As the weather struggles to warm up, high school golfers are back it, with visions of breakthrough seasons. Here are four metro golfers who raised their games last year and are poised for a strong 2014 season.
Emily Romanow: ‘Just so confident’
Emily Romanow didn’t make the Edina girls’ golf team when she tried out in eighth grade. That proved to be the motivation she needed to launch a successful high school golf career.
Romanow, now a senior captain for the Hornets, made the varsity as a ninth-grader and has qualified for the past two Class 3A state tournaments. Last season she led Edina to a 3A state championship and placed sixth individually.
“Toward the end of the season, or like middle to end, I was just so confident in my swing that I had no doubt when I would get up to the ball,” she said. “That led even into state, which I was just confident in my swing the whole time.”
With weather slowing the start to the season, Romanow said, the turning point came at a tournament last May in Duluth. She shot a 75 that day, despite foggy conditions, and won the tournament by five strokes.
Romanow continued that momentum into the Section 6 tournament and then into state. Edina built a four-stroke lead after the first day of state and won the tournament by 11 strokes.
“We just had a good attitude going into it,” Romanow said. “There wasn’t a lot of pressure, I guess you would say, but more like a competitive drive.”
Romanow moved from Texas to Minnesota in 2006 and said she began to enjoy golf in the more mild Minnesota weather. Edina coach Mark Harelstad said when Romanow returned as a freshman, she was determined to become one of the team’s best golfers. He said Romanow has developed more poise and confidence and become a student of the game.
“Every year it’s been fun to watch her grow,” Harelstad said. “As we get outside, she’ll show the kids what has to be done and take it, hopefully, to another place.”
Caroline Andrews: Feeling the family legacy
Blaine junior Caroline Andrews posted one of the best rounds of her career last season on high school golf’s biggest stage.
Andrews fired a 6-over-par 79 on the second day of the Class 3A state tournament at Bunker Hills Golf Club. The round propelled her to a tie for 26th individually, and it helped Blaine finish in fifth place.
“She just kind of felt it,” Blaine coach Maribeth Suter said. “She was hitting the driver where she wanted to hit it, and she was putting well.”
Andrews enters this season as a captain on a team looking to reach its third consecutive state meet. To do so, it will have to overcome the loss of two golfers from last year’s state team, including Andrews’ older sister, Hannah, a four-time state participant.
“It’s been really different,” Andrews said of not having her sister around. “We’ve just always played golf together.”
Golf runs in the Andrews family. Jason Andrews, Caroline’s dad, played golf for The Citadel in college, and her mom played in high school. Her brother, Philip, is a freshman on the Blaine boys’ team this season.
Andrews said her dad started her in golf when she was young. She joined the Blaine varsity as a freshman and helped it win the Section 5 championship that year.
The team struggled at the state tournament, finishing eighth.
“First year our team went, our girls were really nervous,” Suter said, adding that last year’s team was more relaxed going into state.
Suter said the team doesn’t feel any added pressure coming into this season, despite its recent success. Andrews appeared to agree.
“This year will definitely be seeing who we have and what kind of talent and skills we have on our team and just trying to build up those girls and hopefully do well again,” she said.
Carter Gidlow, Eric Oberg: Ailing but no excuses
Last season didn’t exactly end as planned for Lakeville North senior Carter Gidlow and junior Eric Oberg.
Oberg pulled a rib and strained his back before the Class 3A, Section 1 tournament. Gidlow came down with food poisoning before the first round of the state tournament. Each played in the postseason tournaments, however, and helped Lakeville North post a fifth-place state finish.
“They didn’t use it as an excuse,” Lakeville North coach Steve Sabetti said. “They went out and did what you asked them to do.”
This season Oberg and Gidlow will play a key role for Lakeville North’s bid for another state run. In addition to Oberg and Gidlow, the Panthers return Division I-bound seniors Freddy and Bobby Thomas.
“We’re not just going to try to make state,” Oberg said. “We’re going to want to try and win state.”
Oberg is following in the footsteps of his older brother, Mike, who finished tied for 43rd at state last year and now plays for Minnesota State Mankato. The younger Oberg began last season on JV but moved up to varsity after two matches and helped the team win a conference title.
Gidlow, a longtime playing partner, described Oberg as a smart player, a long hitter and “someone you can count on to make key shots.”
Gidlow also made the varsity for the first time last season and said he plans on golfing for Luther College next year. Sabetti described him as a golfer who doesn’t get too fired up or let bad shots bother him.
Sabetti’s squad will face a more difficult road to state. Conference rival Lakeville South has moved into Section 1, as well as Hastings, which finished fourth at state last season.
Despite the newcomers, Sabetti appeared optimistic about his team’s chances.
“I think if Eric and Carter play to their potential, I think we’ll have a very, very nice team,” he said.
Nate Gotlieb is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.