WATERTOWN-With the opening round of the Class AA girls state golf tournament in the books on Monday, Mitchell High School is on pace for its best finish since 2003.
The Kernels completed the first 18 holes of the tournament at Cattail Crossing Golf Course tied for sixth place with Brandon Valley after shooting a 71-over-par 359. They are also three strokes behind Pierre for fifth, which puts Mitchell in position to finish better than eighth in the state tournament for the first time in 16 years.
Sioux Falls O'Gorman leads the team standings with a 332, 19 strokes ahead of second-place Aberdeen Central and 23 ahead of third-place Yankton.
"I have pretty high expectations of them and they pretty much did what I wanted them to do," MHS head coach Keri Munsen said. "Of course a few strokes could be shaved off here and there, but we had one of our lowest scores of the season. We shaved off 35-plus strokes from the last time we played the course."
While the Knights may be en route to another state championship, Mitchell sophomore Masy Mock is tied for third and two strokes off the lead. Mock, along with Harrisburg's Reese Jansa and O'Gorman's Shannon McCormick, carded a 5-over-par 77 in the opening round.
O'Gorman's Carly Kunkel and Morgan Strahl are tied for first, but Mock has been able to maintain pace despite bogeying the first two holes on the front nine and the back nine. She managed to bounce back with two birdies and reaching par on 10 holes.
"She let her short game get her out of trouble today," Munsen said. "The putter really saved her today. She kind of made the comment to me that her putting was really on. ... She was feeling it, she was on her game and she knew it from the moment she stepped on the range. Having that good feeling before you go out and play is great."
Mock may have used putting to her advantage, but it cost some of her teammates at times. Kailee Henglefelt (92), Quinn Dannenbring (94) and Allison Meyerink (96) were separated by four strokes.
All three golfers are in the top-50 heading into the final round, but a few putts could have lowered their scores a bit. Munsen even decided to return to the course Monday evening for some extra practice on the greens.
"They're going to work on estimating their distances," she said. "They really had a lot of three-putts, a lot of strokes left out there. They even know what they could have shot. Minimizing those mistakes will be our goal tomorrow."
Mitchell returns to the course today for the final round of the tournament.