MENOMONIE — Looking at the Big Rivers golf standings, you might think Eau Claire Memorial’s senior golf trio of Emmie Verhaagh, Madelynn Logan and Keelan Beeksma grew up around the sport.
Last season they helped lead the Old Abes to a sectional appearance and this year they look poised to be all-conference players. But just four years ago, the girls had hardly ever held a golf club, let a lone played a competitive round.
For Verhaagh, golf was the answer to her after-school boredom.
“I knew I wanted to play three sports in high school because otherwise I wouldn’t have anything to do,” she said.
Dealing with wrist injuries entering ninth grade, Verhaagh, who also plays hockey and soccer, said she was limited in her fall sport options. She couldn’t play tennis or volleyball and decided to pick up golf.
“It’s the least wristy sport,” she said.
At first she was bad, “really bad,” she said with a laugh. She’d often play nine holes and shoot in the sixties or worse. But she didn’t take it too seriously and it didn’t really bother her.
Then during her junior year, things sort of clicked.
“It was here (at Tanglewood Greens in Menomonie) a year ago that I realized this isn’t too hard if you don’t think about it,” she said.
Unlike Verhaagh, Beeksma was nudged into golf by her mother who “strongly suggested” she play a sport.
“My mom wanted me to do a school sport and I didn’t really want to do any running, so I did golf,” she said.
At first she was intimidated by former Old Abe Lexi Meade who could dominate on a golf course.
“She was so so good,” Beeksma remembered. “I saw her playing and I was like I’m never going to be that good.”
Beeksma said she thought about quitting because of how bad she was, but the team enviornment was so fun that she decided to stick it out with her teammates.
“I really liked the sense of community that we had,” she said. “Everybody was bad and we all just were happy kind of all being bad together.”
While her game has changed a lot over the years, that attitude is still very much the same. Beeksma doesn’t get too down on herself, always staying positive after a bad shot.
“I know when I hit a bad shot that there is a good shot coming,” she said. “During freshman year I could hit 100 bad shots in a row, but now I know there is a good shot coming.”
Logan is the most experienced of the group. She had played golf prior to her freshman season, but she never took it very seriously.
“I was really bad,” she said. “I had a concussion during my freshman year, so I only played one tournament that whole season and I think I shot a 55, but then it got easier and easier and I started working harder and harder.”
That hard work has become very apparent to Memorial coach Fred Hancock who has watched these girls develop over the past for years, first watching as a golf pro and now as their head coach.
“As freshman they would just hit the ball, but now their course management is a lot better,” Handcock said. “They have matured to a point where they’re really playing well in competition and can work their way around the golf course.”
On Monday night, the girls all registered points, leading the team to a third place finish at Tanglewood Greens behind River Falls and Hudson respectively. Logan led the way for the team finishing third in the tournament, shooting 44, and Verhaagh took sixth place with a score of 47.
As the season heads toward October, these girls will have their final chance to show just how far they’ve come since they first picked up a golf just a few short years ago.
Big Rivers Meet
At Tanglewood Greens in Menomonie
1, River Falls 186; 2, Hudson 188; 3, Eau Claire Memorial 199; 4, Rice Lake 202; 5, Menomonie, Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire North 222.
1, Paige Hillman (H) 39; 2, Jaden Woiwode (RF) 41; 3, Maddy Logan (ECM) and Hannah Harper (RF) 44; 5, Emma Vande Voort (RL) 45; 6, Emmie Verhaagh (ECM) and Courtney Dummer (H) 47; 8, Paige Hagberg (RL) 48; 9, Makaylin Harper (RF) and Callie Karstens (RL) 49.
Other Area Finishers
Chippewa Falls: Kaleigh Ripley 52, Rachel Fransway 53, Sydney Trinrud 58, Brystal Roshell 59. Eau Claire Memorial: Keelan Beeksma 52, Britney Wiemeri 61, Isabelle Campbell 56. Eau Claire North: Haley Cronin 50, Sam Thompson 53, Ally Klauck 54, Arika Braaten 67, Mallory Pieper 65. Menomonie: Olivia Steinmetz 50, Carli Dahms 58, Lauren Kado 54, Kira Nevin 60, Lauren McNally 64. Rice Lake: Anna Marie Jones 48, Laurel Wagner 61, Callie Karstens 60.