Fargo, Bismarck golf tourneys give high school players a chance to compete after all

Kindred's Mark Olson, the 2018 North Dakota Class B state champion, will be one of more than 150 high school golfers competing in the North Dakota Spring State Championships set for June 2-3 at Riverwood Golf Course in Bismarck. John M. Steiner / Forum News Service

FARGO — High schools throughout North Dakota have been holding graduations for at least a week, with some having a ceremony of some sort this weekend. The prep golfers will get their competitive diplomas in the next week.

The coronavirus pandemic may have shut down spring sports, but it didn’t stop Chris Geiss from Glen Ullin, N.D., and Mark Johnson from the Fargo Country Club from organizing a couple tournaments independent from the North Dakota High School Activities Association. Geiss put together the 2020 North Dakota Spring State Championships set for Tuesday and Wednesday at Riverwood Golf Course in Bismarck.

“It just came out of necessity, an emergency Plan B,” Geiss said.

Geiss made one phone call to Riverwood executive director Tim Doppler, who told Geiss it was an easy decision. The course already had the dates blocked off for the Class A state tournament. Over 150 golfers from Class A and B boys and Class B girls are registered. The Class A girls had their state tournament last fall.

The Fargo Country Club tourney is more of a tribute to outgoing seniors with the Bell Bank High School Senior Invitational on June 8. It’s open to 2020 graduates who had their seasons axed with the three classes in North Dakota and high school golfers from Minnesota. North Dakota and Minnesota will be separate divisions.


“It will be good to see the kids and give them an opportunity to see the course,” Johnson said. “It’s been different but golf has almost been like Disney World. You come in the parking lot and it feels like there is no pandemic. We’re certainly going to do things to conform and keep everybody following social distance protocols. It’s a little different than normal but it’s going to be a fun event.”

There is no entry fee for players and registrations are still being accepted. Players will receive a gift, a program with their senior picture and chance to play against some of the best seniors around.

The Spring Championships in Bismarck could have a distinct team feel to it. Kindred, for instance, would have been the overwhelming favorite for the Class B title. Now the Vikings will get a chance of sorts to prove that.

Moreover, with all players playing the same tee boxes, the Vikings will get a chance to see how their score matches with the traditional Class A power teams.

“There are separate divisions but they’ll be paying attention,” Geiss said.

It will take more than Geiss to put it on. Marshals will be stationed at the driving range, practice putting green and on the course to enforce social distance regulations. Players will have strict times they can be at all three.

For example, if a player has an 8:30 tee time, they’ll have a 7:50 a.m. range tim and an 8:10 putting green time. So at any given time, there will be only 10 players on the range, 10 on the putting green and four on the first tee box.

“That will make some things easier,” Geiss said.


Hole-by-hole scoring will be available on or the Golf Genius app. Both Class B defending champions are entered: Kindred’s Parker Bartels in the boys - as well as 2018 champion Mark Olson from Kindred - and Emily St. Aubin from South Border in the girls. St. Aubin would have been going for her fifth straight NDHSAA title this spring.

A total of 17 returning all-state players are in the field.

“I think this will be as good as any junior tournament in the Upper Midwest this summer as far as quality,” Geiss said.

South Border's Emily St. Aubin, who has won the last four North Dakota Class B state girls golf championships, will be more than 150 high school golfers competing in North Dakota Spring State Championships set for June 2-3 at Riverwood Golf Course in Bismarck. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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