FARGO — Kindred didn’t have a high school boys golf season last spring with the shutdown of athletics across the state. An overwhelming favorite to win their third straight North Dakota Class B state title, the Vikings had to settle for what might have been.
But that doesn’t mean they’re not making memories on the course.
The small school southwest of Fargo took its show national earlier this month, finishing 16th in the 2020 High School Golf National Invitational in Pinehurst, N.C.
“The kids would rather have a state tournament and a chance to win a state title,” said Kindred head coach Perry Piatz, “but at the same time, these kids will never forget the experience they had in Pinehurst and how special that was.”
The Vikings took seven players who got a chance to play a resort that includes Pinehurst No. 2, which has hosted multiple major championships like the U.S. Open. The Vikings played one of two practice rounds on No. 2.
“It’s just a golf mecca,” Piatz said.
The mecca didn’t overwhelm his players, however. The two practice rounds help in advance of the three-day tournament.
“I think these kids handled it pretty well,” Piatz said. “I think they were taking it all in. It’s quite an amazing place.”
Mark Olson was Kindred’s top individual player, finishing in a tie for 66th with rounds of 77-79-74. Sam Henke had the team’s best round with a 73 on Pinehurst No. 8, which Piatz thought was the hardest course of the tourney.
“That’s when our boys played their best,” Piatz said. “It was wet so you’re not getting any roll out. And the greens are undulated and if you miss on the wrong side of the green it’s rolling over the back 20 yards down. It was one of those courses that is really hard so Sam’s 73 was a really good score there.”
The team shot a 315 on a layout that played to 6,900 yards. Most courses the Vikings play in North Dakota competition are around 6,400 yards.
Kindred qualified for the National Invitational by winning the North Dakota Spring Golf Championships in June, a non-sanctioned tournament organized by Chris Geiss from Glen Ullin, N.D. Grayson Wetch from Fargo Oak Grove, who won the Class B individual title, and Fargo Shanley’s Jake Skarperud, the Class A Spring Golf champion, finished in a tie for 82nd at the National Invitational.
The 27-team field included Grand Forks Red River, which finished 20th. Kindred finished ahead of Iowa, Illinois and Guam.
“These boys are used to winning all the time, it was a very humbling experience for them,” Piatz said. “And we’re coming from a high school of 200 kids and they’re coming from schools of 3,000 or whatever. We thought we played pretty well. Could we have played better here and there? Yes, but 16th in the country I thought was pretty good for a small-town school.”