Don’t look now, but the Fertile-Beltrami boys’ golf program is becoming a perennial power in Section 8A.

After sending two individuals to state two years ago, the first time any individuals from Fertile-Beltrami had gone in a quarter-century, the boys went as a team in 2018 and finished sixth overall. This spring, they went back, and tied for third.

With only Shaun Gullekson graduating, Head Coach Keith Pederson said his squad, which will feature four seniors (Grant Wilson, Caleb Swenby, Cort Christianson and Grant Balstad), a sophomore (Rylin Petry), and an eighth-grader (Masen Nowacki), will be looking to take the state title in 2020.

“That was the goal as soon as we got done (at state this year),” Pederson, in his 12th year as coach, tells the Times. “They said ‘Let’s come back and win it all next spring.’”

Pederson credits Sand Hill River Golf Course in Fertile as helping lead to the growth of the Fertile-Beltrami golf programs. Before the course was built years back, previous golf teams had to travel to find courses to practice on.

“It’s a great course for them to learn on,” Pederson says. “The guys are there all the time. It makes it fun to get out and play as much as they do and not have to travel 20 miles.” Mahnomen, Bagley or Fosston at one time was “always a little better than us,” he said. But with the Fertile-Beltrami boys winning the Section 8A title by 58 strokes in 2018 and 54 strokes this spring, it appears the tide has turned.

“We’re going to be really experienced coming back next year,” Pederson says. “Most of the kids have been on varsity for years. I think they can handle the higher expectations, and the seniors know they have one more run at it.”

The community has rallied around the team, too. They were sent off to state in style, and when they returned with their third place plaque, the main downtown street was lined with cheering supporters.