If the goal is to make the annual Norfolk High School girls golf invite a preview of the Class A state tournament, this year's version accomplished that. It's a fitting endeavor, considering the Panthers' home course — the Norfolk Country Club — has hosted state for most of the past decade.
At Thursday's invite, the competition was there. Now, if only the weather — near-perfect conditions with high temperatures and little wind — could stick around for another 3½ weeks.
Millard North, led by a trio of top-10 golfers, edged Papillion-La Vista by two shots for the team championship. Defending state bronze medalist Kate Strickland of Lincoln Southwest fired a 73 for top medalist honors.
“Eleven of the top 12 teams are here,” Norfolk coach Lance Kosch said. “When you talk about a preview of state, it's a tough tournament. I'd say it's the toughest tournament there is in the state with the field that we have.”
As a team, Norfolk was 11th with a 404. The Panthers were led by three-year No. 1 player Kylie Blume, who carded an 89 to finish in 13th place.
Paxton Peters posted a 101, state qualifier Leah Vanderheiden followed at 106 and Mia Bertus added a 108. But for the host Panthers, Kosch said Thursday's tournament was more about the team continuing its season-long improvement.
“They're each bringing their scores down a few shots here and there,” he said. “Based on what I'm seeing today, they each, for the most part, shot a little bit below their season average.
“That's good to see the improvement, especially on a tough golf course like this, even though it's our home course. It's still a long, tough golf course.”
As for Blume, the junior said one hole was all that separated her from placing even higher on her home course.
“I think I need to start working on my second shots, and I can get my score lower once I start getting better at that. The rest of my game is pretty solid right now,” she said. “It bummed me out not shooting what I know I could've shot, but it made me pretty happy that I shot in the 80s.”
“It's about where she averages,” Kosch said about Blume's round. “She made a big number with about three holes to go. ... I don't think she realizes how good of a score she shot but really what she could've shot.”
In contrast, one of her playing partners was Strickland, who posted an even par 36 on the front nine. That led to Thursday's invite also representing a challenge issued to Blume.
“I'm pretty comfortable being No. 1 and playing with other girls who are also No. 1,” she said. “It motivates me more (competing against No. 1s) because I want to shoot what they're shooting, for sure, but I know I have to work harder and practice a lot more than what I am right now.”
Team scores: Millard North 346, Papillion-La Vista 348, Lincoln Southwest 351, Lincoln Pius X 360, Kearney 367, Grand Island 375, Elkhorn South 378, Omaha Westside 378, Omaha Marian 379, Lincoln East 387, Norfolk 404, Fremont 413, Millard West 416, Papillion-La Vista South 417, Columbus 419.
Top 10 individuals: 1. Kate Strickland, LSW, 73; 2. Kaitlyn Hanna, OWS, 76; 3. Brynn Sundquist, LSW, 76; 4. Coco Kolbas, LPX, 80; 5. Elly Speece, PLV, 81; 6. Katie Ruge, MN, 82; 7. Lauren Carr, LPX, 84; 8. Sydney Taake, PLV, 84; 9. Jazmine Taylor, MN, 85; 10. Malainey Wiemers, MN, 87.
Norfolk individuals: Kylie Blume, 89; Leah Vanderheiden, 106; Paxton Peters, 101; Mia Bertus, 108; Kyla Robinson, 120.