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John’s Journal: For Pierz Pioneers, Golf Is A Family Affair

17 Golfers And Two Coaches Are Related

Posted: Tuesday, May 11, 2021 - 3:15 PM

Jessica LeBlanc didn’t grow up in a golfing family, but when she picked up the game as a Pierz High School sophomore, she started something that has taken on a life of its own … and an extended family to match.

Jessica, who teaches math and coaches the girls golf team at Pierz High School, is the oldest of eight kids. All of her siblings also became golfers and were good enough to earn all-conference honors.

“It became a family thing, and it branched out to cousins and in-laws,” LeBlanc said. “Golf is such a family thing.”

That would be a good team motto for the Pioneers: Golf is such a family thing.

The Pioneers girls and boys teams include 17 golfers and two coaches who are related. That includes 12 first cousins.

(All these golfers and coaches are related. Back row: Braden LeBlanc, Jacob LeBlanc, Kaylee Gruber, Addie LeBlanc, Coach Beth Fischer, Coach Jessie LeBlanc, Ellie Fischer, Tiffany Virnig, Emily Virnig, Jack Byker, Bryce LeBlanc. Front row: Joleen Weyer, Joelle Young, Melany Virnig, Avery Gruber, Kari LeBlanc, Macey LeBlanc, Kylie Virnig, Brittney Gruber, Whitney LeBlanc.)

Three of Jessica’s kids are on the team: Addy is a sophomore and twins Bryce and Braden are in eighth grade. Whitney LeBlanc is in sixth grade, meaning she is too young to be a high school golfer, “but she’s at practice because she has no place else to go,” said her mother with a laugh.

LeBlanc’s sister, Beth Fischer, coaches junior high golfers and Fischer’s daughter Ellie is a member of the varsity team. In total, LeBlanc is related to almost the entire team. “My own kids, and nine direct nieces and nephews,” she said. There are eight LeBlancs on the combined girls and boys teams.

Their home course is Pierz Golf Course, a nine-hole layout that was a Works Progress Administration project in the 1930s.

“It’s not real long but it’s pretty,” LeBlanc said. “My siblings and my parents and relatives will do tournaments in the area during the summer and we see lots of family.”

All the LeBlancs and other relatives have basically grown up on the golf course. Activities on a recent Sunday included a First Communion followed by a family golf outing.

Like everyone else, LeBlanc and Pierz boys golf coach Joel Pohland were disappointed when Covid-19 wiped out spring sports last year. The Pioneers girls had finished second in their section championship meet in 2019 and had some talented seniors in 2020.

This spring, some individuals may have a shot at qualifying for the Class 2A state meet, LeBlanc said.

Until then, everyone will keep working on their games and enjoying the excellent spring weather.

“We have a couple of golfers who aren’t family, but we treat them like family,” LeBlanc said. “I treat them like my own kids. They fit right in.”

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected]

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John’s Journal: For Pierz Pioneers, Golf Is A Family Affair