The skies were bright, the temperatures warm, the breeze consistent.
Yes, conditions were ideal all around for Monday’s opening round of the WIAA state girls golf tournament at University Ridge Golf Course.
Then why was the Nervous Monster running wild all day long — pushing shots left and right, chunking chip shots and leaving putts short?
“I struggled a little bit with nerves. They never really went away, but I calmed down,” Madison Edgewood sophomore Grace Welch said after grinding out an 8-over-par 80. “Tomorrow, hopefully, the nerves will be a little less.”
But there were positives in Welch’s round. Plenty of them.
For one thing, because the Nervous Monster was busy biting other players, too, Welch’s score was good enough to leave her in a four-way tie for the Division 2 lead entering the final round.
For another, her 80 was better than both of her rounds at state last year — when she finished third individually.
Finally, perhaps most importantly, her score helped Edgewood finish with a four-player score of 360 — only one stroke behind leader La Crosse Aquinas in the six-team Division 2 field.
Not bad for a crew of two freshmen, two sophomores and one junior, Edgewood coach Peggy Gierhart said. Welch (last year) and junior Corinna Smith (2015) were the only players with state experience.
“When you step in here carrying the world on your shoulders in such a big venue, that’s a challenge,” said Gierhart, whose Crusaders broke an 18-year streak of team state trips when they missed last year. “It’s easy to take a huge number here.”
Welch started her round with a birdie on No. 1, but struggled through six bogeys in eight holes between No. 3 and No. 10. She then bogeyed No. 13 and double-bogeyed No. 14 before finishing with four pars.
“Tomorrow, hopefully, nerves will be a little less,” Welch said. “I’m sure I’ll still be nervous, but (hopefully) I’ll feel a little more comfortable with the course and more in the mindset of the tournament.”
Also for Edgewood, No. 5 Grace Jaeger shot a 90, even after taking a 10 on No. 16. “She was on her way to a career best until that,” Gierhart said. “Her 90 was still pretty good for us.”
Wisconsin Dells’ Allison Anderson shot a 93 and is tied for 13th place.
The Nervous Monster also ran roughshod through the Division 1 field. Only Milton senior Mia Seeman was able to fend it off, grinding her way to a 1-under 71 and a one-stroke lead over defending champion Emily Lauterbach of Hartland Arrowhead.
“I definitely dealt with nerves a lot,” Seeman said. “I was just trying to keep everything straight, in the fairway and on the green.”
Starting on the back nine, Seeman parred her first six holes, and then used a perfect second shot to set up an eagle-3 on the 16th: “I had a 6-iron from 160, and I struck it perfect. I was like seven feet out but downhill, and I made that,” she said.
Although Seeman bogeyed No. 18 and No. 4, she added a birdie-2 on No. 2 — and eight more pars, for a total of 14 — to finish as the only one of 117 players to beat par.
“Tee to green, she was really strong,” Milton coach Kirk Wieland said.
“She had a couple chances (to cut more strokes off her score), but she just wanted to be in a position to be in the last group (today).”
Lauterbach, a junior already committed to play at the University of Wisconsin, joined Kettle Moraine senior Abby Cavaiani at even par.
Placing four players among the top 24, Arrowhead finished the day at 24-over 312, good for a 13-shot lead over Milton and a 14-stroke lead over Brookfield Central.
Middleton shot 351 to stand in seventh place, led by senior Payton Hodson’s 80.
“It’s definitely not what Payton wanted to shoot, but I reminded her that tomorrow is a new day,” Middleton coach Becky Halverson said.
Verona was in eighth, four strokes behind the Cardinals, as senior twins Courtney Shorter and Lauren Shorter led the way.
Courtney recorded birdies on Nos. 7 and 8 to finish at 6-over-par 78, tied for sixth place in the individual race.
Lauren shot a 79 and is tied for ninth.
“I had a 43 on the first nine and a 36 (even par) on the second nine,” Courtney Shorter said. “I really do think I was just nervous. I decided ‘I’m here, I need to play good.’ So I brought it back and got settled with my game.”
Waunakee junior Sam Soulier shot a 79, notching two birdies, to join the ninth-place tie. Milton got an 81 from junior Taylor Hakala, and Monona Grove junior Klairissa O’Reilly-Dye also shot an 81.