‘It was a great way to finish’

The Tanagers put together a championship effort on the first day of the South Dakota State Class A Golf Tournament in Rapid City last week.

However, the first day was wiped out because of rain, forcing Vermillion to start from scratch on the second day.

The setback didn't hold Vermillion back as the Tanagers put up another quality day to edge Parkston, the defending champion, by one stroke to claim the 2010 Class A title.

"We were fortunate to come home with a one stroke victory; it's like a last second shot in basketball, you are just fortunate to come out on the winning end," Vermillion head coach Kirk Hogen said. "I am very proud of the girls. They handled themselves in a very professional way and represented Vermillion well."

Vermillion's one day score was 378 and Parkston shot a 379.

The tension of who would win went down to the wire since both the Tanagers and the Trojans had golfers in the final group.

"We didn't know until the end," Hogen said. "We had a comfortable lead after the first nine holes, and we held on to dear life. It was a great way to finish."

The golfers didn't know the score was that close either.

Senior Kristen Schwasinger said she played the same way whether she knew the scores were close or not.

"I had no idea, but I've always said to myself, 'just make every stroke count,' and it came down to it," she said. "I've been to state all four year, and it was awesome to finally win it."

The team was held in suspense until the tournament officials called in the scores.

"We knew by that time and we were all really excited," junior Ellen Brown said. "There was a lot of hugging."

The Tanagers started the tournament off well, but about halfway through the first day, a steady rain forced tournament officials to make a tough decision — the scores from the first round were scratched and the tournament would be just 18 holes.

The decision didn't sit well with Hogen, but he said he dealt with it.

"I didn't agree with it, and I still don't," said Hogen, who knows about scheduling tournaments since he is the head PGA professional of The Bluffs Golf Course in Vermillion. "I would've liked to see us resume play at where we stopped, but the decision was made."

Because the tournament was shorted to 18 holes, Brown said the team just had to tighten up their play.

"We knew we really had to come out on top of our game," she said. "We couldn't have too many errors basically."

The Tanagers were going to have to watch the errors even if the tournament was two days because of the competition.

Parkston was looking to win back-to-back titles and had most of its team back.

But the Tanagers knew they had a chance at the title.

"We knew if we played our game, we would have a chance at state, and that's all that mattered," Brown said. "We just knew we had to play well at state."

Every Vermillion golfer, from young to old, put together a quality performance to help the team win the title.

The Tanagers were led by a seventh grader Kasey Nielsen, who fired an 89 to finish in a tie for third.

Only two strokes behind Nielsen was Schwasinger, who shot a 91, good enough for a tie for sixth place.

"It was really nice to finish in the 10," Schwasinger said. "My front nine didn't go as well as I thought it would be. After that, I just said to myself that I can do better and that I need to do better, and that's what I did."

Kasey Nielsen's twin sister Kelly was the third Tanager who scored with a 96 for 15th place.

Then technically two players could have scored fourth for the Tanagers as Brown and senior Laura Hansen carded 102s.

Having the chance for all five golfers score sort of signified the season Hogen said.

"The girls worked hard, and we had a lot of great competition to get five girls who would represent Vermillion," he said. "We had nine girls who tried out, and to get on the team was an achievement. To win by one stroke, that shows it was a true team effort."

Next year, the Tanagers will have a different look to the team as they look to defend their title on their home course as the 2011 Class A Tournament will be at The Bluffs.

Both Nielsens will be gone as their dad Joel is now the athletic director at Kent State University.

Also, Schwasinger and Hansen have both graduated.

But Brown will be back and Hogen expects a few of the other girls who just missed making the team to have an impact next year including McKenzie Huska, Allison Heine and Kelly Amundson.

"We have four girls who were competing hard for varsity spots, so we have a pretty good nucleus I think," he said. "It will depend on how much they want it, and how much work they put in."

Brown said repeating as champs on their home course is all the motivation the team needs.

"We know we can still play well next year," she said. "We know if we practice a lot over the summer, we will have a shot at it."

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