Viking girls close season in Hinckley Gomes leads NB golfers at sections

The North Branch girls golf team concluded its season at the Section 7AAA tournament at Grand National Golf Club on Saturday, May 31, during the first round of play on a stormy day in Hinckley. The Vikings, who scored a 451 on the day, took ninth place of the 11 teams that fought the rain and lightning delays, including a two-hour delayed start.

Andover, Elk River and Forest Lake led the pack after round one, respectively, and moved on to the final round.. Andover would eventually win the section title with a combined score of 663, followed by Forest Lake with a 678.

Senior Hannah Gomes led North Branch with a score of 103, good for a tie for 33rd place of 60 golfers at the event. Gomes earned a 48 on the front nine.

Eighth-grader Natalie Olinske recorded the second-best score for the Vikings with a 112, followed by junior Janice Elkerton with a 114.

After recording a 69 on the front nine, junior Grace DeVault bounced back on the back nine to score a 53 to round out the scoring for the Vikings.

Senior Emily Carlson (127) and junior Sandy Fernow (13) also competed for North Branch in Hinckley.

Two days earlier, the Vikings competed in the final Mississippi 8 Conference meet of the year for the east division, also at Grand National Golf Club.

North Branch placed fourth of five teams with a score of 434. St. Francis took first with a 361, beating out the runner-up, Cambridge-Isanti, by 49 strokes.

Olinske led the Vikings with a season-best score of 105, while Elkerton shot a 106. Gomes and Carlson capped the team, scoring at 109 and 114, respectively.

Head coach Dave Ambers said Olinske’s best score was the highlight of the final conference showing.

“The performance by Natalie Olinske was the best thing that came out of this meet,” Ambers said. “She’s a confident young golfer who’s continued to improve during the season. I’m confident that her game will continue to get even better with more experience.”

The final conference (east) standings, which are determined by points earned throughout the season, are St. Francis (62), Cambridge-Isanti (49), Princeton (20), North Branch (14) and Chisago Lakes (12).

As for the section meet, Ambers said he was content with how his team competed in its final meet of the year.

“I was proud of how the girls competed, despite the conditions and delays,” Ambers said. “And I was very happy for Hannah and Grace. Hannah led her team in her final event for North Branch High School and Grace had her best nine (52) and her first two – a birdie on hole 15.”

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