MADISON — The golden hue of its WIAA Division 2 state championship trophy shimmered against the backdrop of a sky that had been gray and gloomy most of the day Tuesday as coach Andy Foley packed up the La Crosse Aquinas girls golf team’s belongings into the team van and set out to find junior Carolyn Swift another reward for a historic day’s work.
Most of the Blugolds were playing for the honor of hanging a state championship banner alongside those from other sports in the gym back home. Swift was playing for a stuffed cheese curd from Culver’s — not the one you pull apart and then eat, the one you cuddle.
“Coach said if I broke 100 at sectionals or state, I could have a stuffed cheese curd,” Swift said after checking the plush toy off her bucket list by shooting a career-low 96 — 16 shots lower than her opening 112 — and helping Aquinas finish off an unlikely championship run.
The Blugolds, who don’t expect to be able to field a full team when the 2018 season begins next fall, took advantage of perhaps one final opportunity to do something special together, shooting a final-round 358 and, with a 717 total over 36 holes, winning by 15 strokes over Madison Edgewood. It is the third runner-up trophy to go with 13 golds for the Crusaders.
“My coach told me someone was having a bad day and I tried to score better so it would,” Swift said, referring to a conversation Foley had with her on the third tee 12 holes into her round. “And then I parred hole. And (two holes after that) I had a birdie. … I was a little nervous because I usually don’t do the best on my team, but then it fell into place.”
It certainly did. Junior Annie Balduzzi shot 82 and senior Shealyn McCoy carded an 87 to finish sixth and seventh, respectively, and senior Kaitlyn MacCharles (93) tied for 15th to round out the scoring for an Aquinas team that qualified second at last week’s sectional.
“We didn’t know what to expect coming into this week,” McCoy said. “We really just wanted to play our best and hope for the best. We worked hard all season to get here. It all paid off.”
Of course, it paid off more for some than others.
“We made Carolyn a bet that we’d get her a giant stuffed cheese curd if she shot under 100,” Balduzzi said of Swift, who shot 114 at the regional at Trempealeau Mountain GC and 103 at the sectional at Yahara Hills GC in Madison. “It’s pretty crazy that she shot a 96 (Tuesday).”
Then again, it was that kind of week at University Ridge.
Fox Valley Lutheran senior Erika Priebe claimed Division 2 medalist honors with a second straight 80, edging Hayward’s Emily Neff (81-81) by two shots. The 160 total was the highest winning score in the 15-year history of Division 2 and highest overall since 2003 when Kate Wierwill of Verona won the Division 1 title with a 161 total in the first year of two-division play.
“I didn’t think two 80s would win this, but I’m just happy I kept playing the best I could and that’s what got it done,” said Priebe, whose scorecard featured eight bogeys, seven pars, two birdies (Nos. 5 and 14) and a double-bogey. “I could tell everyone was having a rough time. The conditions were rough (Tuesday), but we all pulled through. … My putting was better than (Monday) so that helped a lot. At the beginning, I had a tough time hitting my driver and my irons, but then I figured it out as the round went along and that really helped me.”
Five straight bogeys starting the back nine after catching Priebe hurt Neff, who fell three shots behind and didn’t gain ground with a par-par-bogey-par finish. First-round co-leaders Sydney Brandt (80-84) of Waukesha Catholic Memorial, Kate Munro of Racine Prairie School (80-85) and Grace Welch of Edgewood (80-86) were third through fifth, respectively.