Larson and Berg
St. Francis seniors Paige Berg and Emily Larson shared a historic first for their school’s girls’ golf program by qualifying for the state tournament.
They advance to play against the Class 3A field June 11-12 at Bunker Hills Golf Course, furthering a successful sports partnership. Berg and Larson were partners at first doubles for the Saints’ tennis team last fall.
The duo spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about their performances and the drama last week at the Section 7 tournament, making program history and their enduring friendship.
Q: When did you realize you were the first two female golfers to make state in your school’s history?
Emily: We knew that going in. It was our goal to make it and be the first ones.
Q: Your coach, Brent Swaggert, said you barely made the cut for the second day of sections and that you had to make a pretty significant jump to qualify for state.
Paige: The first day I hoped I would make it to the second day but I really didn’t think I was going to. When I did, it was exciting so I went to go practice some more. When Day 2 came around, I just went and played and had fun. And I ended up shooting an 80, which is my personal best.
Q: Coach Swaggert said you made a 40-yard chip-in on the eighth hole. What was that like?
Emily: That made my day. It was funny because I had a great drive but I chunked my second shot. My coach said, ‘Do whatever you think you can do just to get it close.’ As he was walking away, he looked to see it go in. It was great.
Q: So Emily had the chip-in. Did you make any memorable shots?
Paige: On hole No. 1, I was putting for par on the green and it was a downhill slope. It was a hard putt but I ended up sinking a 20-foot-plus putt for par. It gave me a lot of confidence. And then later I was about a foot away from a hole in one on a par-3.
Q: Paige was tied for the final state qualifying spot and had to wait to see if she needed to play a tiebreaker. Were you sweating out the wait with her?
Emily: Yeah, it was scary. Paige was freaking out because she wanted to make it. Our coach told her to go hit balls on the range in case there was going to be a tiebreaker, but I waited inside to see if she made it. So when they announced she made it, I ran out there and was like, ‘Paige you made it!’ It was a good moment.
Q: Getting to state is an exciting thing in its own right. But to do it with Emily, what does that add?
Paige: It brings so much joy. When she told me I made it, we ran toward each other and just started crying.
Q: What are your thoughts about playing Bunker Hills?
Paige: Bunker is always a challenging course because it’s super long. But I haven’t shot too badly there because usually my long shots have been better than my chipping and putting. I think it will be fun.
Emily: Our first actual meet this year was at Bunker, so going into state we will have already played it once. The first time out it was a little difficult but I think it will be good. We know it better and I think we’ll be fine. Nothing we can’t handle, you know?
David La Vaque: