How does a team replace an All-American?
If you're the Central Lakes College Raiders women's golf team, you simply replace talent with talent.
That's what Raiders coach Jim Russell has done this season as Melanie Wilson, an All-American last year, took her game to Western Illinois University. The team has responded by handily winning its first two tournaments of the season.
That success can be attributed to the play of sophomore Jenna Larsen of Onamia and freshman Angie Johnson of Roseau.
Johnson opened her college golf career by shooting an 88, good for medalist honors, at the Minneapolis Community College tournament at Meadowbrook Golf Course. Larsen shot a disappointing 91 in the season opener.
Four days later, Larsen rebounded at the Rochester tournament at Eastwood Golf Club by carding an 80 and taking medalist honors. Johnson was close behind with an 86.
"That first tournament I was really struggling," said Larsen. "The second tournament I practiced a lot and came through with a good score. My putting was a lot better. I try to focus more on my short game than the long game. A 300-yard drive is equal to a 3-inch putt."
So far in this young season, Russell has been impressed by what Larsen and Johnson bring to the golf course.
"Jenna showed me a lot of guts coming back in the second tournament," Russell said. "Angie is right where I expected her to be. She's just steady. If you watch her on the golf course nothing really shakes her. She's very focused. These two, you can pretty much count on. They're consistent."
Just for Johnson to be on the golf course has been a struggle. She was diagnosed with mononucleosis this summer and recently received permission to ride a cart at tournaments.
"I didn't know I had mono until July," Johnson said. "I played in a lot of golf tournaments this summer but my mom pulled me out of some. I don't like the cart, I wish I could walk. I feel like I should walk just like everyone else."
From a coach's standpoint, Russell has walked a fine line of wanting Johnson to get better physically but also play in tournaments.
"Angie really didn't want to ride in a cart," said Russell. "She's a very competitive gal. She could've easily said that this would be her redshirt year but she loves the game and wants to play. We prefer her to just get better but she also needs tournament experience."
Larsen, who golfed with Wilson last year, knows how high the bar has been set in Raider golf. To Larsen, that's half the fun.
"It's fun to try," Larsen said of trying to top Wilson's feats. "It was fun playing with Melanie. I think it's fun to try and meet up to her standards."
* After sitting idle for the past three weeks, the Raiders volleyball team (3-1) is back in action.
CLC will travel to Mesabi on Friday and Vermilion on Saturday to start the North Division season.
* The Raiders' football team (1-1) is also on the road as it faces Rainy River (0-2) on Saturday at International Falls.
The Raiders will try to get back on the winning track after a 39-12 loss to Hibbing on Sept. 6. CLC may have that chance as Rainy River has been outscored 76-8 in losses to Minnesota West and Rochester.
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