FARGO — The goal was clear from the opening moments of the season.
The Fargo Davies girls golf team knew they had a deep and talented lineup that would make them serious contenders for a state title. And with two tournaments remaining before postseason play begins, the Eagles are well within reach of the milestone.
“Before the season started we thought we could maybe do this,” senior Ava Olson said of a potential first-place state finish. “And then as the season has gone on, it’s become more of a real concept of ‘Hey, we can maybe pull this off and win state.’”
As of Friday morning, Sept. 17, Davies had the best scoring average in the state (328.1) — 1.8 strokes ahead of North Dakota Class A favorite Bismarck Century and five strokes ahead of defending state and region champion Fargo Shanley. The Eagles also own three of the top five scoring averages in the East Region.
Thanks to dominant play by some strong players, the Eagles are reestablishing their past Eastern Dakota Conference dominance. Davies won five straight East Region tournament and regular-season titles from 2010 to 2015, and captured three Class A state championships during that run.
Davies returned all six of its top scorers from last year’s Class A state girls golf meet. The Eagles finished second in the East Region tournament and were the regular-season runners-up a year ago. Fargo Shanley took the region crowns for the second year in a row last fall.
The Eagles shot a 308 at the Grand Forks Red River Invitational earlier this month. The score was the lowest team total in the EDC since at least 2006, which is as far back as the conference site’s archived scores go. It also set a school record and beat Davies’ previous season-low of 315, shot during Day 1 of the East-West Classic last month.
“It was really fun to see the girls have some really great success and to have such a phenomenal score,” Davies head coach Lisa Schwinden said of the record-setting team score. “But at the same time, I still think we can get better. We’ve just kind of started to scratch the surface of the potential these players have.”
Olson, who will play college golf at Minnesota State Mankato, recorded a 73 at the meet hosted by the Roughriders — her best score of the season and all-time.
Olson is averaging a conference-best 79.1. Eighth-grader Rose Solberg is close by with a 79.3 and sophomore Lexi Bartley a 79.5. The Davies trio occupies the No. 1, 2 and 4 spots, respectively, in the EDC.
“They’re all such great players. It doesn't surprise me one bit that on any given day, any of the three of them could shoot under par,” Schwinden said. “They all strike the ball so well. They’re all smart players and they all work hard.
“They just keep getting better. Frankly, I would not be surprised if one of them, if not all of them, had an absolutely phenomenal couple of last events here.”
The individual successes have stemmed from the team success, Bartley and Olson said. All three of Davies’ top golfers are carding lower scores this year. Bartley said the team’s on-course dominance doesn’t have anything to do with their strategies. It’s the camaraderie that has set the Eagles apart from the rest of the conference, she said.
“Going into a tournament, it’s not just playing for you,” said Bartley, who had a top-30 finish at state last year as a freshman. “I feel like each shot is for you and your team.”
Depth and consistency have also been key ingredients to the team’s stellar campaign. Davies has eight solid players who at any given time can go low, Schwinden said.
“We’ve got some other players that just haven't had the opportunity to play because the team is so deep,” said Schwinden, currently the head professional at Osgood Golf Course. “Our JV team has been phenomenal. We've basically got like two varsity teams, if not more.”
As of Sept. 17, seven Eagles have qualified for the Class A girls golf state tournament, which will be held Oct. 4-5 at Edgewood Golf Course in north Fargo. Davies took fourth in the team race at state last year. Olson finished in a tie for sixth with a two-day score of 158, while Solberg took 13th (170) on the individual side.
The East Region tournament is slated for Sept. 27 at Edgewood. Olson is aiming to defend her region title, with teammates Solberg and Bartley hoping to build off their ninth-place finishes from a year ago.