Female Area Athlete of Week: Birkeland setting the tone for Pequot Lakes
Pequot Lakes sophomore earns area athlete of the week
Genevieve Birkeland is playing with a lot of confidence.
The Pequot Lakes sophomore earned medalist honors in the Section 6-2A Presection meet at Blackberry Ridge Golf Club last week.
Birkeland tallied two birdies to shoot an 82 to win by two strokes over her teammate Morgan Krieger.
As a team the Patriots finished first in the presection meet with a team score of 364 which was 23 strokes better than second place.
Birkeland said the conditions at Blackberry Ridge that day were windy. She finished the front nine with a 44 with just three pars and two double bogeys.
Birkeland wasn’t fazed, however, as she birdied the 10th hole to start her back nine and birdied the 14th hole to help shoot a 2-over, 38 on the back nine.
“It was really windy and stuff, so I just had to make sure I was playing the wind right,” Birkeland said. “I was doing that and hitting the right yardage. I kind of had to scramble that day, so when I was greenside I was making sure to get it close. I didn’t putt the best, so I was just trying to make the most out of that. I didn’t start off the best, so I knew if I wanted to do anything I would need to play better on the back. Things turned around the back and once I saw what I shot I figured I had a good chance.”
Pequot Lakes head coach Savannah Nelson estimated the winds at Blackberry Ridge the day of the meet were around 30 mph.
“Considering that it’s the section course and to play through those conditions and embracing those conditions and battling through, she was able to play scrapping golf and make her game work for that day,” Nelson said. “That’s the kind of player she is. When something isn’t going well, she can kind of grit her teeth and still shoot good scores.”
The win at Blackberry Ridge gives Birkeland confidence since it’s the course they’ll play for sections to try to go to state.
“It gives me a lot of confidence especially with all the conditions that can happen out there,” Birkeland said. “It’s a hard course when it’s windy, so just to know that I can play well when it is windy out there does help my confidence a lot.”
The win marked Birkeland’s second of the season. She opened the season with a win at Pequot Lakes’ home course in Crosswoods Golf Course April 26 where she shot a 74.
Pequot Lakes hosted another event two days later and Birkeland finished tied for third with a 78.
On May 5, Birkeland fired an 80 to finish fifth and help the Patriots win the Park Rapids Area Invite.
“I think last year, she discovered a lot about herself and the type of player she is,” Nelson said. “We had some rounds where things were going really well and she would switch her mindset. She plays a lot better when she is loose and having fun, so we talked about that towards the end of year and I think she has executed that this year.”
Birkeland said her putter has been the biggest improvement in her game.
“I just have so much more confidence in my putting,” she said. “All the work that I’ve done in the summer time has started to pay off. Recently, I feel like when I’m greenside I’ve been able to chip it close, so even when I’m not hitting greens in regulation I’m able to give myself good looks for par, which helps my game a lot.”
The Patriots girls’ golf team is coming off back-to-back state appearances and with no graduates from last year’s team the expectations are high for them in 2023.
“We know we’ve played well in the past, so we know we can play well together,” Birkeland said. “We still work on things that we are not the best at and try to prepare ourselves the best we can.”
Birkeland competed at state last year and was the Patriots top finisher with a two-day score of 120 — due to rain they only played nine holes in Round Two at state. Birkeland placed fourth and was six strokes off the state champion.
“Each season, I try to lay it out as a brand new start and nothing is for certain,” Nelson said. “We still have to go out there and shoot the scores to be competitive. But we also have to start thinking to ourselves as one of the top teams and have that mindset and not play scared.”
The Patriots placed third in state last year as a team with an overall score of 535 which was just five strokes off second-place Fergus Falls.
As an eighth-grader, Birkeland shot a two-day score of 184 at state, which was tied for 36th and helped the Patriots net a fifth-place finish as a team.
“We have a great coach and she helps a lot,” Birkeland said. “She knows our strengths and weaknesses. She helps us in tournaments and in practice all the time and knows how to keep our game in check. As a team, we love each other and are always glad when each other does well. The team is always supportive and so is Savannah, so that environment is just awesome.”
Other notable performances:
Softball: Josie Schaefer, Crosby-Ironton, recorded seven hits in the Deer River Tournament.
Jenna Dykhoff, Wadena-Deer Creek, 4-4 two doubles, six RBIs against Perham. She notched four hits against Ottertail Central
Kaitlyn Rilea, Pine River-Backus, went 4-5 with three doubles, a triple and four RBIs. She went 3-5 with two doubles against Northland.
Frankie Seelen, Pierz, struck out 11 in a doubleheader against Zimmerman. She struck out 20 in a doubleheader split with Albany.
School: Pequot Lakes
Highlights: She won the Section 6-2A Presection meet at Blackberry Ridge Golf Club.