COOK – North Woods head coach Will Kleppe calls Sam Frazee a student of the game of golf.
The sophomore’s golfing skill and knowledge was front and center this season as he won the Section 7A championship and then tied for 11th at the Class A State Tournament last month.
“He’s a great student of the game and works on things he needs to work on,’’ Kleppe said. “He’s our No. 1 for a reason.’’
For his outstanding season, Frazee has been named the All-Iron Range Boys’ Golfer of the Year by the Mesabi Daily News, Hibbing Daily Tribune and Grand Rapids Herald-Review.
Frazee has spent a lot of time on the golf course since he started in the sport at age 3. His father Jim, a top local golfer, got him started.
The pair to continue to hit the links together on a regular basis and Frazee is able to beat his dad once in a while.
“He’s still a scratch golfer,’’ Frazee said. “He comes out there and kicks me around still.’’
The goal of beating his dad still drives him out on the course.
“That’s a big contributing factor to how much I practice is just to be able to stick it to the man and beat my dad,’’ he joked. “I have to play well to beat him, that’s for sure. He won’t hand it to me easy.’’
Kleppe said Jim Frazee’s role has been huge. All good golfers the coach has had over the years have a parent helping them out and dropping them off at the course (dad Jim and mother Michele) and being patient with them while they are picking up the game. “I think Jim played a huge part in that for Sam. Just making golf accessible for him when he was real young.’’
Asked about the competition between the two, Kleppe said both are left-handed and their swings are mirror images. “I think they like to compete. They like to push each other. I think they have some pretty good battles.’’
Frazee used all of his skills to capture the Section 7A champioinship.
“At sections I played well. I didn’t have many shots I was unhappy with, that’s for sure,’’ despite cold, windy and rainy conditions. “It was really ugly out, but I hit the ball really well and I was able to put up a low score.’’
How was he able to play through such poor conditions?
“I just try not to think about it. The more thinking you do, the bigger hole you’re going to dig.’’
“We had some awful conditions,’’ Kleppe added. Frazee and his Grizzlies teammates dealt with it well and won the Section 7A team title, as well. It’s a good sign that Sam was able to deal with those types of conditions, he added.
That shows how tough Frazee is mentally, as well, the coach stated.
“He did a pretty good job of just keeping that focus the whole time.’’
Frazee wasn’t entirely happy with his state tournament performance, although he improved by seven strokes over last year. “I didn’t hit the ball too well. I was able to make some putts and hit enough good shots to just sneak by. Overall, I’m happy but not thrilled with my state performance.’’
The 16-year-old added that his strong putter play and short game paid dividends at state.
“I would say my putter is one of my strongest suits, so that helps.’’
He was also driving the ball well during the year, but not quite as good at state.
With that in mind, he knows he needs to work on his consistency. “If you can’t be consistent and your game fluctuates all the time, it’s tough to stay at a low handicap.’’
What leads to Frazee’s continued success?
“I think Sam is just steady,’’ Kleppe said. “His short game’s always going to be good. I know his driver wasn’t quite as good as he wanted it down there at Pebble Creek (site of the state tournament).’’
But he has a great mentality for golf, the coach said, and doesn’t get rattled. He takes the game as it comes to him, he added, and deals with good and bad shots the same way. “I think that’s why he does well and why he did well down at state.’’
Frazee’s putting definitely stood out, Kleppe said. “He dropped just some fantastic putts down at the state tournament. Those tend to be some of the fastest greens we see during the season. He did a great job.’’
The short game is always where he’s going to do his best. “His putting at the state tournament demonstrated that. It was just fantastic,’’ the coach said.
As far as Frazee’s progression in general this season, Kleppe said he grew into his swing as he became taller and stronger. “His swing has turned into what it’s really going to be. He just hits the ball a lot farther. He bombs his driver well. He hits his irons long. That’s probably the adjustment he’s had to deal with.’’ Hitting so long gives him opportunities to get birdies and score well.
Frazee add that just spending more time on the golf course led to his success. “A lot more hours out there. This spring I just practiced a lot more than last spring, and it helped.’’
There is no doubt, Frazee will be working on his game this summer. He averages about 100 18-hole rounds of golf each summer.
Frazee believes the extra work will help him get back to state and “have a little bit better of a performance. That’s what I’m shooting for.’’
Another key to improving will be “probably keeping my head stronger and driving accuracy. If I can hit fairways, I’ll be good.’’
As far as the mental part of the game, Frazee can look to Kleppe and his dad.
His coach has helped a lot with the mental aspects of the game, he said. “He’s always there when you’re having a rough round. He’ll come and talk to you and try to cheer you up and that helps a lot.’’
Regarding his dad, “he just taught me a lot about how to keep my head and how to manage the golf course and lots of golf etiquette too. He’s been a big factor.’
Kleppe has no doubt Frazee will improve again next season.
“I think for Sam he’ll be pretty motivated to get into that top 10 and maybe finish in the top five for him I think is definitely a reasonable goal.’’
In addition to Frazee, the 2019 All-Iron Range Boys’ Golf Team includes: Bryce Wainio, Virginia; Cody Stanisich, Eveleth-Gilbert; Elliot Van Orsdel, Eveleth-Gilbert; Ian Olson, North Woods; Chase Kleppe, North Woods; Blake Scofield, North Woods; Davis Kleppe, North Woods; Ty Fabish, North Woods.