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Golden Eagles return veteran crew on links

Aberdeen Central’s Leah Gough watches her tee shot on the sixth hole at Lee Park Golf Course during the Hub City Invitational last season. Photo by John Davis taken 4/28/2022

While it may be a new season, the Aberdeen Central girls’ golf team feels like it has some unfinished business leftover from last season.

The Golden Eagles return five of their top six golfers from a year ago when the team was in contention for a Class AA state team championship, sitting in second place one stroke off the lead before faltering on the final day of the state tourney and taking fifth place.

“I just think we want to try to build off where we finished last year. It was a somewhat disappointing day the last day of the state tournament based on where we were at day one,” said Central coach Kim Zimmerman. “At least it’s fresh in my mind. I don’t know if it’s in theirs, yet. It’s like I want to kind of get back to where we were prior to that last day of the state tournament.”

Where the Eagles were before that final day was an elite squad in the state, one that won numerous tournaments, including the Eastern South Dakota Conference Tournament.

“We have a good combination of some experience with the older girls and obviously experience with the younger girls. They’re just hungry to get out again and kind of pick up again where we left off,” Zimmerman said. “Last year was a great year for us from start to finish for the most part. We’re very cautiously optimistic going into the season right now.”

The Eagles will be led by freshmen Olivia Braun and Emma Dohrer, who are not only the team’s top returning place winners from last year’s state tournament, but also had successful summer golf seasons.

Seniors on the team include Leah Gough and Grace Schwan, while junior Morgan Jones also brings state tourney experience. Freshman Chloe Vikander and eighth-grader Kyley Wirebaugh will also be right in the mix for varsity spots.

“We have about seven girls competing for six spots right now on the varsity,” Zimmerman said.

While the Golden Eagles have plenty of varsity experience, what they do not have so far this spring is plenty of practice. The squad has been stuck indoors and probably won’t have a home outdoor practice for days to come.

Central will open its season at Harrisburg on Thursday without a single outdoor practice.

So what can be expected from the Eagles the first time out?

“That’s a good question. I really don’t know,” Zimmerman said. “The only thing I’m hoping is we can pull from some of the experience that we had coming off last year. It’s going to take a while obviously. The teams down south are a little bit farther ahead of us than normal. They always have been, but this year may be a little bit more so than normal.”

Aberdeen Central’s Morgan Jones watches her tee shot on the seventh hole at Lee Park Golf Course during the Hub City Invitational last season. Photo by John Davis taken 4/28/2022

Zimmerman said it is a bit unnerving to go out and compete without having had any sort of simulated practice rounds.

“You have to go into it with the right perspective and just be able to get out and play and start the process a little bit,” Zimmerman said. “You don’t have a lot of high expectations not having been outside yet and then going into a meet. I don’t know if there’s very many sports teams that would do that, going into a meet without having a full-fledged practice.”

As a result of the limited projected practice time outdoors, Zimmerman said it will probably impact the way the squad normally does things.

“It prevents us from going out and practicing and doing what we want out in practice,” Zimmerman said of a pattern of competing, practicing things to work on, and then competing again. “That’s where you want to build your momentum, I think is in your practices to see how you’re progressing.”

Zimmerman said this year’s unseasonal spring weather will likely alter the team’s schedule. The Golden Eagles will probably search for events as far away as Rapid City in order to be able to get out and compete.

While on paper it appears that Central will once again be among the top Class AA squads in the state this spring, right now the players would just like to be able to play a round or two. Zimmerman said the team doesn’t talk about long-range goals.

“We really don’t because it’s just so far down the road, yet,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t mind thinking a little bit ahead, but that’s just above and beyond right now. We’re taking baby steps to just get on the golf course.”

Not only that, but Zimmerman said the sport lends itself to focusing on the task at hand and “when you’re out playing golf you want to stay in the moment.”

Still, the Golden Eagles have every reason to be pumped up about the prospects for the upcoming season.

“Based on their age and based on where they finished the last two years,” Zimmerman said, “it’s well within reason for them to be very excited about the season, as well as I am.”

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