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PREP GIRLS GOLF: Wisconsin Dells returns to sectionals after runner-up finish at Prairie du Chien regional
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PREP GIRLS GOLF | DIV. 2 PRAIRIE DU CHIEN REGIONAL

PREP GIRLS GOLF: Wisconsin Dells returns to sectionals after runner-up finish at Prairie du Chien regional

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Having already played at Prairie du Chien Country Club twice this season, including last week’s SWAL/SWC Conference meet, Wisconsin Dells girls golf coach Seth Neilsen might have some extra insight Wednesday.

The Chiefs put that added knowledge to good use as they finished second at the WIAA Division 2 Prairie du Chien regional to qualify for its fourth consecutive team sectional. Wisconsin Dells combined to shoot a 395 and hung with perennial Div. 2 state title contender Madison Edgewood throughout, but the Crusaders (382) proved to be too much.

Madison Edgewood senior Caitlyn Hegenbarth earned medalist honors with a 14-over-par 86, while Lakeside Lutheran (411) and Lancaster (448) also qualified as teams to next Tuesday’s Div. 2 Arcadia sectional.

“It’s awesome and it’s great (for the girls). With the weird year we’ve been having, it’s just awesome and if you would have asked me in August if we would have gotten this far, I would have said I don’t know. We’re here now and we’re just ecstatic,” Neilsen said.

“It’s a difficult court as it is and the wind was brutal today, but they knew what they were getting into and a little more at comfort.”

Leading the way again for Wisconsin Dells was Kayla Gray as the senior finished third overall with a 19-over-par 91. Gray struggled over the difficult front nine shooting a 49, including a 6-over-par 9 on the par-3 fifth hole, but leveled out over the back half.

Gray shot no worse than bogey over the final nine holes, including three pars, to close out her round on a high note.

“The front nine, in my opinion, is more difficult and she gave a few strokes away on hole No. 5,” Neilsen said. “She made a couple mistakes that she didn’t have to make, but that happens in the game of golf. I always preach to the girls, and even when I coach the boys, ‘That happens. It’s about what you do next.’”

“She went out the rest of the round and played really well, and that’s awesome. I was really happy for her.”

Behind Gray was fellow senior Gracie Walker and freshman Madchen Ewig, who shot a 98 and 99, respectively.

Like Gray, Walker struggled over the front nine, starting her day with a 51 despite a birdie on the par-3 sixth hole. She did however, find a groove down the stretch, including one par and just one triple bogey.

“She’s been doing that the last couple meets and it’s taken her a while to get going this year, but she’s getting moving at the right time, so I’m really glad to see that,” Neilsen said.

Ewig also flashed signs of strength, and weakness, in her first-ever regional. Ewig opened with a 54 on the front nine, including a quadruple bogey on the par-4 second, but she caught fire on the back half.

She opened her back nine with a bogey on the par-4 10th and tallied a par on the par-4 14th to help shave off nine strokes on the back half.

“She’s not as familiar with the varsity circuit as some of the other girls, so you could tell she was nervous, but once she got onto hole No. 4 and she had a good drive, you could see it in her face like ‘Oh yeah, I can play golf,’” Neilsen said.

Rounding out the Chiefs’ competitors were sophomore Libby Walker and junior Lauren Eck, who shot a 107 and 120. Despite the struggles, Neilsen was pleased with the pair’s ability to push through and help the Chiefs to a runner-up finish.

With the program’s first-ever team state berth very much in reach next Tuesday, Neilsen knows how big of a confidence boost taking second place was given it was behind Edgewood.

“Obviously we had some struggles on the back with some of the girls, and that happens, but just to be there with them was awesome,” he said of the Crusaders, whom the Chiefs trailed by six strokes at the turn.

“I think it’s a huge motivator for the girls because Edgewood, because they’re historically a good team, can be a little intimidating. But they were right with them, and they saw they can be right with them, which can be a huge boost heading into sectionals.”

WIAA DIV. 2 PRAIRIE DU CHIEN REGIONAL

Note: top four teams, along with the top four individuals not part of a qualifying team, advance to sectional play.

Team scores: Madison Edgewood 382; Wisconsin Dells 395; Lakeside Lutheran 411; Lancaster 448; Darlington 450; East Troy 470; Southwestern co-op 485.

Individual sectional qualifiers: Kennedy, PdC, 107; Smith, ET, 109; Ryan, SW, 109; Thomas, Dar, 110.

Top five individuals: 1, Hegenbarth, ME, 86; 2, M. Heckmann, LL, 88; 3, Gray, WD, 91; 4, Jaeger, ME, 93; 5, A. Heckmann, LL, 97.

Wisconsin Dells: Kayla Gray 49-42 91, Gracie Walker 51-47 98, Madchen Ewig 54-45 99, Libby Walker 49-58 107, Lauren Eck 60-60 120. At Prairie du Chien CC, par 72.

Follow Sean Davis on Twitter @SDavis_PDR or contact him at 608-745-3512.

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