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The Gazette KCRG
Posted May 27, 2013
‘Golf Lynx’ make state debut

North Linn's girls' golf team earned the program's first state team berth. From left to right are coach Mike Hilmer, junior Jessica Franson, seniors Alaina Rommann and Brenna Winn, junior Morgan Juran, senior Caiti Klenk and senior McKenna Kinley. (Photo provided by Mike Hilmer).

North Linn golf might have been a punchline to some people.

Six hard-working athletes are getting the last laugh.

The Lynx girl’s golf team, led by unbeaten junior Jessica Franson, earned the program’s first berth to the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union Class 2A state tournament Tuesday and Wednesday at American Legion Golf Course in Marshalltown. Due to recent rains, Tuesday’s first round will begin at noon.

North Linn showed their opponents and its own community how good it could be, finishing runner-up at the regional meet to qualify.

“It’s really cool for us,” Franson said. “We’re really happy we could be a part of school history.”

The school has a banner that will gag the comedians, providing the good-natured ribbing.

“Some of the jokes around school are ‘Oh, I didn’t know we had a golf team,’” North Linn coach Mike Hilmer said. “It’s kind of funny since we don’t have a golf course.”

The feat is more impressive, considering the obstacle the Lynx have to clear just to practice. They have to make about a 30-minute trip to Independence’s Three Elms for rounds to work on their games. Hilmer said the course does a great job accommodating the team. The Lynx make the most of their opportunities.

“It’s hard to not have a golf course in our area,” Franson said. “Practicing is limited for us. Every chance we get, we’re there.”

The Lynx juggled responsibilities and maintained their devotion to golf.

Seniors Alain Rommann and Caiti Klenk were prime examples of how the Lynx balanced their numerous activities. Rommann had EMT classes twice a week, including observance hours, which conflicted with practices, in addition to competitions. Klenk participates for an accomplished volleyball club that practiced near Iowa City. Brenna Winn, the Lynx No. 2 golfer, is one of the school’s top softball players, who handled offseason workouts.

They were more than willing to make up missed time on their own, teaming with McKenna Kinley and Morgan Juran to add to a banner school year in girls’ sports at the school, according to Hilmer.

“It shows in a small school you can do multiple things,” said Hilmer, who is also North Linn’s Athletics Director. “If you’re willing to put in the time to all the things you’re attaching your name to you can be successful.”

The season hung in the balance as they awaited their final score at the regional meet. Dike-New Hartford was secure, but North Linn and Iowa City Regina were tied with the tiebreaker favoring the Regals.

They awaited Rommann, the team’s fifth golfer, to reach the clubhouse. She came in two strokes ahead of the fourth-best score, dropping the team score and breaking the tie.

“It probably wasn’t on the radar for us. It was unexpected,” Hilmer said. “It’s funny. Sometimes you have those expectations and you really think you have a chance then you don’t make it. Sometimes it just creeps up on you and all of a sudden you have a chance you weren’t expecting.

“I thought the girls did a great job. They seized the moment.”

Jessica Franson

Franson has played a big role in the memorable season. Franson has claimed medalist honors in every competition this season. She won the Tri-Rivers Conference title, helping the Lynx to a third-place finish behind Cascade and Monticello, and was first at both postseason meets, leading to state.

She picked up where her sophomore season ended.

“I set goals for myself at the beginning of the season,” Franson said. “I’ve gotten really good sticking to those goals. I just hope to keep improving as I go on. So far, I’m pretty happy with myself and how the season went.”

Hilmer said Franson’s level-headed demeanor gives her an edge on the course. She avoids getting emotional after a bad hole and keeps battling through the round. Franson said she benefits from power off the tee, averaging 235-yard drives.

“My strength is probably my driving,” Franson said. “I like the longer holes, because I know I have an advantage, because I can drive farther.”

Franson’s parents don’t golf and doesn’t live near a course. She was influenced by an aunt at an early age. The love for the game was born.

“I started golfing when I was really young, like at the age of four,” Franson said. “I got the hang of it and I really enjoyed it.”

Franson said she would like to conclude the season with a top-five individual season. Hilmer said no matter what happens in Marshalltown the season has been a great achievement for Franson and the Lynx, encouraging them to have fun.

“We told them this has never happened in school history,” Hilmer said. “We’re really proud of it. We’re going to go down and do the best we can.”

West Branch’s Ashley Finnegan qualified for the 2A state meet individually.

The 1A state tournament will also be held in Marshalltown. HLV and Valley Community qualified as a team. East Buchanan’s Emily Zhiss reached the individual field.

Classes 3A and 4A will be held at Ames Golf and Country Club, starting at noon. Cedar Rapids Xavier makes its second trip to state in three seasons. The Saints, led by Maddie Bertsch and Grace Winker, will contend for a 4A team title. Western Dubuque, led by Rochelle Beardsley, also qualified as a team. Independence’s Mackenzie Black will try to improve her state runner-up finish last year. Black, a senior, tied for ninth as a freshman.

Cascade, Dyersville Beckman and Williamsburg will compete in the 3A tournament. The Blazers’ Brooke Klostermann, South Tama’s Paige Van Dyk and the Cougars’ Aspen Lynch will try for a second consecutive top-10 finish. Klostermann was the 2A runner-up last year and Van Dyk, a regional medalist was fourth in 3A.

The 5A state meet will be at Lake Panorama National Resort in Panora, beginning at 10 a.m. Cedar Rapids Wshington junior M.J. Kamin will make her second straight appearance, while Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Ali Lindo and Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Taylor Utter cap their prep careers with their first trip to state.

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