It's been close to seven months since the last time the Central Lakes College Raiders women's golfers have participated in a competitive tournament.
That was back in early October 2003 when CLC hosted and won the MCCC state and Region 13 tournaments.
As the Raiders begin play in the National Junior College Athletic Association golf tournament May 17-20 at Halifax Plantation Golf Club in Ormond Beach, Fla., shaking off seven months of rust may be the biggest challenge they will face.
CLC has only one player, sophomore Jenna Larsen, with national tournament experience, leaving freshmen Sam Welle, Ashley Burr, Angie Johnson and Amanda Kobberdahl to learn as they go.
What: NJCAA womens golf tournament
When: May 17-20
Where: Halifax Plantation Golf Club, Ormond Beach, Fla.
Who: Central Lakes College Raiders womens team: Jenna Larsen, Sam Welle, Angie Johnson, Ashley Burr, Amanda Kobberdahl.
Quotable quote: I think we have a good chance to place high if we all play well and stay focused. Anything can happen. -Raiders sophomore Jenna Larsen
"It's hard going out and playing in a big tournament like nationals without playing any tournaments beforehand," Larsen said. "Playing in other tournaments helps you get a competitive edge. I'll just try to stay as consistent as possible and focus on my short game. That will be key."
Practice or not, the Raiders have four straight days of pressure golf ahead of them. According to CLC coach Jim Russell, his players have two choices to deal with the lack of preparation.
"We get to play four days of competitive golf so they'll either have to sink or swim," Russell said. "Hopefully these young girls will learn something everyday. With a four-day event it's more of a gut-check and to stay as consistent as possible. There's also variables like humidity and the weather. All that comes into play."
Russell is also keeping this tournament in perspective. He knows his young team will be competing against Division I and II junior colleges with scholarship players. Even with the odds stacked against them, he hopes the Raiders will leave their mark.
"For us to go down and win the whole thing is very unlikely," said Russell. "The reason is there are no divisions in golf for women. Division I, II and III play together so we're going up against scholarship players from Texas and Arizona who've played all year round.
"I do think we have one of the better teams there and I think we could sneak in there and finish in the top five. I'm looking for this team to make a splash in this tournament."
All five players have strengths and weaknesses. And, they know in order to do well, their strengths will all have to be firing together.
"Sam Welle really hits the ball a long way," said Russell. "Jenna hits it a long way and is a lefty so she's fun to watch. Angie Johnson just hits it down the middle and her short game is very good. Ashley is pretty consistent in all areas and Amanda is just learning how to play the game more and more. All of them have something to bring to the course."
The time frame leading up to nationals hasn't all been about golf for the Raiders. Welle and Burr have both been recovering from knee surgery in the offseason while Johnson has been spending her time in her hometown of Roseau helping with sand bags to stem flood waters.
"I'm curious to see how Ashley and Sam will do because they have been practicing and rehabbing their knees," said Russell. "Sam had a rough time in the fall with her knee so I'm looking forward to her getting back to her style of play."
Welle is relieved that she can finally be able to focus on her game instead of dealing with the pain the knee caused her.
"The knee is getting better all the time," said Welle. "It gets a little sore at times but it'll be nice to not worry about the pain and be able to walk 18 holes without my knee hurting."
TROY GUNDERSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5865.
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