Sophie Pokela, Tomah | 2021 WIAA Division 1 state tournament

Tomah senior Sophie Pokela watches her tee shot on the first tee on Day 2 of the 2021 WIAA Division 1 state girls golf tournament at University Ridge GC in Madison.

Sophie Pokela canvassed a fairly large portion of the upper Midwest in her quest to find a place to play college golf and study computer science.

Her campus visits included two stops in Minnesota (St. Paul and Marshall), two in South Dakota (both in Sioux Falls) and one in Iowa (Cedar Rapids). She was also considering two schools in Wisconsin (in Milwaukee and Kenosha). In the end, the Tomah senior's search stopped in Sioux Falls, S.D., at NCAA Division II Augustana University, where she committed to play for second-year Vikings coach Coralee Jorgensen.

Augustana has won 11 of the last 13 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference women's golf championships, the most recent in April when the Vikings edged the University of Sioux Falls — their crosstown rival — by five strokes. Pokela will join New Richmond's Lanie Veenendall in Jorgensen's Class of 2022 for a program that's poised to graduate three seniors off an 11-player roster.

2021 Signing Day | Sophie Pokela, Tomah

Tomah's Sophie Pokela, right, and Timberwolves coach Tonya Gnewikow pose after Pokela signed her National Letter of Intent to attend NCAA Division II Augustana Unviersity in Sioux Falls, S.D.

"I reached out to a lot of schools and ended up visiting five," Pokela wrote in an email interview with Wisconsin.Golf, adding that she was considering the University of Sioux Falls, Concordia-St. Paul, Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall, NAIA Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids and a pair of in-state NCAA Division III programs — College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin champion Carthage College in Kenosha and Milwaukee School of Engineering, a first-year program in the Northern Athletic Collegiate Conference.

"Augustana was my second-to-last visit and I pretty much knew when I stepped off the campus that I was going there. They have a powerhouse golf team and there are girls on the team that I can chase, which is going to make me better."

For that matter, Pokela will give the Vikings a tournament-tested golfer capable of making those around her better, too.

She is a three-time WIAA Division 1 state qualifier who finished T-26 at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison in 2019, T-9 at Blackwolf Run in Kohler in 2020 and T-17 at University Ridge this fall. Pokela qualified for state as a senior by shooting 74 at Turtleback GC in Rice Lake, finishing second to eventual state champion Riley Pechinski of Stevens Point (72), and helping Tomah edge Veenendall (77) and New Richmond by two strokes for the sectional title.

Earlier, Pokela shot 74 at Viroqua Hills GC in Viroqua to win the Mississippi Valley Conference championship and lead the Timberwolves to their third consecutive championship as a team. She then shot 79 to finish third at River Run GC in Sparta behind teammate Brin Neumann and Onalaska's Allison Balduzzi.

"We look forward to maturing her golf game and taking her to the next level of competition," Jorgensen said in a story on the Augustana website announcing the signing of Pokela and Veenendall.

Pokela expects to see growth in her game by opportunities available to her on and off the golf course. She praised the Vikings' off-season schedule "that helps girls get stronger and better" and the school's athletic facilities, including the Kirby Indoor Golf Center located under the concourse of the football stadium and named for longtime coach Peggy Kirby and husband Kevin, who helped fund its construction.

"There are a lot of really good girls on the team that can push me to get better (and) I’m going to work hard to be able to play as soon as possible," Pokela wrote. "Augustana has been very good for a long time and they want to continue to get better. They also have been going to nationals for many years now. I’m very excited that I have the opportunity to help contribute to those standards and hopefully help the team go to nationals again."

That she gets to pursue those goals with a familiar face in Veenendall was a pleasant surprise to what became an obvious decision.

"I found out Lanie was going to Augustana when I visited there," Pokela wrote. "I think it will be a lot of fun to have another Wisconsin golfer on the team especially since (we) have played together before. It will be nice to go in already knowing someone." 

Girls Class of 2022

No. First name Last name High school Nov.
1, Jenna Anderson Kettle Moraine 5 4 2 UW-Green Bay
2, Sarah Balding Brookfield Central 1 1 1
3, Avery Dudra Bay Port 3 5 11
4, Lauren Peterson Hartland Arrowhead 2 2 4
5, Ellie Frisch Middleton 4 9 5 UW-Green Bay
6, Madeline Fiebig Kettle Moraine 6 3 3
7, Haley Thoeny Lodi 7 NR NR
8, Lannie Veenendall New Richmond 15 13 7
9, Sally Vangsness Saint Croix Central 9 NR NR
10, Callie Berg Freedom 11 8 NR
11, Milanne Dahmen Middleton 10 10 10
12, Ava Wittstock Sheboygan North/South 8 NR NR
13, Nora Purtell Brookfield Central NR NR NR
14, Angelina Myhr Madison La Follette 14 7 6
15, Abbey Beranek Bay Port 12 NR NR
16, Olivia McSorley Brookfield East 21 NR NR
17, Sophie Pokela Tomah 13 12 NR Augustana (S.D.)
18, Abby Busick De Pere 22 NR NR
19, Tess Bruner Wausau East/West NR NR NR
20, Kya Bronston Onalaska NR NR NR
21, Sydney Nolan New Richmond NR NR NR
22, Kate Downie Hortonville 23 NR NR
23, Claire Kelbel Hamilton (Sussex) NR NR NR
24, Eleanor Potter Homestead (Mequon) NR NR NR
25, Emily Hopp Appleton NR NR NR
26, Lily Pietz Menomonee Falls NR NR NR
27, Eva Kumer Brookfield Central NR NR NR
28, Hallie Tulip Arcadia/Independence NR NR NR
29, Emma Wolf Green Bay Notre Dame 19 NR NR
30, Emma Laundrie Freedom NR NR NR
31, Lauren Ambrookian Hamilton (Sussex) NR NR NR
32, Karlye Kriewaldt Middleton 16 14 15
33, Allison Balduzzi Onalaska 17 NR NR
34, Alix Kundinger Hortonville 24 NR NR
35, Belle Mae Williams Green Bay Notre Dame NR NR NR
36, Jessica Heinsch Prescott NR NR NR
37, Peyton Lueneburg Kimberly NR NR NR
38, Kaylee Yzemans Amery NR NR NR
39, Devan Utter Middleton 25 NR NR
40, Hailey Matenaer West Bend East/West NR NR NR
tie, Natalie Kammer Fort Atkinson NR NR NR
HM Liz Rohl Prescott NR NR NR UW-Stout

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