Emma Kangas has been a member of the Rogers girls golf program since she was in eighth grade. Now she’s a senior, and just helped her team clinch a trip to the state tournament for the first time in school history.
“This is my fifth season on the team and it’s always been a goal that I never knew if we would reach,” she explained. “To have it all, kind of have the cards lay out in the best way possible my last year, without even expecting it really in the season is a dream come true.”
Kangas and the Royals had high hopes of making it to state a year ago, but came up just short. It was hard to deal with that disappointment, so she decided to take a different approach for her senior season. Instead of focusing on trying to win every meet, she was going to focus on having fun and enjoying the final season she had with her teammates.
And sure enough, the moment she turned her focus away from winning, she started playing some of the best golf of her carrier.
“Golf’s a funny game that way, it’s all mental,” she explained. “So the more you’re relaxed the better you play, and I think that’s made a huge difference this year.”
While it may play a big role, having fun and playing relaxed isn’t the only reason why Kangas’ senior year has gone so well. She also put in a lot of work perfecting the areas of her game she struggled with the most.
She spent a lot of time jumping between the junior varsity and varsity teams during her freshman, sophomore, and junior seasons, and she never let that bother her. Instead, she kept her head down and worked on her putting/approach game, which she claimed she used to be terrible at.
Today is a different story, though, as it’s now her short game that’s leading to some of the lowest scores she has ever shot.
“Short game is my favorite, for sure, which is unusual for girls, especially in high school,” the senior said. “They like to drive long, but I’ve always liked to chip and putt. That definitely helped, and I think that made the difference too in my score the second day.”
After the first day of the Section 5AAA tournament, Kangas had the second lowest score on her team with an 88. And while the Royals were sitting in first place after the first day, it was only by four strokes. That’s not a lot as one player can either make up or drop those strokes quickly, so she knew there was still a lot of work to be done.
She returned with her teammates for Day 2 of the tournament on June 1, and she was determined to do her part in getting the Royals to state for the first time. Kangas ended up shooting a team-low 84 the second day, and her total score of 172 was the seventh lowest in the section, which meant she would have had a good chance to go to state as an individual, even if her team didn’t make it as a whole.
“We had better conditions the second day, nice and sunny,” she gave as reasons why she played so well the second day of the tournament. “I had a very good round on a very similar day earlier in the season, which gave me a little bit of confidence. Then, just preparing the day before. Working on the things that I knew I would need.”
Kangas graduated from Rogers High School on Thursday, June 8, and will be done with the state tournament on June 14. There is not a lot of time remaining in her high school career, but she is ready for her next chapter.
She’ll be attending North Dakota State University in the fall to pursue a degree in biology on a premed track. And while collegiate golf hasn’t been part of the plan up to this point, she may still change her mind.
“Haven’t really planned on golfing there before, but I register the day after the state tournament, so it might be a good talking point with the coach,” she said with a big grin on her face. “We’ll see.”