Parker girls golfers eye state berth

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Eric Schmoldt
Sunday, October 6, 2013

Taylor Wyss and Micayla Richards waited impatiently in the line.
Typical eighth-graders, they were preparing for the big jump to high school. Like most of their peers at Franklin Middle School, the two—who first met in kindergarten—knew they wanted to be participants in some sort of activity.
Volleyball sounded fun.
Then Wyss and Richards realized just how long that line was to get to the information table, as Janesville Parker’s coaches paid a visit to see what kind of numbers they had coming in for the following year.
The line to see Vikings girls golf coach Mary Ross was much shorter.
“We weren’t serious golfers, and we were going to do volleyball together,” Wyss recalled. “All of a sudden we were like, ‘Let’s just do golf,’ because there were so many girls at the volleyball table.”
In this case, a hasty decision wasn’t a wasted one.
Three and a half years later, Wyss and Richards are the top two players for the Vikings, who have a chance to accomplish something Monday that just one other team in program history has achieved.
A top-two finish in the Janesville Craig Sectional at Riverside Golf Course would land Parker—the five-player varsity group also includes junior Kailey McDade, senior Lindsey Ahrens and freshman Keara Richards—in the Division 1 state team tournament one week later in Madison.
“None of these kids were phenoms coming in; they’re just really hard workers,” Ross said. “They developed a passion together, working on their game.
“They are just a fine group of young women that really care about each other. It’s just a real family atmosphere.”
Richards and Wyss quickly began working on their play the summer before their freshman year, the first for Ross as the team’s coach.
It took their whole first season, whether playing varsity or junior varsity, to grasp the game.
“I would say the end of their freshman year, they really got it,” Ross said. “Micayla went along with us for sectionals. Gradually each year it increased from there.”
In 2012, McDade had a year under her belt and saw drastic improvement.
Suddenly, a trio of Vikings was pushing each other every round.
“I came in freshman year playing No. 4 with these three seniors,” said McDade, who also planned on playing volleyball when she was in eighth grade, but like Wyss and Richards decided to switch to golf. “I’m a competitor, so I have a goal and I try to beat it. These girls have pushed me a lot. Right when I came in, I wanted to be where they are.”
That mentality eventually pushed the Parker group to beat the program’s 18-hole scoring record midway through last season.
“We kind of knew we could break it last year, we just didn’t think it was going to happen,” Richards said. “Then it did, and that was awesome. And we wanted to break it again.”
The real turning point, however, came when Wyss qualified for state as an individual.
Then a junior, she posted one of the top three scores at sectionals out of players not on a state-qualifying team, earning a trip to Madison.
“At that point, Micayla and the kids followed her and said, ‘You know what, we’re going as a team,’” Ross said. “They didn’t come in with that golf mentality and understanding, but each year they learned more and more.”
The group practiced a couple times per week during this past summer and played in junior tournaments.
The goal to make state was always in their minds.
“When only one of us qualified, we were pretty upset,” McDade said. “We all wanted to be there playing.
“That’s literally our dream. We talk about it all the time. We would stay overnight and it would be so fun. That’s all we want right now.”
Along the way, the Vikings have broken their own scoring record this year, twice.
They set the new mark in their very first stroke-play tournament of the year, then again last month at their home Riverside course. The group shot 334 at the course it’ll play Monday.
“We’re hard-working, determined,” Richards said. “We’re all best friends. We work together, help each other out and work through our struggles to get where we want to be.”
Where they’d like to be is at University Ridge in eight days.
“Wow, it makes me emotional just thinking about it,” Ross said. “This is my first graduating class. I started with them, and they want it so bad. And they’re just such great kids.
“It would mean everything.”

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