Kernel girls golf sets high goals for 2023

MHS carries confidence from back-to-back state second-place finishes

Mitchell's Allison Meyerink hits a drive during the first day of the girls Class AA golf tournament on Monday, June 6, 2022, at Brookings Country Club.
Jon Klemme / South Dakota Public Broadcasting

MITCHELL — The Mitchell High School girls golf team is a state title contender this season.

After back-to-back state runner-up finishes at the Class AA state meet, that’s not something the Kernels are shying away from in 2023. All six state meet golfers from 2022 are back on the roster this season, with three retuners who finished in the top-25.

“I feel like this team has a lot to prove and they want to prove it,” Kernel coach Jeff Meyerink said. “They’re going to go out there and give it their best. There is no team that works harder than this team, and I think we saw that last year.”

Meyerink said it’s OK for his team to believe in that and work toward that goal given how they got a taste of that success in 2022, sitting on the 18-hole lead at the state tournament in Brookings before being passed by Harrisburg, which went on to win by three team strokes.

“They’ve given me their goals for the year and I can tell you they are very high,” he said. “In 2021, we felt like we were playing for second because O’Gorman was just that good. Last year, being in it and competing at that level, our team got a taste of it. Bringing everyone back is a huge part of the confidence.”


The Kernels are led by two seniors in Lara Widstrom and Jayli Rients, and Meyerink credited both for their vast improvement last season and for their abilities to provide guidance to the team.

“They keep practice fun and focused,” coach Meyerink said. “They’re always asking their teammates about their rounds and how they’re feeling about it. They don’t care about their own rounds as much as they care about the team.”

“We’re a really tight group of girls,” Widstrom said. “We’ve gotten runner-up the last two years. We’ve got that fire in us from that and we want this to be our year. I’m really excited to go all out with this group of girls and give it everything we can.”

Meyerink’s daughter, Allison, returns as the Kernels’ top scorer from last season. Now a junior, she finished third at the Class AA state meet and held the 18-hole lead in the individual competition. Jeff Meyerink said that was a good experience, even if it was a little painful to see that lead slip away.

“Allison had a really good season,” the coach said. “She had the lowest round of the tournament, and a taste of the lead. … It is good experience. You don’t get a whole lot of experience if you win all the time. But to be there and have college coaches watching, you learn what that’s like and she couldn’t have been happier with the result for the team and herself.”

Both Meyerink and Quinn Dannenbring were top-10 finishers in the South Dakota Golf Association’s 2022 Sanford Golf Series points standings, with Meyerink finishing in the top-seven in all three events she played and Dannenbring finishing top-eight in two events. Dannenbring, now a junior, finished tied for 13th at state in 2022 for her second straight top-15 state finish.

Maddie Childs finished tied for 23rd at last year’s state meet and coach Meyerink said the freshman Childs is another Kernel golfer with a potential college career ahead of her, with Rients and Widstrom also among the returning starters. Eighth grader Mia Larson is also back from last year’s state roster but will miss the season with a knee injury.

“It’s important to keep in mind that everyone counts, every stroke counts,” Rients said. “Even if they only take the top four, everyone wants to be pushing, everyone wants to be helping the team finish as high as we can. You never know what will happen with the top four scores.”


If the weather cooperates, Mitchell will open the season on April 13 at Spring Creek Country Club in Harrisburg for a tournament. Mitchell’s first home event is May 2 at Lakeview Golf Course, hosting Sioux Falls Jefferson, Sioux Falls Lincoln and Yankton in a quadrangular. Mitchell hosts the Marchand Cup with Yankton on May 9 and the Mitchell Invitational on May 12 at Lakeview as well.

The Eastern South Dakota Conference meet is May 23 in Watertown and the Class AA state meet will be held June 5-6 at Hillsview Golf Course in Pierre.

The early season practices have been difficult with the weather but the Kernels have made do, including with some practices at the Meyerink house, hitting pitch shots into a field with a few flagsticks set up. One of the days saw wind chill values in the 20s but Meyerink said the team members were committed to getting a full practice in, not cutting it short.

In early April, the Kernels were able to use part of the Lakeview driving range, even though the course remained closed due to the snow. That allowed MHS to hit some mid-range irons and open up the players' swings some more as the season drew closer.

“We’re doing the best we can, honestly,” coach Meyerink said. “The kids, they’ll do whatever they can to be outside. They don’t want to be inside and hit off a mat.”

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at
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