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Prep boys golf photo: Madison Abundant Life co-op's Boomer Zierath

Madison Abundant Life co-op's Boomer Zierath misses a putt on the ninth green, his final hole, during the 2017 WIAA state boys golf tournament.

A good teasing, or a friendly argument, is nothing unusual for Madison Abundant Life/Country Day golfer Blake Perkins.

Whether it’s a heated debate over the merits of Culver’s vs. Chick-Fil-A, or getting razzed for an unorthodox running shot he takes while playing basketball, Perkins can take it.

Two years ago, he was called “Grandpa” by some of his teammates because he used a push cart at golf meets.

By sectionals in 2017, though, he had convinced all his teammates to give them a try.

The Challengers entered that meet on the outside looking in. They ended up winning by 15 strokes.

“I really think those push carts played an advantage for us,” Perkins said. “And if you can take a competitive advantage, why wouldn’t you?”

From that day on, Abundant Life/Country Day has only climbed up. The Challengers finished third in the 2017 WIAA Division 3 state meet, and then took home a silver trophy last spring.

While the path to success had many turning points that Perkins and fellow teammates Boomer Zierath and Jack Rollins can recall, no physical metaphor quite symbolizes the team’s ascent like the push cart.

That’s the kind of free-spirited fun Abundant Life/Country Day has on the golf course. And it can pay to get behind those kinds of quirky rallying points while trying to remain focused during a long season.

“One thing about us is that we have fun,” Perkins said. “This is a huge family environment. I really think our chemistry helps us perform better.”

Rollins, who finished 13th individually in Division 3 last year, and Zierath, who was 14th, are two of the state’s top returnees.

There’s a formidable pack behind them, and the Challengers are on the short list of contenders for the Division 3 crown headed into the season. They’ve become a hungry and goal-oriented group.

It wasn’t always that way, though. The seriousness of it, anyway.

Rollins was playing with kids’ clubs during his freshman year, before a change benefited him greatly.

“I finally got fitted for a driver, and instantly my distance got further,” said Rollins, whose drives have increased from 195 yards to 260.

Zierath grew up in the program. His father, Rick, is the coach.

Yet it took a spectator’s trip to the state tournament to understand the accomplishments and memories that could be had.

“Going into freshman year, I didn’t really understand the words ‘regionals’ and ‘sectionals,’” Zierath said. “Then I realized that we can actually go to the biggest tournament in the stage, and then the next year we were like ‘oh, well, we can to do that.’ We didn’t realize the seriousness, and just how cool it was to play at state.”

They’ve shined there the past two seasons, each time exceeding expectations and last year coming away with a trophy.

The mind might just be the biggest tool for the Challengers.

Aside from the loose atmosphere, they preach mental toughness as much as any skill or technique.

“You realize nothing can go perfect,” Zierath said. “Something bad might happen, but it is about how you rebound. There’s always going to be a couple of bad shots out there, and you have to realize you are playing for the team and not yourself.”

Getting it right between the ears and knowing when to turn it on and off together have sparked this recent run.

And of course, the power of the push cart.