Lake City leaps mental hurdles to win second straight girls golf state title
Lake City won its second consecutive girls golf state championship emphatically this week, beating runner-up Fergus Falls by 39 shots in the rain-shortened 27-hole meet.
JORDAN — Ella Matzke struggled with her golf game at the beginning of this season.
Struggle may be a relative term for someone who finished as the Class AA individual state runner-up on Wednesday, but by the standards of the Lake City girls golf team, Matzke wanted to put in the work to be more consistent.
“Overall, my game just came together at the right time,” the Tigers’ sophomore standout said Wednesday at the Ridges at Sand Creek. “Last year I struggled a lot at the beginning of the season and I think, what you learn from that is, you just have to keep grinding because it’s the end of the season that matters.
“So I think this year I was comfortable when I wasn’t doing my best at the start. I just kept working toward that goal at the end.”
Matzke not only finished as the Class AA state runner-up here this week — she shot a 117 total in the 27-hole tournament that was cut short by rain delays — but she also helped the Tigers achieve their No. 1, season-long goal: repeating as state team champions.
Lake City did that emphatically, shooting a 330 in Tuesday’s opening round, then following that with a 161 in Wednesday’s final round that was cut to nine holes after a 90-minute rain delay in the afternoon caused the tournament format to be altered.
The Tigers’ 491 total was good for a 39-shot victory over runner-up Fergus Falls.
The championship is Lake City’s second in as many years, and second in program history. After winning by 44 strokes a year ago, the Tigers were the definitive favorite, and they lived up to their reputation.
“I think this was our goal from the start,” said Matzke, who placed 10th at state last year as a freshman. “Everyone wanted to go back-to-back. We all knew in the back of our minds that we could do it, we just had to grind all season long, stay humble and not get ahead of ourselves.”
The Tigers had plenty of time to sit and think on Wednesday.
They arrived at the course shortly before 11 a.m. A downpour hit an hour later and halted play in the boys state tournament for an hour. Then, just as the boys were preparing to resume play, lightning flashed in the area, causing another 30-minute delay.
The boys meet finally resumed just before 2 p.m. The girls didn’t begin teeing off until after 2:30 p.m., with the last group — including Matzke — going off the 10th tee at 5:39 p.m. The final putt of the meet was taken shortly after 9 p.m.
“It was super hard,” Matzke said of the waiting and the idle time at the course. “There were tough conditions both days (including nearly 100-degree weather during Tuesday’s first round). It was a long delay; that’s a long time to wait.
“... We tried to keep it loose. We didn’t even know. Are we going to play? Not going to play? When are we going to tee off?”
Once they were able to get on the course, the Tigers didn’t let off the gas, extending their 27-shot lead to 39.
Lake City had four golfers finish in the top 20: Matzke (second place, 117); Jordana Windhorst Knudsen (tie-11th place, 123); Emma Berge (tie-11th, 123); and Brooke Bee (tie-17th, 128). Kaitlin Schmidt (tie-41st, 139) and Mattie Mears (tie-51st, 142) rounded out the Tigers’ varsity lineup.
“She’s a three-sport athlete, really solid in all three sports,” Tigers head coach Steve Randgaard said of Matzke, who also excels in volleyball and basketball. “Those three-sport athletes have so many opportunities to play in competitive situations and she’s so rock-solid mentally.
“That’s one thing about this team. We talked a lot about just keeping your head in the game, the mental side of it. That was very important this week.”
A year ago, Lake City won its first-ever state title in girls golf, a championship that Randgaard at times wondered if it would ever happen. The Tigers have had so many outstanding teams — teams fully capable of winning a state title — in his four-plus decades as coach, but there was always another team in their path, whether it was a section rival such as Caledonia or Red Wing, or a state powerhouse like Detroit Lakes.
After the joy and relief of winning the first one, Randgaard and the Tigers knew they’d have a bullseye on their backs this spring. Yet, they played dominant golf from the start of the season to the end.
“What’s different about this team, they’re just so … they get along so well,” Randgaard said. “They love to be around each other. They’re all really good friends and they pull for each other.
“You have to give them credit. They played really well this year as a team.”