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Tom Mix, Published June 11 2012

Long wait comes to an end for Mahnomen golf


After nearly a 40-year wait, the Mahnomen High School boys golf team is playing in a Minnesota state golf tournament.

The last time the Indians qualified for state was 1973. That year, Mahnomen finished second to Edina West High School in the one-class format.

Mahnomen – champions of Class 1A, Section 6 – will play in the state tournament, which begins at 11:40 a.m. today at Pebble Creek Golf Club in Becker, Minn. It is Mahnomen’s fourth state tournament appearance.

“This has been a pretty good team,” Mahnomen head coach Vern Strandemo said. “We have played really consistent all season long.”

The Indians’ Top 4 is made up of senior Mitch Kochmann, junior Jacob Pavek, freshman Nathaniel Kahlbaugh, and eighth-grader Blake Kahlbaugh. Eric Houska and Levi Liebl round out the varsity squad that finished second in the regular season Pine to Prairie conference standings to Fosston, which will represent Class 1A, Section 8 at state.

Pavek, who was the quarterback of Mahnomen’s football team last fall, shot an 83 at the section meet, tying for fourth with teammate Blake Kahlbaugh.

“If I can get those four kids (Pavek, Kochmann and the Kahlbaughs) to score in the 70s, that would be alright,” said Strandemo, who has coached the Indians since 1988. “They are all capable of doing it.”

Strandemo added that team scores of 320 or better would put Mahnomen in the thick of the team title competition, something the Indians came close to winning at the 1973 tournament.

Strandemo’s son Guy and his nephew Jim Strandemo were members of that Indians squad.

“I’ve had some good teams in the past that have done alright, but they faltered late in the year,” said Strandemo who played in the 1940 state tournament as a freshman. “Last year we had a pretty good team, but we faltered at the section tournament.

“This year has been a little surprising because we are so young, but they are doing all right.”

Barnesville girls headed to state a second time

After competing in its first girls golf state tournament a year ago, Barnesville is back for more. The Trojans qualified for the Class 1A tournament set to begin at 7:30 a.m. today at Pebble Creek Golf Club.

Barnesville finished seventh last year and earned its return trip shooting a 403 winning the Section 6 tournament last Monday.

Barnesville’s varsity is made up of Sami Hammer, Nicole Holte, Elizabeth Aakre, Megan Nielsen, Hannah Rehder and Katie Davis.

Hammer, Holte and Aakre are the Trojans’ Top 3 and were key contributors on last season’s state qualifying team.

“I thought we played pretty steady the last half of the year,” first-year Barnesville head coach Karen Solum said. “We relied on our top three kids with the most experience at the beginning of the season and now the last half the other three have really improved, which has made a big difference.”

Solum took over for longtime Barnesville coach Jerry Loegering who retired last season after 36 years as head coach at Barnesville.

Hammer has been Barnesville’s No. 1 golfer all year and won Section 6 medalist honors, shooting a 92. Hammer qualified for state as an individual her sophomore year.

“Sami is so mentally tough,” Solum said. “When she steps on the course she expects herself to play well and she just does time in and time out. She is always ready to go and is so confident. That makes her a steady performer.”

The Trojans will be without Aakre, who is in Costa Rica on a school trip.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562