes.
Sophomore Jack Barnhart, the younger brother of Billy, was Park's fourth best scorer in the state tournament last year with a steady 14-over par 158 two-day total score. Jack Barnhart turned in the best round for a freshman at last year's tournament. Sawicki, now a junior, rounded out Park's six scorers at state, finishing in 87th place overall with a 179. Sawicki's best round was the back nine of day one, where he shot a 4-over par 40.
"We need three or four guys to step up, fill in and shoot 80 or better at the beginning of the year," Tressel said. "At the end of the year, we need them down there around 300 with an average score of 75 if we want to move on to state."
In addition to it's five conference tournaments, which begin April 20 at North Oaks Golf Course, the Wolfpack will play in the elite Tri-State Invitational at the University of Minnesota's Les Bolstad Golf Course on April 17, the Bunker Hills Invitational on April 16, the Hastings Invitational on May 4 and will take its annual trip to Brainerd, where it will play The Preserve, on April 30.
"We have one of the best schedules around," Tressel said. "In this conference, we get to play some of the finest courses in the state."
Three teams from the Suburban East Conference qualified for last year's state tournament -- Park, Forest Lake and White Bear Lake. Tressel foresees Forest Lake and Woodbury to be the teams to beat in the SEC, but wants his Wolfpack in the top three. He also is hopeful for a return to the state tournament.
"These guys have high expectations for themselves," Tressel said. "They're not going to settle for anything less than state and will be disappointed if they don't go."
Girls team's trio returning for more
The label of underdog may be on the Park girls golf team in the Suburban East Conference and in Section 3AAA again this season. However, the Wolfpack returns its top three golfers from its 2007-08 roster and will hope to make some noise this year.
This year, like last season, the Wolfpack will be led by senior Laura Ayers and juniors Sam Whillock and Krissy Salmon.
Last season, Ayers earned All-Conference honors, finishing 12th in scoring average in a conference that sent 16 girls to state. Whillock finished 19th in the final individual standings and earned All-Conference Honorable Mention. Salmon shot a 97 at sections and had Park's third-best score at the conference tournament last year.
"Those are the three main girls coming back with good experience," Park head coach Greg Juba said. "Individually, we want those three returning girls to improve, so they can be in there at the end of the season."
Park has never sent a girls golf team to state. Doing so this season would be considered very difficult because of a highly competitive section. However, this year, despite the stiff competition, Ayers, Whillock and Salmon each have a decent chance to qualify for state as individuals. At last year's Section 3AAA tournament the state cut was an 83. The three Park golfers weren't too far off as Whillock shot a 92, Ayers shot a 93 and Salmon turned in a 97.
"Our section is very tough, but both Laura and Sam have worked very hard in the offseason," Juba said. "Laura is really looking forward to her senior year and Sam continues to improve as she gets older. Krissy didn't play as much in the offseason, but she's getting stronger and has made remarkable improvements each year."
Park will be without its fourth-best golfer from last season in Courtney Mills -- a sophomore who is ineligible because of Minnesota State High School League transfer rules.
"She transferred to Hill-Murray and came back to Park," Juba said. "She is at Park, but is ineligible for varsity golf because of her transfer."
At least three new golfers will be on the roster this season for the Wolfpack, but Juba said the numbers are still lower than he would like them to be.
"If we can find a fourth and a fifth golfer that can compete on the varsity level then we could improve in our conference and section competition," Juba said.
PARK BOYS GOLF
-- 2008 - 09
Key returners: Jake Miller, jr.; Jack Barnhart, soph.; Dylan Sawicki, jr.; Trevor Keys, soph.
Key losses: Billy Barnhart, Beau Anderson, Craig Fischer.
Main competition: SEC: Forest Lake, Woodbury, White Bear Lake. Section 3AA: Hastings, Woodbury, St. Thomas Academy, Eastview.
PARK GIRLS GOLF
-- 2008 - 09
Key returners: Laura Ayers, sr.; Sam Whillock, jr.; Krissy Salmon, jr.
Key losses: Courtney Mills.
Main competition: SEC: Woodbury, Forest Lake, Roseville, Cretin-Derham Hall. Section 3AA: Woodbury, Rosemount, Eagan, Henry Sibley.