HIBBING — A high school golf team usually consists of six players, with four of those scores used to determine a team score.
If one player has a bad day, then someone else can step it up and contribute to the final tally.
In 1990, the Hibbing High School girls golf team wasn’t blessed with a six-player team, but that didn’t stop the Bluejackets from advancing to state.
The team of Marcy Savage, Karina Isaacs, Kelly Greaton and Raquel Svigel didn’t need those two extra players.
They shot well enough to get Hibbing to state for the first time since 1983.
Savage, who was a freshman on that 1990 team, was the teams’ top player. She placed sixth at the regional meet, and Isaacs made it individually as well.
“What made that special is that we only had four individuals on the team,” Savage said. “Mr. (Peter) Bolf had mentioned Sherry Greiner, who was the last female golfer from Hibbing to make it to state since 1983.”
The Bluejacket girls practiced at the Hibbing Municipal Golf Course, and when Savage got to the ninth tee, she would take a detour before she got to the green.
“Many of my friends were on the softball team,” Savage said. “I know I would hit a drive across the road just to go visit with my friends. I rarely sliced the ball, so that was a fun little shot to try and see my friends.”
Savage said she and Greaton were always joking around.
“I can only imagine how annoying we must have been,” Savage said. “I do remember laughing with Kelly, but I have no idea what we did. I do remember her driving me to practice.
“She was an excellent driver, and I’m not referring to her off-the-tee abilities. I remember riding in the car with her was always interesting.”
Even Bolf noticed the relationship Savage and Greaton had together.
“He said, ‘Marcy and Kelly always loosen up by joking around,’” Savage said. “He also said, ‘That we have good attitudes, and they’re an easy group to coach. They like to relax themselves and have a lot of fun.’”
At state, Savage said she was nervous on the first hole, but once she got off the tee, her nerves settled down.
That’s when her golfing instincts took over.
“I would tend to sing songs in my head while waiting to hit my shots,” Savage said. “Looking back, I should have thought about my next shot, and where I wanted to hit it. State was a little different than typical meets.
“Many of the girls were quiet and concentrating on their game. Maybe I should have done that. There wasn’t much thought process in my shot selection.”
Case in point: “If I hit it into the woods, I would look for daylight ahead,” Savage said. “I do remember playing an entire hole in another fairway, then I hit the ball over the trees to the green during one of the state meets.”
The goal in 1990 was top three, but Hibbing placed fourth.
“I didn’t know the champion (Nikki Ross of Burnsville), but I did know the runner up (Angie Ause of Red Wing),” Savage said. “We would later meet each other at the University of Minnesota and become friends.
“I also met Tricia Wollack (of Hermantown/Proctor). She also played at Minnesota. She was in her last year when I came in as a freshman.”
One shot, in particular, sticks out in Savage’s mind.
“I hit a drive up and over the trees, completely cutting the hole,” Savage said. “There was a stream that I missed and it ended up on the edge of the rough. I put the next shot on the green, and hopefully, I 2-putted, but I don’t remember the complete hole.
“I remember hitting a lucky drive over the woods. I never played with the thought in my head, ‘What if I missed?’ I think I was the Tin Cup of the team. I was either on, playing out of my mind, with no game plan, or off, struggling to get out of the woods.”
Course management never crossed Savage’s mind.
“I never thought about it,” Savage said. “I had heard Mr. Bolf and Mr. Hattam talk about course management, but it never occurred to me to think about, ‘What if I miss a shot, and where I would like to be or not to be?’
“I always wanted to hit the ball as hard as I could.”
It was that trip to the state that started a tradition of dining at the Olive Garden, with assistant coach Craig Hattam.
“He was always good to us girls,” Savage said. “I enjoyed staying in the hotel without my parents around. I remember waking up early in the morning for breakfast. I was never a fan of getting up early in the morning for golf.
“I never liked playing with dew on the grass.”
In 1991, Savage, Svigel, Greaton and Isaacs all returned. They were joined by Christie Westlund.
Westlund was a freshman that season. It would be her first appearance at state, and Savage tried to prepare her for the experience.
“That was incredible,” Westlund said. “I remember being in awe of the course. Marcy warned me about the incredible amount of Canadian geese all over the course, and to be aware of them as they will attack (as she found out).”
Westland also had a not-so-pleasant experience that season.
“I was standing directly perpendicular from a girl hitting the ball,” Westlund said. “She shanked it, nailing me in the shin. My bruise developed immediately, including the dimples on the ball.
“To this day, I stay behind the person hitting, just in case.”
Westlund didn’t start playing golf until the seventh-grade.
“I had an aunt in California, who was a semi-pro,” Westlund said. “She was so excited that I was taking up the sport that she sent me her old set of clubs. The irons were Palm Springs, and they fit me well.
“She was a tall lady, and I was tall, too, so they were a perfect fit.”
Westlund remembers hitting those practice waffle balls in the Lincoln Gym, under the watchful eye of Craig Hattam.
She also remembers the outdoor practices at the country club.
“We would play 7/11,” Westlund said. “If you weren’t on the green by seven, you picked up your ball and put it on the green. If you weren’t in the hole by 11, you were done. We didn’t play that way in meets, but that’s how a lot of practices went in my first year.”
Savage would go on to win the Section 7AA title that season.
One shot stands out.
“I’ve hit some crazy, lucky shots,” Savage said. “At regions, I was so amazed that I actually found a ball as it was embedded in the ground. I drove the ball over the trees to cut the hole in terrible conditions.
“I knew then I was probably going to win a regional championship after that hole. I was striking the ball well, and it was going where I wanted it to go.”
At state, Savage was seeded at the top with Allyssa Herron, who was Tim “Lumpy” Herron’s younger sister. He played on the PGA Tour for a number of seasons.
