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Roncalli golf team loaded with youth

Aberdeen Roncalli girls golf coach Kerry Brandenburger, far left, watches as Claire Crawford tees off on the 10th hole at Lee Park Golf Course during practice Friday. Looking on are golfers Ava Danielson, Reese Heinrich and Morgan Helms. Photo by John Davis taken 4/9/2021

The youth movement is underway for the Aberdeen Roncalli girls’ golf team.

The Cavaliers have five players out for the sport this spring: one eighth-grader and four seventh-graders.

“Out of those five, I have four of them that play in that Junior PGA, so we have some pretty good experience with them,” said Roncalli coach Kerry Brandenburger. “They’ve got lots of good experience and they play every summer in those tournaments. There’s a lot of good experience, young experience, but very good.”

Because of their golf background, Brandenburger said it isn’t like starting from ground zero.

“You don’t have to spend a whole lot of time on teaching them how to hold a club, the swing aspect of it,” she said. “We get to do a little bit more course management, fine tune some of those things. It’s a lot more helpful when there’s a little bit of experience there.”

Part of that experience comes from growing up around the sport of Golf. Brandenburger noted that some of the girls have had older siblings that have played the game.

“The families that these girls come from, their parents played, older brothers, older sisters played so we have a lot of good experience that way. They’ve been around the game,” Brandenburger said. “I sat down with a few them at practice and we talked about rules, and it surprisingly shocked me how much they knew. It was a very good talk. We’re not starting from the beginning.”

Still, youth is youth and Brandenburger will try her best to keep some of the pressure off the girls during the early stages of the season. She is attempting to find ways to keep the game fun and fresh.

“I think a lot of it depends on me. I need to connect with them and be fun and exciting and keep that pressure off of them, at least in the beginning,” Brandenburger said. “Then as we move our way through the season, there’s going to be some of them that feel a little bit of that pressure. That will pay off down the road for Aberdeen Roncalli girls’ golf.”

A big part of the game of golf is mental. Brandenburger said sometimes not overthinking is the best way to approach things.

“I always say that golf is played between two holes: your left ear and your right ear,” Brandenburger said. “They’re just so resilient. They don’t think about a whole lot. They get up and hit the ball, and let’s move on.”

Of course, another piece of the game is problem solving. Brandenburger said that no matter what level you play at, it’s simply a matter of time before you encounter an issue on the course.

“My slogan has always been, since the day I started coaching, is minimize your damage,” she said. “Learn how to get yourself out of the situation, because we all get ourselves into those situations on a golf course and learn how to get yourself out of them.”

The elder statesman of this year’s team is eighth-grader Margaret Anderson.

Brandenburger said Anderson knows her coaching style a bit because she was out for the sport as a sixth-grader before COVID wiped out the entire season a year ago.

“I think she’s the oldest, that’s a number obviously when you’re working with seventh and eighth-graders,” Brandenburger said. “Maybe a little bit of pressure on her shoulders to kind of lead us a little bit, solely from the standpoint of she knows me a little bit better than some of the other girls do.”

Roncalli has a girls’ golf cooperative with both Aberdeen Christian and Warner, however, no individuals from those schools are out for the sport this spring.

Again, COVID could have played a major role there as well, as Brandenburger was unable to get out to those schools and promote the sport like she has done in the past.

“I didn’t get to do that,” she said. “They didn’t get to see me.”

For now, the Cavaliers will try to improve each day and have some fun during the process.

“We’re just trying to have a little fun,” Brandenburger said. “The game of golf is something you can do for the rest of your life.”

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