ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

'She has the perfect demeanor': Lake City's Berge commits to MSU, Mankato

Emma Berge has been a key contributor to Lake City's back-to-back girls golf state championships over the past two seasons. The Tigers' second-year captain will play her senior season with a weight off her shoulders, having committed to play college golf at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Section 1AA golf finals
Lake City's Emma Berge tees off during Section 1AA girls golf finals on Wednesday, June 1, 2022, at Northern Hills Golf Course in Rochester. Berge, now a senior at Lake City, recently committed to play college golf at Minnesota State University, Mankato, beginning in the 2023-24 season.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin file photo
We are part of The Trust Project.

LAKE CITY — Emma Berge jumped at the opportunity five years ago, even if she knew what the outcome was going to be, and she didn’t necessarily like it.

“She started with us on the varsity back in seventh grade,” Lake City girls golf coach Steve Randgaard said. “We had an opening and we asked her if she’d like to fill it. She did, she wanted it. She knew we wouldn’t count her scores — we had a really good team that year — but she wanted to do it.”

Also Read
There won't be high school football this year to fill the post-Thanksgiving TV-watching hours, as the Prep Bowl was pushed back a week. The wait should be worth it, though, with seven excellent matchups on tap in Minnesota's title games.
Led by Post Bulletin Player of the Year Bryan Islas-Aguirre, this year's All-Area Boys Soccer Team is as deep as ever with more than half of the 22-player list being represented on all-state teams.
Mayo and Mankato West delivered one of the games of the season on Sept. 30 in what many had hoped was a state tournament preview. The two juggernauts are set to meet again in Saturday's Class AAAAA state quarterfinals.

Randgaard was correct. Berge filled the No. 6 spot in the Tigers’ six-player varsity lineup that season. The top four scorers count toward the team’s total in a meet. Berge’s score didn’t get used all season on a team that included standouts such as Ava Wallerich, Marah Rothgarn and Molly Kennedy.

“Emma got in there and averaged 105 that year,” Randgaard said. “We knew she was competitive, too. She accepted that (her score likely wouldn’t get used) and she battled. That helped her see she could do it.”

Berge no longer has to worry about whether her score will count or not — it’s counted in 26 of the Tigers last 28 events, two of which were the Class AA state meets in 2021 and 2022. Lake City won both of those, giving the powerful program its first two state championships.

ADVERTISEMENT

Berge also no longer has to worry about another goal she set years ago. She now knows for certain that she’ll be a college athlete. The Lake City senior committed last week to play at Division II Minnesota State University, Mankato.

“Coach Randgaard, ever since I was little and first going to the course, he’s always pushed me,” said Berge, a three-sport athlete at Lake City, who will serve as a captain of the girls golf team in the spring for a second consecutive season. “He saw my potential and pushed me reach that potential.

“He’s constant motivation. My teammates, we always push each other in practice, too, and I wouldn’t have accomplished this goal without all of them.”

Berge’s dream to become a college athlete started at about the time she was first introduced to Randgaard and the Tigers’ girls golf program. It’s a tradition in Lake City that the high school golfers work at youth golf camps in the summer, helping to prepare the next generation of Tigers. Berge received that help as a young player just learning to swing a club.

She’s more than happy to be on the other end of that relationship now.

“Emma’s always willing to help in any way she can,” Randgaard said. “She drives kids to the course, she helps with our junior program — she really likes working with the lefties (though she is a right-hander). She’s very patient and positive. That’s just her nature. She has the perfect demeanor for the game and a great mindset.

“But she’s a competitor, too. She passes on everything she knows to the kids here.”

At Minnesota State, Berge will play for head coach Alex Schmitz, a Faribault native who coached the Faribault High School program from 2017 until accepting the job at Minnesota State last year.

ADVERTISEMENT

“It’s definitely a relief to know, going into this season, that I’m set and know where I’m going to play in college,” Berge said. “It also makes me want to work harder and show people why I’m going there.

“I like the campus there, the layout of it, the buildings, everything about it. And I love (Schmitz’s) viewpoint. He’s a short-game kind of guy, and that’s what golf is. He cares about the mental aspect of the game, too, and how you react in tough situations.”

Berge’s improvement over her first five seasons on the Tigers’ varsity would be stunning, if it weren’t for the fact that Randgaard and the Lake City golf community churn out improved and great players year after year.

Berge averaged 105 as a seventh-grader and she knocked that number down to 95.4 as an eighth-grader in 2018-19. The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out her freshman season, but it didn’t keep her from working at her craft. She lowered her scoring average to 89.8 as a sophomore, and then chopped it to 83.3 last spring, when she finished tied for 11th individually at the Class AA state meet. Her goal for her senior season is to bring her average down into the 70s.

“The community here is so strong,” said Berge, who was recruited by nearly every team in the Northern Sun Conference, the conference Minnesota State plays in. “It starts for us when we’re super young. You see those older girls play and win and you look up to them. You want to be just like them. The community here really helps us thrive. The environment we play in (leads to success).”

Randgaard said Berge’s best attribute on the course is her ability to stay calm and to put a bad shot — or a good one — behind her.

“She’s just a grinder out there, a competitor,” Randgaard said. “She enjoys the grind of playing 18, and she’s a good decision maker. She knows if things are going awry on a hole, she can take a bogey and be OK with it. She understands that everyone playing golf will make mistakes. She doesn’t ever give up on a round.

“She has a great ability to refocus. That has to do with her mindset and just being a great person.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Getting better and better

Emma Berge has lowered her scoring average in every season she has played on the Lake City varsity girls golf team. She'll be a second-year captain this spring and has a goal of bringing her scoring average into the 70s, per 18 holes.

YEARGRADESCORING AVG.
2021-22Junior83.3
2020-21Sophomore89.8
2019-20FreshmanNo season (COVID-19)
2018-19Eighth-grader95.4
2017-18Seventh-grader105.0
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.
What to read next
A scoreboard of boys hockey games.
A scoreboard of girls basketball games.
A scoreboard of gymnastics meets.
Top performances for area high school players.