First-year coach Cody Mueller has been with the Minot High School girls golf team for just two weeks, but has made it clear how important the short game is to a successful season.
The girls spent the first 90 minutes of Wednesday's practice chipping and putting on the 17th hole at Souris Valley Golf Course, as they plowed through buckets of lime green golf balls. Mueller, who played professionally in Arizona and spent time on the Dakota Tour, said the focus this season is on shots 50 yards and in, as well as fundamentals.
"We have a very young team this year," Mueller said. "It's going to be an interesting year. We're going to concentrate on technique early."
This year's team features more eighth graders (three) than seniors (two). Eighth graders Makensy Arlene, Evie Reynolds and Paige Argent got their first taste of competition at the high school level earlier this week in the East-West Classic at Jamestown Country Club. The Majettes finished sixth in the 14-team field.
Despite the lack of upperclassmen, Mueller believes that youth is a good thing.
"In golf it's huge," he said. "It's going to be a huge advantage getting these girls at a young age when they don't have a lot of bad habits ingrained in their game already."
On the other end of the spectrum is senior Haili Duchsherer, who is expected to consistently be the team's top scorer. Duchsherer earned All-WDA and All-West Region honors in 2011, shooting a personal best 74 in the region tournament. After finishing last season with an 86.8 scoring average, Duchsherer looks to be a top-tier player in the state. She hopes to place in the top 10 at the state tournament and experience similar success of former teammate and No. 1 player Danielle Foster.
"You don't really replace a player like Danielle," Mueller said. "She was a heck of a player, but what we're looking to do over the next couple of years is build up the young girls that we have and hopefully get three or four girls like Danielle when they're seniors."
Duchsherer is expected to fill the void left by Foster, who captured All-WDA, All-West Region and all-state honors and was named to the all-state tournament team last year.
Low scores and honors are not the only things on Duchsherer's mind. She understands that she is the leader of the team.
"All the other years I looked up to the older players and now this year I realize I'm the role model," she said. "Everyone is looking up to me."
Sophomore McKinley Bender, who was third on the team in scoring with a 101.6 average, said her main goal this season is to improve upon her scoring average.
"I think we're going to have a good season," Bender said. "We've been working hard and we had a good first tournament."
Duchsherer led Minot with a two-round score of 178, followed by Bender's 196. Argent and Reynolds also contributed to the team score of 782 with a 208 and 201, respectively.
Mueller said the team has a good chance of competing for the second spot in the region with Dickinson. He expects Bismarck Century to be the top team in the West.
"Century has a very good squad," he said. "They have a lot of returning players and a couple good coaches and they look to be on top of the West. After that we're definitely looking to compete for that second spot."
The Majettes tee off in the Mandan Invite at 10 a.m. Friday at Prairie West Golf Course followed by the Century Invite at Tom O'Leary Golf Course at 9 a.m. on Saturday.