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Grace Welch photo

Grace Welch led the top-ranked Crusaders to a 34-shot victory Wednesday at Pleasant View Golf Course in Middleton.

MIDDLETON — Madison Edgewood senior Grace Welch wasn’t dismayed that her first nine holes Wednesday resulted in a 5-over-par total on the Woods layout at Pleasant View Golf Course.

Far from it.

Welch knew her final nine holes were on the Prairie layout, which she much prefers.

Rain, 55-degree temperatures, a wet course and the effects of an illness and slight fever weren’t about to slow Welch at the WIAA Division 2 girls golf regional, hosted by Madison Edgewood.

The UW-Green Bay commit fired a 1-under par 35 on the back nine in difficult conditions, propelling Welch to a 4-over 76 and medalist honors.

“Personally, I just like the Prairie nine more than the Woods nine,” Welch said. “I always have. So, I just thought there were more scoring opportunities. I wasn’t exactly mad about my 41, but I knew that I had to do better on the back. So, I just used that momentum.”

Welch and teammates Caitlyn Hegenbarth, who finished second with an 80, and Anaka Leske, third with 84, powered the Crusaders to the regional title as they began postseason defense of the Division 2 state title they won last year.

“This is my best 18-hole round of the year,” Hegenbarth said. “It gives me a lot more confidence going into sectionals and state. I am just proud of our team. We have been working so hard to get here.”

The Crusaders, top-ranked in Division 2 in the Wisconsin Golf Coaches Association state poll, cruised to victory with a 333 total. That was comfortably ahead of second-ranked and second-place Wisconsin Dells (367).

“I’m really happy,” Edgewood coach Peggy Gierhart said. “I thought it was going to be tough out there, which it was. I really thought we might shoot higher than that because of the conditions. But they were striking it really well today.

“They were pretty calm overall. They seemed to have a lot of confidence today. They really, really, really worked hard on the rules, (including) the rules of preferred lies and a lot of things that can cause anxiety. It can be kind of confusing about the bunkers being out of play and preferred lies (winter rules).”

The top four teams in the nine-team field advanced to the Division 2 Prairie du Chien sectional Tuesday at Prairie du Chien Country Club.

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Ninth-ranked Cambridge (392) placed third and Darlington (437) claimed the fourth spot. Darlington finished three strokes better than the fifth-place Hazel Green Southwestern co-op (comprised of Southwestern/Benton/Cuba City).

The course, which tends to drain well, held up despite heavy rains Tuesday. Light rain fell during the early morning play Wednesday, prior to when Edgewood, Wisconsin Dells and Cambridge began their rounds.

Edgewood had four of the top six scores after nine holes. Welch and Leske, a senior, turned in 41s, while Hegenbarth, a junior, had 42. Wisconsin Dells junior Gracie Walker and senior Molly McClyman shot 44 and 46, respectively.

Walker finished fourth with 87, while McClyman was fifth with 89.

After a break with just overcast skies, the rain returned in mid-afternoon, during the Crusaders’ back nine.

Welch had eight pars and one birdie on the final nine holes, sinking a 20-foot birdie on the Prairie’s seventh hole (her 16th overall).

“I’m excited,” Welch said. “I thought a couple of us did well — better than we have in the past. It’s good that we are getting better throughout the season. Now we have to close it out at sectionals so we can go to state. I’m excited and proud of how we did.”

Hegenbarth, who shot 2-over 38 on the back nine, had two birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey on those holes.

“I kept persevering through the rain,” Hegenbarth said. “But the last hole kind of messed me up; it was a double (bogey). But it was good overall. The rain didn’t really affect me, which was really good.”

Junior Grace Jaeger’s 93 completed Edgewood’s total.

Seniors Mary Hommen and Aubrie Pero led Cambridge, each with 94, while senior Marissa Gould topped Darlington with 97.

The top four individuals not on qualifying teams also advanced to sectional play: Nekoosa senior Jade Hildebrand (97), Edgerton senior Alexis Deavers (101), Prairie du Chien sophomore Allison Kennedy (101) and Lancaster junior Morgan Cooley (102).

Bucky!

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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.