The game, the courses and the necessary skills are still the same, but this year the Fairmont girls golf team is facing a lot of other changes.
The Cardinals, who are coming off an eighth-place team finish in the Class AA state meet, will try to get back to state this season with a new head coach and without three of their top golfers from last year's team.
First-year head coach John Korsmo, along with assistants Paul Baldus and Michelle Grotte, are getting this year's team set to compete for another Section 3AA title.
HITTING THE FAIRWAYS — Members of the Fairmont Cardinal girls golf team opening the season by playing host to Jackson County Central on Monday at Interlaken Golf Course include, front (l-r): Dayna Madsen and Lexi Johnson. Back: Emily Kim, Cassidy Krusemark, Alyssa Westcott and Bailey Dulas. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
Ron Kallheim retired after his 26th season at the helm, guiding the Cardinals to their ninth state team appearance.
With Lizzie Larson, Megan Rosol and Elizabeth Kim graduating, there are plenty of top spots up for grabs.
Junior Emily Kim, along with sophomores Cassidy Krusemark, Alyssa Westcott and Dayna Madsen, have seen varsity experience on the links.
Kim earned a 76th-place finish at the state meet last year, while Krusemark and Westcott finished 84th and 85th, respectively.
Junior Lexi Johnson, along with one freshman and nine middle-schoolers, will battle for the final varsity positions.
"I didn't follow the team much last season, so I wasn't sure what to expect coming in, and in some ways, that is nice," said Korsmo. "Early on in the season, we are just working on what we can indoors, like their swings and little things. It is tough because we aren't out on the courses yet."
The South Central Conference competition looks to be tight, as Waseca and Blue Earth Area also have young squads.
The Bucs return junior Signe Olson and sophomore Natali Fellows, while Waseca returns Sydney O'Brien along with seniors Corinne Dennis and Andee Erickson.
"I'm not sure about who will be our toughest competition because I haven't been involved with golf before," said Korsmo. "But right now that's OK, we are just focusing on what we can improve on ourselves."
A major part of that improvement is having Baldus as an assistant for both the girls and boys teams.
"I've coached hockey for years and played golf," said Korsmo. "But Baldus is a pro. He's been able to help all of the kids so much. Even early on, they feel like they are noticing a difference in their swings."
The golfers also are noticing a difference in practice, with conditioning finding its way into their every day routines.
"They don't like running. And at first they didn't understand why. But I explained that after walking 18 holes, carrying a bag, you need to be in good enough shape to make a shot," said Korsmo. "They don't have to like everything we do at practice, but as long as they do it, that's what matters."
Fairmont hosts Jackson County Central on Monday at Interlaken Golf Club.