Cloquet’s Sheff seeks best round for last
When asked what the best part of her golf game was, Arica Sheff immediately said it was her driver.
Sheff, a left-handed Cloquet senior, is looking to drive herself to the Class AAA state golf meet in June, the ultimate goal in her final high school season in a sport the 17-year-old has practically been playing since birth.
“I can’t remember when I started — a long time ago,” said Sheff. “Pretty much ever since I could hold a club, my dad had me swinging it.”
Arica said her father, John (one of the town’s most well-known and decorated golfers ever) has had a major influence in teaching his youngest child the game. Both members at the Cloquet Country Club, Arica noted she and her dad golf together often in the summer.
“We’ve even gone to Iowa in the spring before,” Arica Sheff said. “We play all the time.”
Playing isn’t difficult for the Sheff family. Living on Country Club Drive — several hundred feet from the first hole’s tee box — Arica, her older brother, Evan, Dad and Mom, Patti, all play golf.
Golf has been hard to play this spring, but that hasn't slowed down Sheff. As the Cloquet-Esko cooperative program’s low scorer last season, according to Coach Sue Northey, the 5-foot-2 Sheff has done her best to improve her skills, including her consistently accurate, down-the-middle drive.
“She’s been golfing a long time,” Northey said of Sheff, a varsity golfer since eighth grade with talent on the fairways as well as around and on the greens. “She understands the game well and works her way around the golf course. She’s solid.”
Indeed. Despite limited action this season at both Pine City and Superior, Sheff is currently tied for first atop the Lake Superior Conference girls standings and was expected to win the title at her home course Wednesday as this edition of the Pine Journal went to press.
It’s been a challenging season due to the weather. Northey’s nine-member team of all Cloquet girls has only been on the driving range twice to practice — and to Veterans Park on one occasion. The 14-man Lumberjack boys have had just as much trouble finding playable grass.
“The boys played two holes and they pulled everybody off the course,” said Cloquet-Esko boys Coach Jon Horbacz of Monday’s meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, just their second official event. “I think this year is worse than last. It’s tough for [the kids], especially the seniors. They’ve had it two years in a row.”
Seniors like Sheff, however, are poised for the upcoming postseason. With experienced teammates Rachel Morrison, Kaitlyn Litke, Libby Colt and Amber Reed, Sheff will look to lead the Lumberjacks into the Section 7AAA meet in Hinckley later this month.
A year ago at sections, Northey remembered Sheff shooting a 39 on the front nine before suffering a blow-up hole that placed her only several strokes from the final day. This last time around, though, Sheff is seeking to play her best.
“She’s the hardest working player on the team,” said junior Rachel Morrison. “It’s her senior year and she’s trying to get to State. We’re going to support her to get there. She definitely has the potential.”
Especially if her favorite driver is going down the middle, much like her father’s at a much-longer 300-plus yards per swing.
“I got it from him, I guess,” said Arica Sheff with a laugh. “I love golf. It’s a sport that I can play with my family.”
Family ties are also common in nearby Moose Lake-Willow River, as the Rebels rely on the brother trio of Grant, Gabe and Gavin Douglas. The senior, junior and eighth-grader are tough to match.
Speaking of matches, ML-WR has been luckier than most. According to Coach Steve Mokros, his program has played at Rush City, Isle and also at Aitkin Monday evening.
“It was very wet,” admitted Mokros, “but we feel fortunate.”
A fortunate season may be in store for the Section 7AA Rebels, which were battling for the Great River Conference championship in Cambridge, Minn., Wednesday as this edition of the Pine Journal went to press.
Mokros also explained that the Moose Lake Golf Course, on which they have practiced just three times, is “looking pretty good.”
That’s not the case for Barnum, however, as their home course of 29 Pines in Mahtowa was still too wet to play, even after the Bombers had a five-hour cleanup practice Saturday, according to Coach Cullen Franek.
Franek noted southern events in Hinckley and Cambridge have helped, although Monday’s meet in Isle was rained out. The Section 7A team has even traveled to Rush City along with ML-WR earlier in the spring and did the same Wednesday when heading to the conference championships.
“Everybody is in the same boat,” said Franek of busing with their conference rivals. “Whenever, wherever, we can go and play, we’ll go.”
Like Barnum, Wrenshall will be going into the Section 7A meet next Tuesday in Virginia, and has only played one nine-hole meet in Hinckley thus far. They had a practice in Rush City but, according to Coach James Johnson, the Wrens have only played a couple holes at their home course of Pine Hill in Carlton.
“Other than that, we haven’t been outside,” Johnson said Monday.
Johnson said his team of five golfers — featuring no seniors — will be in action at Two Harbors Friday, playing on the Agates course off the shores of Lake Superior.
“It’ll be windy and a little chilly,” said Johnson “but we have to get outside and hit some balls off the grass. Our season is running out of time here.”