AMES - It wasn't quite the finish her coaches wanted last Wednesday, but no one was complaining after it was all said and done.
In fact, everyone associated with South Tama junior Paige Van Dyk was either smiling or holding back tears of happiness.
The STC junior golfer had just won the Class 3A Iowa Girls State Golf Tournament at the Ames Golf and Country Club. She held a six-stroke lead coming into Wednesday's final 18 holes and led by four strokes with six holes remaining before play was halted due to heavy rain and lightning. In the end, the final decision was to wash out the entire final round and take the results from the first 18 holes, which gave Van Dyk her first individual state championship.
The Van Dyk family enjoyed its first state championship last Wednesday at the Ames Golf and Country Club. South Tama junior Paige Van Dyk, far left, won the Class 3A Iowa Girls State Golf Championship with a 1-under round of 72, which she shot on the first day of action. The second round was washed out after 12 holes, because of heavy rain. The Van Dyk family and everyone else took shelter under a tent for the awards ceremony after being caught in the rain while on the course. Standing with Paige, from left, are her father Randy, sister Taylor and mother Michelle.
"It feels great," Van Dyk said. "I came into the second day knowing there was supposed to be rain, so I knew that I had to come the first day full force. I knew that I could win."
The star junior hadn't given up a lead of that magnitude all season. She actually never gave a lead all spring as she won every meet she participated in this season.
"It was very stressful and a lot of hard work," Van Dyk said. "At the beginning of the year, I wrote down five goals and I accomplished all of them. That was to be conference champ, be undefeated, average in the 30s and go to state and win state. I accomplished all of them and that was great."
Van Dyk's 72 was six shots better than Cascade's Kate Coyle, who fired a 78 on Tuesday. Makayla Ernst of East Sac County was third with an 80. Brooke Fletcher of Atlantic and Blair Klostermann both fired 83s but Klostermann took fourth due to a card-back tiebreaker.
Beckman Catholic ended up with two individuals in the top 10 - Brooke Klostermann was eighth - but Carroll Kuemper Catholic claimed the team title after a first-round 367. Beckman Catholic was second at 374, Unity Christian took third with a 383 and Williamsburg (393) and Cascade (394) were fourth and fifth, respectively.
Although the decision to wash out the final day gave Van Dyk her state title, it might leave doubt in other people's minds as to whether she would have won if the final round was played out. However, not in her mind.
"It didn't matter," Van Dyk said. "I knew there were six holes left and I was up four, so I had to keep doing what I was doing. So it didn't matter if we kept playing or not."
"My chipping was on yesterday," Van Dyk said. "Even when I couldn't hit the green, I could still get up and down and make par.
"I know I could have finished strong and I felt like it," she said. "I was up by four and I was confidence."
But her coaches would have liked her to finish the final six holes Wednesday.
"I would have liked to see her finish," said her father and assistant coach Randy Van Dyk said. "She was up four with six holes left and she hasn't given that up all year. Not that she couldn't, but on the last hole before the sirens blew, she told me, 'I'm really feeling it finally.' I would have liked to see her finish"
STC head coach Kelle Boles agreed.
"I would have preferred her to finish, because I wanted to see how she would have finished," Boles said. "Coming back and struggling and getting frustrated at the beginning is tough. It takes a state champ to face that and come back from it. I would have wanted to see it, because she was getting in the groove again toward the end."
Van Dyk's state championship run was a perfect way to end Boles' run as South Tama County girls golf coach. She recently resigned from her position after 13 years, after her husband was transferred to Ohio for his job.
"This makes it extra special," Boles said. "I've now been to the state tournament with individuals, with a team and now I have a state champ. It's a great way to finish. I'm sorry I'm leaving, but she has a good head on her shoulders and I know she'll do well next year.
"It's a good way to end," she added. "But it's also a sad way."
However, when asked whether she will be be back next spring to watch Van Dyk play in her final state tournament, Boles was all smiles.
"I'll probably be here," Boles said. "I'll probably come back for it, but I won't have to have this interview."
It's been well-documented that golf is in the blood of the Van Dyk family. It started with their dad Randy and he passed it on to his daughters, Taylor and Paige. All four members of the family, including mother Michelle, were at the state tournament both days.
"She's worked hard, but it's the whole family," Boles said. "It's mom taking them to tournaments when they were four or five. It's also their dad, who's coached them ever since they were little. Taylor and Paige out there playing together for years that's what it's all about. The dedication this family has to this is also what has made her a state champ.
"I was just kind of along for the ride on this one," she added. "It was kind of a nice ride."
Taylor, who golfs at Northern Iowa University and played in the state tournament three years at STC, was ecstatic for her younger sister.
"I'm very proud of my sister," T. Van Dyk said. "I think it's more pressure watching it. It stresses me out more. I'd rather be playing than watching, because I don't have control over it."
She also admitted that playing against her last year was hard. The sisterly-duo competed for the top spot at most meets and even tied for the conference title before playing a playoff hole. They also finished fourth and sixth at state in 2012, with Paige placing fourth.
"We're really close, but golf makes us closer," T. Van Dyk said. "We always have someone to practice with.
"Last year was tough," she said. "It was different playing against her. It pushed me more, but I had more pressure on myself because I was older and I didn't want her to beat me."
This year, her family was there cheering her on and showing support. However, they endured as much stress, if not more, during the two days of the state tournament, especially on the second day as they watched Paige struggle during the first nine holes.
"It's very special, but a lot more stressful," R. Van Dyk said of being a parent and assistant coach. "She's been doing this since she was five. When you follow her around for so many years, it's very special.
"It's more special for everybody," he added. "She got all excited yesterday when her friends showed up in the middle of the round. She had a couple birdies right after that. It's neat that she will allow family and friends to watch her, because a lot of kids won't do that. She likes and she thrives in that. She would be upset if we weren't there watching her."
Watching and teaching his daughters the sport of golf has been rewarding for Randy. He's watched Paige go from the little sister trying to compete with her older sister to a maturing young woman, who has improved her skills leaps and bounds since her freshman season.
"Her length for sure," R. Van Dyk said. "She is really long off of the tee. She's really got a lot of distance and she's only 16, so that might keep improving. Her short game is good, too.
"It's something we've worked on since she and her sister were little," he said of her short game. "It's the most important part of the game, so we've worked a lot on that."
It's that short game that helped Paige shoot a 1-under round of 72 on the opening day, which gave her a commanding lead. She saved par on many holes by hitting smart chip shots and making important putts.
"It helps a lot," Van Dyk said of her dad coaching her. "We can just go out whenever and practice. He helps a lot. I'm very thankful for that. He's really good at the short game. He's pressured me to work more on my short game, which has helped a lot."
Boles has also noticed several improvements during her three years at STC.
"I think she's just matured," Boles said. "She's a lot stronger. She drives the ball a mile. She has also gotten course smart and ball smart."
Now the family has one state championship to celebrate and another one possibly in the future. If she returns to state next year, Paige's family and former coach will be there with her, no doubt about that.
"She worked at it and she deserves it," R. Van Dyk said. "And she has another year."