Native Golfer Makes Collegiate History
Laramie Keplin has some mixed emotions about the fact he made a bit of history.
The 20-year-old, a member of North Dakota's Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, became the first athlete from the United Tribes Technical College (UTTC) to qualify for the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II golf tournament.
Keplin competed at the national event, which was staged May 20-23 in Plymouth, Indiana. But he was somewhat disappointed in his efforts at the tournament, as he finished in a tie for 94th place out of 126 golfers.
Keplin finished the event 40 strokes above par, after shooting rounds of 81, 82, 80 and 85. "After Day one, I wasn't discouraged because I still had 54 holes to play," Keplin said. "Good golfers don't usually play like that two days in a row. But, I played poorly four days in a row; I just couldn't get anything going."
Keplin did have a valid excuse. He had not competed in a tournament since last October, when he won a regional event, earning a spot into the national championship.
Following a harsh North Dakota winter, Keplin only had two and a half weeks of practice rounds to prepare for the Indiana tournament. And UTTC coach Ray Helphrey had an inkling that Keplin's lack of competition and practice in recent months would create some adversity for his athlete at the nationals. "I knew his scores would be a little higher than those he had during the [fall] season," Helphrey said.
Helphrey, who was in his first season of coaching at UTTC, said he could not take any credit for recruiting Keplin. "When I got here he was already enrolled at the school," he said. "I knew who he was through local tournaments in the state. I was a little bit excited to have him on the team."
Helphrey, a member of North Dakota's Three Affiliated Tribes, had competed in the national tourney twice himself, back in 1994 and 1995, when he attended Bismarck State College.
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