Molly Larsen stuck her to game plan, and her reward is a trip to the WIAA state girls golf tournament.
Larsen played an intelligent back nine and sailed into the state tournament field at the Division 1 Wisconsin Rapids Sectional held Tuesday at The Ridges Golf Course.
Larsen nearly led her entire Tomah High School squad to a surprise berth as a team. The Timberwolves were actually second after the front nine − the top two teams from each sectional advance to state − but Tomah coach Tonya Gnewikow her young golfers got caught up in the moment and faltered slightly on the final nine holes.
The exception was Larsen, a senior who shot an 18-hole score of 83 and tied for third with Mississippi Valley Conference player of the year Erin Ericson. The top three golfers from non-qualifying teams advanced to state, and Larsen made the cut by four strokes.
Gnewikow said Larsen was consistent with her decision making.
“Molly just played very smart,” Gnewikow said. “Instead of pulling out the bigger clubs and going for things ... she stayed focused and stayed with her plan. We said if she shot an 82, she would have a shot at (state).”
Larsen slogged through a pair of rough holes in the front nine − a seven on the fourth hole and an eight on the seventh hole − but played a very consistent back nine with no score higher than a six.
The only two golfers to finish ahead of Larsen were medalist Lexi Meade of Eau Claire Memorial with a 76 and Brooke Knutson of Westby/Viroqua with an 81. Larsen and Ericson golfed a 19th hole to determine fourth place. Ericson won the playoff by shooting a four, while Larsen shot a five.
It was a heady day for the rest of the squad, which wasn’t expected to push for a top-two finish. The Timberwolves entered the back nine one stroke ahead of Eau Claire Memorial and three strokes ahead of Stevens Point.
“You could hear some of the other coaches say, ‘Tomah is giving us a run for our money,’” Gnewikow said.
While the Timberwolves still posted respectable scores on the second nine, they couldn’t sustain what had been their best golf of the season.
“We couldn’t quite keep the ball rolling,” Gnewikow said. “It think they got excited and got it away from them a little bit.”
Tomah’s number-two golfer was senior Grace Pokela. In her final match as a high school golfer, she finished 18th in the 48-girl field with a score of 94.
Sophomores Josie Mathison and Abby Sherwood both shot 99s to tie for 22nd.
Sophomore Sarah Peterson finished 25th with a 101. She had the best score of any team’s number-five golfer.
Team scores: Onalaska 359, Eau Claire Memorial 365, Stevens Point 366, Tomah 375, New Richmond 397, River Falls 399, Eau Claire North 409, Westby/Viroqua 441.
The state meet is Oct. 9-10 at University Ridge Golf Club in Madison.