‘I just want to golf’: How a senior from a South Dakota reservation kept his dreams alive

Ask Lance Christensen why he loves golf and he’ll paint you a picture. “It’s such a special game,” the Little Wound senior says, “being outdoors, smelling the fresh-cut grass, birds chirping — all that stuff. I could go on and on.”

That passion — inherited from his father and swing coach, former Bennett County standout Lance Christensen Sr. — comes with a genuine appreciation for the opportunities he has to play.

Hailing from Kyle, a town of about 850 people on the eastern half of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Christensen lives about an hour from the nearest golf course. When he wants to play, he has to drive 49 miles south to Gordon, Nebraska or about 90 miles west towards the Rapid City Area.

“The kid’s like me. We’ll drive anywhere as long as we can golf,” Lance Sr. said of his son, who logged 5,200 miles traveling to meets last year. “When he gets there, there’s that excitement when he steps on the course. That’s one thing I’ve always noticed in raising him. He can’t wait to get that next opportunity.”

Over the years, Christensen’s dedication and passion have melded with his natural ability and relentlessly competitive drive to establish him as one of the state’s elite players.

Last season, he became the second golfer from a reservation school to win an individual state championship in South Dakota history (Corey Jensen, Todd County, Rosebud Reservation, 1998), and the first to do so from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

On Monday, Christensen began his quest to become the first repeat Class A state champion since 2010-11 (Ryan Medhaug, Sisseton), firing an opening round 86 at Southern Hills Golf Course in Hot Springs, his home course.

The Mustang senior has long had his sights on defending his crown, but securing the opportunity to even qualify for state was by no means guaranteed.

In fact, due to the Pine Ridge Reservation’s COVID-19 shelter-in-place order, there were serious doubts if he would even have a senior season at all. But as with everything in life, Christensen met the challenge head-on. He worked with the tribal council on modifying their ordinance so that golf and cross country, as well as a few in-person education and counseling services, could resume.

“There have been a lot of reasons as to why I couldn’t have a season this year,” said Christensen, who competed in his first event on Sept. 10 in Douglas. “(But) I’m not complaining. I got a season, I’m going to the state tournament and I’m ready to go.”

Born to golf

Lance Sr. jokes that he had a golf club in his son’s hands before he could even walk.

The top scorer for Bennett County’s 1988 Class B state champion team, Lance Sr. didn’t start playing until he was a 9th grader. While he came to love the game as a teenager, he feared that if he waited that long to introduce Christensen to the game, he may find it boring. So, Lance Sr. said, whenever he went golfing, he brought his son

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By: David Song
Title: ‘I just want to golf': How a senior from a South Dakota reservation kept his dreams alive
Sourced From: golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/10/07/golf-south-dakota-reservation-state-championship/
Published Date: Wed, 07 Oct 2020 15:49:12 +0000

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