“I remember playing with her, and her family following us around the course,” Savage said. “I remember them laughing as I skipped a ball across one of the ponds. I was happy that it made it across to the other side.
“I also hit a ball into a water hazard that day. Nothing was going my way. Shot-after-shot, I was in trouble.”
Savage also remembers the conversations she had with Herron.
“I remember telling Allyssa, ‘Open your eyes. You’re missing a heck of a game,’” Savage said. “That was after she sunk a putt from about 10-feet off of the green, uphill. She won state that year.
“She was making unreal shots. I think she chipped in several times during her round. Maybe I was a bit too concerned about what she was doing as I think I was all over the place. I was hitting the ball into the woods on probably every hole. I knew she was going to win it.”
In 1992, Savage and Westlund were the only two players on the team, and they both advanced to state as individuals.
In 1993, Hibbing picked up Lindsay Huusko, Jessica Jandro, Jamie Westlund, Christy’s sister, and Alyssa Pusateri.
“We had two sisters, which was cool,” Savage said. “I played with Lindsay and Harold (Lauber) during the summer.”
Hibbing would go on to win the Hibbing Invite at the Mesaba Country Club that season.
The Bluejackets would go on to win the Section 7AA Meet as well, then they placed in three-way tie for second at state.
“I had some rough holes to end on,” Savage said. “I went double bogey, bogey, bogey to end my career. That’s not the way you would want to finish a round at state when you know you’re in the running.
“I believe Kelly tied with me, so that was appropriate as we were back-and-forth during the year. She was a great golfer, and would go on to play at college, too.”
Westlund finished third in the region and 14th at state. Savage would tie Kelly Kerwin of Grand Rapids for the section title that season at the Purple Hawk Golf Course in Cambridge, then she placed second at state.
“That was a special year for me,” Savage said. “It was my final year, and I remember having more confidence at state, thinking I belonged there. I had a good sason. I remember being interviewed by a local TV station as their Athlete of the Week.
“I believe I was even ranked in state prior to the tournament.”
Hibbing would be taking an inexperienced team to state.
“It was the first year Lindsay, Alyssa, Jessica and Jamie had attended a state tournament,” Westlund said. “They placed respectively among the other participants. We had a good team, but we were always competing against Grand Rapids.
“We stuck with it and in the end, when the pressure was on, we managed to beat them and go to state. We battled them at every tournament. We would win, or they would win. They had two players that were hand-in-hand with Marcy and I. It was fun to have that competition. We pulled through in the end.”
Hibbing placed fifth as a team.
“It was exhausting as we were not used to playing in the heat and getting up for a two-day tournament, with a lot of pressure that you place on yourself to do well,” Savage said. “State was fun, but I always missed out on the last days of school, saying goodbye to friends.
“State always seemed to be played during a heat wave, or maybe it was my nerves as I felt it was always hot and humid.”
Savage would go on to play at the University of Minnesota, but some of her best memories were playing at Hibbing High School.
“We had two great coaches that loved the sport,” Savage said. “They were good to us girls. Mr. Bolf and Mr. Hattam were great individuals. They had high expectations on and off the course.
“They allowed us to have fun, but they always made sure that we learned to respect the rules of the game as well as being respectable people off the course. They made it a point to be professional. I was thankful to have them as coaches as well as role models.”
Those three teams put Hibbing on the map as far as golf was concerned.
“No one I ever played with had heard of Hibbing,” Savage said. “Players would say, ‘Hibbing. Where’s that?’ I would have to explain to them where Duluth was, and most of them would know about that.
“Their reactions would be like, ‘Wow, that’s really far. Is there anything fun to do there?’ I would talk about snowmobiling and four-wheeling, which is exactly what girls from the Twin Cities country clubs were interested in. I was different.”
Different in the fact that Savage didn’t grow up on the Mesaba Country Club. She played at the Hibbing Municipal Golf Course.
“I hated golf shoes and collared shirts,” Savage said. “I still do. I wear flip-flops to golf in. I wore them in college, too. Maybe that explains my college career better.”
Savage’s golf clubs represented the kind of player she became.
“Not many people played with home-built clubs,” Savage said. “Many players would look at my clubs and ask me what kind they were. I would say, ‘I don’t know? Some guy in Kelly Lake made them for me.’
“Then I would say, ‘They are a pretty red-wood color, don’t you think?’ Then I’d say, ‘I hit them really high.’ I know my golf coach at Minnesota actually laughed at my clubs. He couldn’t believe I actually played them.”
Savage had an outstanding career as a Bluejacket, but there was one reason why she decided to play golf.
“It was the ability to be out of school and sitting on a beautiful course somewhere on the Iron Range,” Savage said. “What’s not to love about getting out of school early, to lay on your bag, soaking up the sun, while waiting for the next group to move off of the green.
“I can’t think of a better way to spend the day.”
Westlund would go on to receive the Evans Scholarship, which is a golf caddy award, after her senior season in 1994.
A total of 14 people in Minnesota received that scholarship.
“It paid full tuition and housing for the four years of my undergraduate degree at Minnesota,” Westlund said. “I didn’t have a choice in the college I could attend, but I couldn’t replace the camaraderie and networking I got out of the Evans Scholars for anything.
“I’m thankful to Craig Hattam, Peter Bolf and the many members of the Mesaba Country Club for helping me get that scholarship.”
Savage said it was a sense of pride representing the school and city at the state meet.
“I know myself, as well as my friends, when you made it to state, you wanted to beat the Twin Cities teams,” Savage said “There’s a big advantage growing up in the Twin Cities, with all of the opportunities and amenities that it affords people.
“Everyone has expectations to do better each year. That was my focus at the time. Everyone has that dream of being No. 1 in the state.”