On Wednesday, Sept. 29, the Prescott girls golf team won its third consecutive WIAA Regional Championship with a total team score of 343 at the Clifton Highlands Golf Course in Prescott. The victory …
On Wednesday, Sept. 29, the Prescott girls golf team won its third consecutive WIAA Regional Championship with a total team score of 343 at the Clifton Highlands Golf Course in Prescott. The victory advances the Cardinals to sectionals for the third time in as many years as Prescott hopes to begin another run to the state championship.
For the first time in 20 years, a WIAA Regional golf championship was held at the Clifton Highlands Golf Course in Prescott. The hometown Cardinals took advantage of a familiar course as their posted score of 343 took first place by 25 strokes over second-placed Saint Croix Central.
The final team score was a combination of all five scores that the varsity golfers posted at the meet. Of the 50 competitors at the regional meet, all five Prescott starters finished in the top 10 individual scores. Leading the charge for the Cardinals was junior Ava Salay, who posted a 77, the best individual score at the regional meet. Jessica Heinsch posted an 86 which earned her the fifth-best score. Liz Rohl finished in sixth place with an 87. Rhi Stutz’s 93 earned her eighth place and Maddie Reiter’s 94 put her in a tie for ninth place to round out the Prescott scoring.
Despite posting high-quality scores when the meet was over, the match didn’t exactly get off to the best start for Prescott. Statistically, the two best golfers for Prescott, Salay and Rohl, struggled in the opening holes of the meet. Through the first five holes, Salay was three over par and Rohl was five over par.
At Clifton Highlands Golf Course, the back nine is generally regarded as tougher than the front nine. On Wednesday, Sept. 29, the Prescott girls golf team went to the back nine at regionals with a slim lead over Saint Croix Central and began making a run that is rarely seen on a course that difficult.
Of the five Prescott golfers, four of them posted better scores on the back nine than on the front nine. Their late-round charge was led by Salay, who shot a 41 on the front and then posted a level-par back nine 36.
After making double bogey at the par three 13th hole, Salay began a five-hole stretch that few players in Wisconsin could have pulled off. Hole 14 at Clifton Highlands is a short par four that measures 223 yards. Salay hit her tee shot down the left side of the fairway about 30 yards short of the green.
She then hit a wedge to about 12 feet from the pin on a difficult sloped putting surface and began reading the green to see which way her putt was going to break. After reading the putt, Salay poured it into the middle of the cup, turned to the small gallery full of her teammates, got animated, and gave a Tiger Woods-like fist pump that showed more emotion than she had all year.
The fist pump made it clear that Salay knew just how high the stakes were. After it went in, her body language changed. She was confident and hit every shot like it was going in. After making birdie at 14, she made birdie at 15, par at 16, birdie at 17 and birdie at 18 to go four-under-par in a span of five holes. After the meet, Cardinals head coach Chad Salay talked about Ava Salay’s performance and her impressive final five holes.
“She started out shaky on the front nine and even the first part of the back,” Chad Salay said. “I told her to start by just hitting one good shot at a time and honestly, after that, that’s when she went nuts. She went on that four-under through five holes finish.”
Chad Salay said that when he talked to Ava Salay on the 14th hole, she told him that she was playing horrible. Chad stated that he told her to take it one shot at a time and to grind it out. He also said that he told her someone on the team needed to step up because the whole team was struggling. That’s exactly when Ava Salay responded with some of her best play of the year. Chad Salay spoke about what it feels like to win regionals for a third consecutive year.
“I think what feels great about this one is being able to do it at home,” Chad Salay said. “Our girls battled today even though it was our course. This was a tough round today. It’s nice to get one of those in before state if we get there. You’ve got to grind and be able to grind these things out and that’s what we did.”
With the first-place finish at regionals, Prescott qualified for the sectional tournament which will be played on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at the Pheasant Hills Golf Course in Hammond. Pheasant Hills is a course that Prescott is comfortable with and has had success at earlier this season.
“We love Pheasant Hills, it’s a great course for us and it will be a great fit,” Chad Salay said. “We call that our second home. We’re excited to play there, and our girls always play well there with our distance. We will get out there to get a practice round in before Tuesday.”
The aforementioned sectionals tournament at Pheasant Hills was held Tuesday, Oct. 5.