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After EDC win, West Fargo Sheyenne's Payton Stocker carries confidence for herself, team into state golf

The freshman edged out both the defending East Region and Class A state tournament champions at the Eastern Dakota Conference tournament this last week

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Payton Stocker follows through on a shot during West Fargo Sheyenne golf practice at Osgood Golf Course on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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WEST FARGO — When Payton Stocker joined the West Fargo Sheyenne golf team in seventh grade, she carried an average score of 101.7.

One year later, she showed significant improvement with an 85.4 in 2021. Now in her freshman year, Stocker holds the ninth-best average in the state and fifth-best in the Eastern Dakota Conference with an 80.8.

That improvement is part of the reason Stocker has been Sheyenne's No. 1 golfer, and it was showcased during the East Region tournament last week at Bois de Sioux Golf Course in Wahpeton, where she edged defending individual state champion Lexi Bartley and defending EDC champion Rose Solberg — both of Fargo Davies — to win her first EDC individual title with a round of 74.

The win aided Stocker in earning all-East Region tournament honors for the second year in a row and gave her the confidence needed going into Monday's Class A state tournament at Jamestown Country Club.

"It's a big confidence booster," Stocker said. "It'll be fun at state."

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Stocker beat out Bartley by two strokes and Solberg by three to dethrone the Eagles duo.

"It's a cool title to have and the goal was to have a target on my back," Stocker said. "Especially as a freshman, it's very cool to have that title and I'm very grateful for all of my coaches' help with stuff throughout the season."

Sheyenne head coach Dan Wolf said Stocker has been the Mustangs' 'lead-off hitter' since she joined the team in 2020.

"She's been our No. 1 player in terms of playing in that No. 1 spot since she was a seventh-grader," Wolf said. "And that happens from time to time in golf — maybe especially in girls golf. When you have that talent, sometimes you're going to ask younger players to play in positions that you might normally think are reserved for older players. But the great thing about golf is you don't have to be the oldest or the biggest or the strongest, you've just got to get the ball in the cup and make more shots than other people.

"She kind of made her way to the No. 1 spot when she was a seventh grader and just has stayed there. I think one of Payton's best attributes is the stage never seems too big. She might not always be happy with how she's playing, but it's never a situation where she's intimidated by the girls she plays with and things like that — and golf isn't one of those things where you are trying to intimidate others. The kids are all very nice and they get along with each other and she's developed great friendships over the years of playing, but the stage never seemed too big for her. She was perfectly fine playing in that No. 1 spot as a seventh grader and she's embraced it and goes out and gives us her best every time she has the opportunity to do so."

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Payton Stocker follows through on a shot during West Fargo Sheyenne golf practice at Osgood Golf Course on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

Stocker leads a Mustangs squad that finished third in this year's EDC team competition and will look to improve upon a 10th place finish at last year's state tournament.

"Our team we're sending to state this week is a senior, a junior, two eighth-graders and two ninth-graders," Wolf said. "Obviously everyone wants to do well and score as well as they can and finish as highly as they can."

Joining Stocker at state will be fellow freshman Zoe Keene, eighth-graders Ava Keene and Julia Melhus, junior Emma Peterson and senior Maya Metcalf.

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"It probably wasn't until the beginning of September until we kind of started to settle on who we thought our top six girls were going to be," Wolf said. "And there was still some tweaking with that as we went down the stretch and looked at things. But it's been kind of this core group for about a month. And then when you can really focus on working with those players and addressing the things that they're struggling with or the things that they need to do to get better, that's really when you start to see the improvements come."

Zoe Keene received all-EDC and all-East Region Tournament honors this season, along with Stocker, and has a top-20 average in the state with an 86.7. Peterson's average sits in the 90s while Ava Keene, Melhus and Metcalf all have averages in the 100s.

The Mustangs played at the East-West Classic held at Jamestown on Aug. 16 in the second tournament of the season. However, the team being sent this time around isn't 100% familiar with the course.

"Not all of the six that are going to state were the ones that played there," Wolf said. "Where if it was a course that was in the EDC, we would have played it multiple times. We have some girls who haven't played the course yet. So we're going out on Sunday to get our practice round in and we'll kind of talk about what holes are the ones we can score on and which ones we should just try and play smart and get through there. And then we'll get everybody a chance to see the course and when we play on Monday and Tuesday we'll see how that rolls for us."

Like her team, Stocker finished in a tie for 10th place in the individual competition at last year's state tournament, held at Edgewood Golf Course in Fargo. She'll look to improve on her score of 160 from a year ago that earned her all-tournament accolades.

"The competitors are really good out there," Stocker said. "Them all being super good gives them a lot of confidence because they can all shoot really low. My confidence is really high, too, so I definitely think I can be a good competitor out there and hopefully I could win, but hopefully I just have a low score and be at least top five or something like that."

Competition aside, Stocker only hopes she continues to improve over the course of her high school career.

"I did a lot of practice in the summer and played a lot of golf courses," she said. "From seventh grade to eighth grade was my biggest jump for averages. Now, it's harder to score better but hopefully my average can continue to improve over the years. It's just a lot of practice."

Ryan Spitza joined The Forum in December 2021 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Marquette, Mich., a city of 20,000 on the southern shore of Lake Superior. He majored in multimedia journalism and minored in public relations at Northern Michigan University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in May 2019. While attending college, Spitza gained real-world experience covering high school and college athletics for both The Mining Journal and The North Wind.

Spitza can be reached at 701-451-5613 or rspitza@forumcomm.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryspitza.
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