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Lake City golfers carry on program tradition at Women's State Amateur Championship

The 84-player field at this week's Minnesota Golf Association Women's Amateur Championship is dotted with standouts from Lake City. Three current and three former Tigers are in the field at the Rochester Golf & Country Club.

Women's Amateur Championship
Lake City native Ava Wallerich tees off during Minnesota Golf Association's Women's Amateur Championship on Wednesday, July 27, 2022, at Rochester Golf and County Club in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Marah Rothgarn scrolled through the qualifiers list for the Minnesota Golf Association’s Women’s Amateur championship and smiled.

The Lake City native was drawn back to her high school days, which were not too long ago.

Still, seeing five other current or former Tigers in the 84-player field brought about a special feeling.

“It’s really nice to have us all here,” Rothgarn said after the first round of the three-round championship on Wednesday at Rochester Golf & Country Club. “It feels like home. It feels like I’m back in high school for a few days and it’s fun to have us all back together.”

Perhaps it should come as no surprise — considering the success the Lake City girls golf program has had for more than three decades under head coach Steve Randgaard — that there were a half-dozen Tigers in the field for the championship, which concludes Friday.

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The Tigers have been a model of consistency under Randgaard.

“Like I said, it feels like I’m at home,” said Rothgarn, who will be a junior at Winona State University in the fall after being a team captain and a three-time All-Hiawatha Valley League golfer at Lake City. “These (Lake City) girls are really good and can shoot some low scores.

“It’s nice to play in a tournament like this. It challenges you to do better and be better. Seeing the big names here, it helps you think more and focus on every shot.”

Former Lake City golfers Ava Wallerich (a 2020 grad) and Lexi Geolat (a 2017 grad) — who are teammates at North Dakota State University — are also in the field this week. They’re both key members of Tigers teams that helped carry on a strong tradition.

Women's Amateur Championship
Lake City native Lexi Geolat watches a putt during Minnesota Golf Association's Women's Amateur Championship on Wednesday, July 27, 2022, at Rochester Golf and County Club in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Wallerich, a star multi-sport athlete, was a two-time state individual runner-up in golf and a four-time state-meet qualifier in tennis. Geolat, who wrapped up her college career this spring, played on three Section 1 championship and two state runner-up teams at Lake City. She leaves the NDSU program with the ninth-best career scoring average in program history (78.73).

“It’s really fun having six of our players here,” said Lake City senior-to-be Emma Berge, who was the Section 1AA individual runner-up this past spring and helped the Tigers win their second consecutive Class AA state title in mid-June. “It shows how strong our program is and is going to continue to be, and how dedicated everyone is. It’s kind of a special moment.”

Berge is one of the three current Tigers playing in the State Am at RGCC, which is hosting the event for the first time in 16 years and fifth time overall. Berge was joined by current teammates Jordana Windhorst Knudsen and Ella Matzke, who will be juniors in the fall.

“I learned a lot from them,” Berge said of the two years she played with Wallerich and Rothgarn. “They taught us how to have fun and play loose, but at the same time keep things serious.
“Ava is a big part of why my short game has gotten better. She took the time and really taught me the touch you need to have around the greens.”

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The common thread among all six Tigers who played in this week’s State Am: Randgaard.

The 36-year veteran has coached dozens of successful teams, but finally broke through in 2021 and won a state championship for the first time.

“It’s crazy; he’s put in so much time with us,” said Matzke, who was the Class AA individual state runner-up this past season. “He’s always out at the course working with the girls. We have a very supportive program. Our varsity players now, we’re out helping the younger players at summer camps … we’re all really involved.

“It’s just cool to be part of something like that. The program has been so good and still is. It’s awesome to know the older girls started something and we’re keeping it going.”

Jason Feldman is the sports editor of the Post Bulletin. In addition to managing the four-person sports staff at the PB, Jason covers high school football, golf and high school and junior hockey. Readers can reach Jason at 507-281-7430 or jfeldman@postbulletin.com.
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