OELWEIN - Paige Van Dyk is headed back to the Class 3A Girls State Golf Tournament for the second straight year.
However, this year, she will be representing South Tama County by herself. A year ago, Van Dyk helped South Tama place fourth at the state tournament. Four of those six girls graduated, but Van Dyk returned as a star junior, who placed fourth individually at state last year.
The STC junior proved once again why she's one of the top golfers in the state on Monday. Van Dyk shot a 4-over round of 74 to win the 3A regional meet by seven strokes, advancing her to state May 28-29 in Ames.
"I'm really excited," Van Dyk said. "I really wanted a 73, because I've never had that before, but the wind was tough. So I'm proud to shoot 74 in the wind."
Van Dyk is quite familiar with the Ames Golf and Country Club. She played the course several times, including last year at the first-round regional tournament, where she shot an 84 on the par-73 course.
"It's a course she's played several times," STC head coach Kelle Boles said. "That will be to her advantage."
On Monday, Van Dyk once again had a slow start to her round, but she played extremely well during the middle and finished the round with a bogey. It's been the way she's played many tournaments this spring.
"I usually start out slow, but I know I can come back," Van Dyk said. "Eighteen holes is a lot of holes, so you have a lot of room to become better throughout the round."
The Lady Trojans golfer bogeyed two of the first five holes, before bogeying the seventh and eighth holes at the Edgewater Golf Course. However, she rallied at the turn.
After shooting par on the No. 9 hole, Van Dyk shot back-to-back birdies on holes No. 1 and 2. She also birdied hole No. 4, dropping her score to one-over through 13 holes.
"I've known from past experiences that I've started off really bad and came back," Van Dyk said. "I've still ended up shooting in the 70s doing that. Plus this was a short course, so I knew I could get a lot of birdies."
Her coach agreed, saying Van Dyk has spent hours working on her short game since the first-round region meet in State Center on May 13.
"We practiced a lot on her short game, because we knew this course was short and she'd be hitting a lot of 30 yards and in," Boles said. "We worked on her putting, so she was really confident on her putting today. She sank some long putts for par, which really helped."
The star junior did close the 18-hole round with back-to-back bogeys, but her score of 74 was enough to make her forget about the troubled ending.
"I shot a 74, won by seven strokes and I'm going to state," Van Dyk said. "That gets me excited to know what I can do next."
Finishing second with a score of 81 was Dyersville-Beckman's Brooke Klostermann. She led her squad to the regional championship. Dyersville-Beckman shot a round of 365, which edged out Waterloo Columbus (372) for the title.
Also qualifying as individuals were Waterloo Columbus' Tessa Swacker (82) and Cassidy Boe (86). The other lone individual qualifier was Monticello's Allison Ries (85).
South Hardin finished fourth as a team, behind third-place Monticello (379) with a score of 396. Alaina Lake and Cami Eller led the Lady Tigers with scores of 95 and 97. Haley Lawrence (101) and Jaelyn Daggs-Olson (103) rounded out the team scoring for South Hardin.
Van Dyk and the other state qualifiers will begin playing at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Ames.
"I'm really excited," Van Dyk said. "A state championship would be awesome. I know my teammates will be cheering me on at state."