Keeping calm: how a North Star golfer turned heads at State
CANDO – Being a multi-sport athlete was nothing new to Elle Nicholas in the slightest. If anything, it was almost a sense of normalcy as the sophomore juggled classwork with volleyball and, eventually, basketball as the season began to inch closer.
A gymnasium, however, was not the only place the sophomore was used to inhabiting. After all, when Nicholas was not in a classroom or practice, she was out on the fairway putting in valuable tee time.
In addition to being a 5’10” middle blocker for the North Star volleyball team, Nicholas was also one of two golfers on the girls’ golf team.
Although Nicholas the volleyball player was sitting comfortably in the driver’s seat, Nicholas the golfer had a problem. Because volleyball practice took place right after school ended, there was little time to find consistent putting time. As a result, Nicholas was forced to practice at other times.
“We did not really have practice because of volleyball and dual-sporting, but I went out with a couple of friends once or twice a week to play nine holes,” Nicholas said. “It was all for fun. Then, I went to meets once a week.”
No matter. If anything, it was a challenge in need of acceptance.
And so, Nicholas went out and conquered.
Not only did Nicholas find time to make the best of both worlds, but she even found enough stride to power her way to the Class B Girls State Golf Tournament in Carrington on Sep. 27-28. Once the smoke cleared, Nicholas finished the tournament in seventh with an overall score of 161.
“The first day I went, I was like, I am here and am going to play my best,” Nicholas said. “So, I was just going to do my best. I shot my 77, and then I golfed with Ainsley McLain. She is a very good golfer. I got to golf with her every meet this year, so I found out I got to golf with her that second day. So, I told myself I was going to keep it together and try to back up my 77 the best I could and stay in the top 10.”
Chad Staus, the North Star’s girls’ golf coach, has known Nicholas since she was born. From his time in competitive golf to mentoring fellow golfers, Staus has seen many different spectacles in need of recognition.
In Staus’s mind, Nicholas’s tenacity and ability to remain strong from start to finish counts as one of the better performances he has seen.
“It was pretty special,” Staus said. “I have coached for 10 years. My daughter went through that. She had been to state quite a bit, but to play at that level, it was a special moment to get into that final group and hold it together. It is competitive. There are some pretty good golfers out there that we saw…the round she shot on the first day was a career-best by a mile, and to back that up…I play competitive golf, and it is hard to back that up two days in a row, especially because there are TV crews out there, and people are taking pictures at every angle and people walking behind you and in front of you. So, just trying to stay mentally focused is tough. I have been there and done that. It is really hard. I could not have been prouder.”
Although Nicholas finished seventh, she showed the ability to even straddle within the top five during specific stretches. After the first day of the tournament, Nicholas finished with a score of 77, which ranked third and was within four strokes of McClain, a junior golfer from Grafton. Grafton finished four strokes better than Nicholas (73) and eventually finished a pair of strokes short of first (146). Kindred's Avery Bartels finished first (145).
Nevertheless, Nicholas maintained composure. Even still, Nicholas had to adapt from the team-oriented volleyball setting to the individualized golfing atmosphere.
“For the individual sport, I need to keep myself reigned in,” Nicholas said. “Going to volleyball games and the day after, I need to keep everyone else up and still worry about myself. In golf, it is just me, and I just need to do what I need to do.”
Although Nicholas remained poised during the tournament trip, she was able to be more relaxed with a support group around her.
Luckily for Nicholas, she received exactly that, whether from passing good luck messages from classmates and teachers to a collection of people who went along for the trip.
“We had a group down there watching,” Staus said. “The girls’ basketball coach came down here, and she walked with us the second day. My daughter golfs for Valley City, and she was on her way back from a meet in Bismarck, so she spent Monday night into Tuesday morning with us. She was not able to play golf, but she hung out with Elle because Elle was all alone.”
Whether it be from her support to her coach passing along pointers when needed, Nicholas remained steadfast.
To Staus, this is who Nicholas is while on the course.
“I walked with her there the whole time for both rounds. Her personality is flat and dry, with not a lot of highs and lows. I do not get excited, and she does not get excited, so you just try to keep that in check. Even if you are, you just do not show it. She would be a good poker player.”
With another golf season in the books, Nicholas now looks forward to volleyball and basketball. But, even when Nicholas takes another swing or two, it will be with the same mindset that helped her achieve tournament success in the first place.
To Nicholas, this mindset revolves around keeping it loose. For Nicholas, this means thinking of every tournament as one where she and her friends play for fun.
In other words, this goes par for the course.
“The friends I golf with, we just get along really good,” Nicholas said. “We are always together, we make fun of each other, and it is really laid back with them. In golf meets, I sometimes think about it and say I am there for fun. I just compete like that.”