Internet research introduced Bridget McCarthy to UW-La Crosse and its 3-year-old women's golf program, namely its roster and coach Dave Taebel.
Word of mouth, however, would ultimately convince the Madison Memorial senior to give the emerging NCAA Division III program her full attention.
"One of my friends who played for the Verona golf team, Andrea Schleeper, committed to the team (in 2020) and only had great things to say about the program," McCarthy wrote last week in an email interview with Wisconsin.Golf after choosing the Eagles over interest from UW-Stout, a perennial Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference women's golf power. "I was very thankful to be considered by a well-known school with a great golf program. But I felt that UW-L was a better match for me athletically and academically."
The latter area was a major selling point for McCarthy, a three-time WIAA Division 1 sectional qualifier whose senior season was postponed until March by COVID-19. She wants to pursue a career in a health field and said UW-La Crosse offers multiple ways for her to get there.
"La Crosse has amazing programs for my field of interest," McCarthy wrote. "I initially wanted to major in Psychology, but feel switching to Biology would be more in my field of interest and knowledge."
McCarthy, who is ranked No. 22 in Wisconsin.Golf's girls Class of 2021 state rankings, is part of what is shaping up to be a healthy in-state recruiting class for Taebel, the former Stoughton boys and girls golf coach who has built the Eagles program from the ground up. Appleton Xavier's Lauren Haen, Brookfield Central's Erin Rosencrantz and Portage's Sophie Denure are also known to have given Taebel oral commitments to join his program this fall.
In McCarthy, the Eagles are getting a golfer who showed a glimpse of her potential last summer when she shot 76 at Odana Hills Golf Course in Madison to finish second to UW-Green Bay recruit Caylie Kotlowski of Stoughton by one shot in a WPGA Junior Tour event. McCarthy also finished tied for 39th at the WPGA Junior Championship on rounds of 90-86, a 30-stroke improvement over her 2019 showing in Wisconsin's largest junior golf tournament.
"I have not been able to meet many of the girls on the team due to COVID-19, but we will eventually meet on a Zoom call," McCarthy wrote. "Overall, from what I have seen and heard about the team, I think I will fit in pretty well and (I'm) super-excited to meet the other girls. I cannot wait to be able to contribute to this team and be involved in their team traditions. I want to work to be the best golfer I can be and make amazing memories with my teammates."
Especially Schleeper, whose endorsement of the fledgling UW-La Crosse women's golf program got the ball rolling for McCarthy to join the cause.
"I decided to contact Mr. Taebel ... to show my interest in the school and his golf team," wrote McCarthy, who sent letters to 10 out-of-state schools that went unanswered. "He had shown interest back and came out to watch me in a tournament. A few weeks later, I went to the campus where she showed me around and gave me details about what it was like as a student-athlete at UW-L.
"I fell in love with the campus and all it had to offer me. A few weeks later, Mr. Taebel offered me a spot on his team and I was ecstatic! I was so excited to tell everyone who has supported me through my golf career. I called him back a week later and verbally committed to the team.
"It was amazing that I could now play the sport I love at a school that I feel best fits me."