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Royal McGregor / Forum Communications Co., Published June 05 2012

West Fargo boys jump out to early lead at Class A state golf tourney

DICKINSON, N.D. — West Fargo has been waiting for this moment for the last three years – a solid round to start the state tournament.

The Packers used sophomore Riley Johnson’s even par on a blustery day to take a seven-stroke lead after the first day of the Class A state golf tournament Tuesday at Heart River Golf Course.

“We’ve never fared well at the start of the state tournament,” West Fargo co-head coach Chuck Gad said. “We’ve always gotten so far behind the first day and our goal (this year) was to get a good chance. I think we did that. I think we did quite well.”

Johnson posted dual 36s on the front and back nine to finish the day in first place at 72. Though the conditions weren’t favorable for scoring, Johnson said playing in the wind is one aspect golfers get used to in North Dakota.

“The short game was very important,” Johnson said. “That’s pretty normal when you play in the wind and, living North Dakota, you need to practice your knockdown shots. Every round you go out, you have play to play through wind in North Dakota.”

The West Fargo sophomore has a two-stroke advantage over Grand Forks Central’s Ty Kennedy, who shot a 74. Johnson said he was pleased with the round.

“I was very happy with my round,” he said. “I left some shots out there, but I’m still very happy my round.”

As a team, the Packers had Connor Holland end with a 78, while Nick Evin added a 79 and Payton Johnson came in with an 83. Gad said the only thing the boys wanted after the first day was a shot at a state title.

“The kids are where they want to be,” Gad said. “It’s kind of been this way all year with (Fargo) Shanley. We’ll have to go out and shoot great golf tomorrow to win.”

Shanley is nipping at West Fargo’s heels in second place with a 319. The Deacons’ No. 2 golfer, Grady Meyer, had a tough time on the course, shooting a 90, but it was No. 6 player Ben Wobaum who came to the rescue again with an 82. Wobaum helped Shanley win last week’s East Region tournament.

“He (Wobaum) came through the second time in a row,” Shanley head coach Don Johnson said. “He’s pretty young and this is his first state tournament. I give him a lot of credit for keeping it together. I’m sure he was nervous.

“The shocker is Grady shooting a 90. I bet Grady hasn’t shot a 90 in probably three or four years. He guaranteed me he’ll be back tomorrow.”

Tyler Rivard is leading Shanley and sitting in fourth with a 77. The senior struggled was five over on front nine but picked up the pace on the back nine firing off a 36.

“He’s been that way, he never gives up,” Don Johnson said. “Tyler is a scraper.”

Bismarck High, Bismarck Century and Bismarck St. Mary’s are all separated by six strokes. Century, the West Region champions, are in fourth at 326. The Patriots are two strokes behind Bismarck and four strokes ahead of St. Mary’s.

“Realistically, West Fargo is at a 312 and that’s a lot of shots to divvy up between four guys,” Century head coach Lynn Gress said. “We’d have to play pretty well as a team to overcome that. I don’t want to say that we’re playing for second, but it certainly looks like it could be that way.”

Senior Jacob Dehne, Century’s No. 1 golfer and West Region player of the year, is in third with a 76. Though he was four over par, Dehne’s putts weren’t falling.

“He hit it pretty well today and really didn’t get anything out of his round, because he didn’t make any putts,” Gress said. “That was kind of disappointing to hit as well as he did in the winds like that and get nothing out of it.”

There are currently two players tied for fifth. West Fargo’s Connor Holland and Shanley’s Cam Hager each posted a 78. Holland led the East, averaging 72 shots per 18 holes. The West’s average leader was St. Mary’s sophomore Jake DeForest, who is in a tie for seventh at 79.

The biggest surprise of the day was East Region Tournament champion Fargo South’s Landon Poss being disqualified because of a scorecard infraction. His round on the first day doesn’t count toward his team score. He is able to come back and play the second day.

Win or lose, Don Johnson knows the second day of the state tournament will be fun.

“Seven strokes isn’t that many and I’m sure West Fargo is thinking the same,” he said. “It’s going to be fun, however it turns out.”

West Fargo isn’t feeling any type of pressure. The Packers just want to go out and perform well in the second round. Tee times begin at 9 a.m. today.

“These kids are so even-keel and they’ve been that way for a couple years,” Gad said. “They came off and felt like they accomplished what they wanted to do today and are looking forward to playing tomorrow.”

Royal McGregor writes for the Dickinson (N.D.) Press