Three Class B girls golf state tournaments, three state championships.
And Emily St. Aubin still has three high school seasons to play.
The South Border sophomore, who attends Ashley High School, took the Class B girls golf world by storm as a seventh-grader in 2016 and has continued to play at a high level.
Last year, St. Aubin became the first North Dakota Class B girls golfer to capture three consecutive state championships, and the third to win three titles overall. She joined other three-time winners Heidi Sheldon of Park River (1992, 1993 and 1995) and Sara Berglund of Hazen (1997, 2000 and 2001).
This spring St. Aubin has her sights set on becoming the first North Dakota golfer to win four state championships, but Mother Nature is keeping her and other high school golfers throughout North Dakota from getting started. There have been no tournaments for the South Border team, thus far, and practice has been hindered by snow cover on the Ashley course. Last week, another 7.5 inches of snow blanketed the south central community. Many other courses in the eastern half of the state are in the same boat.
It is frustrating, but St. Aubin understands that it is something that one can expect in North Dakota.
“We can expect to be cold or wet at the start of the season. Sometimes we get lucky and get great weather, but in years like this we just have to be patient and wait it out,” she said. “We know the snow is going to go away sometime and hopefully the courses will be ready soon. We’re all anxious to get going.”
St. Aubin’s first varsity season concluded with her first state championship. After averaging 90 strokes per outing during the regular season, the then seventh-grader shot an 80 in the first round of the state tournament and a 78 in the second. The surprise victory put a huge target on her back, but St. Aubin responded with championship performances in 2017 and 2018, winning both by no less than six strokes. As an eighth-grader, she put together rounds of 80 and 75 for a two-day total of 155. Last year, she shot a 76 in the second round and finished with a 157.
“The first championship was a huge surprise. I remember going in and just hoping to make the top 10,” St. Aubin said. “But I was tied for the lead after the first day, and suddenly I had this tremendous opportunity before me. I had a very good second round and won the tournament.
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"Obviously there is pressure that comes with being a state champion. There is lots of pressure to repeat, but I’ve tried not to think about that. I’ve always tried to take it one shot at a time and if I win, great. If not, I try to learn from it and focus on the next tournament. That philosophy has carried me through the last couple of years.”
Although she has three state championships to her credit, St. Aubin said she is approaching this season like she is chasing her first title.
“It was unbelievable what’s happened the last three years, but this is a new year and the goal is to finish at the top again,” she said. “I’m a competitor and I love a high level of competition. It’s a great feeling when you win against good competition.”
St. Aubin said she is where she is today because of the extra hours she puts into golf during the offseason. In addition to practicing on her home course, she competes in a number of Dakota Junior Golf Association tournaments in the summer. DJGA tournaments give her the opportunity to compete against golfers from the Class A ranks. St. Aubin also plays in several out-of-state tournaments.
“It’s so cool playing in those tournaments,” she said. “I've learned so much, and experiences like that have made me stronger mentally.
St. Aubin said there is always room for improvement, even for a three-time state champion. This season, she expects to hit the ball better with her driver.
“I always had trouble hitting with my driver. I usually hit with a 4-iron or 7-iron off the tee,” she said. “I spent a lot of time working on that and I think I’m finally starting to figure it out. I expect to be a little better at that this year.”
The golfer that finished second behind St. Aubin in each of the last two state tournaments, Lauren Cain of Fargo Oak Grove, graduated. Still, seven of the other top-10 finishers in last year’s tournament return. They are Leah Vikander of Kindred (tie, third place), Brooke Peterson of Bowman County (tie-third), Katie Keator of Heart River (fifth), Ainsley McLain of Grafton (sixth), Malia Cunningham-Hauck of Beach (seventh), Campbell Clarys of Heart River (eighth), and Karlee Schmitt of Hazen (10th).
“Every year, the competition has gotten tougher and tougher. There are so many good golfers back from last year and I know they’re all going to be better,” St. Aubin said. “That’s why I try to get in as much practice as I can. Hard work does pay off."