GIRLS STATE GOLF: Defending champion Van Dyk has 2-stroke lead

Paige Van Dyk is going to get the opportunity to prove it, and she’s looking quite forward to the chance.

A year after having the final six holes of the Class 3A portion of the Iowa Girls State Golf Tournament washed out by rain and lightning, the South Tama County senior is sitting atop the field with a two-stroke cushion after Monday’s opening-round 2-over-par 75 at Ames Golf & Country Club.

Van Dyk held a four-shot advantage when last year’s second day of play was stopped, but the forecast looks favorable for a finishing 18 when play resumes this morning at 9 a.m.

“People said that I didn’t even finish, but I was still ahead when they called it,” Van Dyk said of last year’s abrupt ending. “Getting all 36 holes in would be good to prove it. I’m excited but nervous.”

Van Dyk carries a two-stroke lead over Central Lee senior Alex Krehbiel and a three-stroke edge on Clear Lake freshman Emily Snelling. Krehbiel placed 13th last year.

Leading the chase pack are a pair of players whose teams were 3A qualifiers. Brooke Klostermann, a junior from Dyersville Beckman, and Mara Masching, a Kuemper Catholic senior, both shot 83.

Despite the heavy competition chasing her, Van Dyk said she can take solace in the fact that she couldn’t have started out much worse in Monday’s opening round. The Northern Iowa recruit four-putted the par-5 first hole for a double bogey.

She bogeyed the same hole last spring on her way to a first- and only-round 1-under 72.

“I’ve never done that in a meet, so that’s a good way to start out,” she said sarcastically. “I just told myself there’s a lot of holes to play, and I went par then bogey, so I was 3-over after three. But I knew I’ve been in that position before.”

Her calm demeanor kept her focused on the round in front of her instead of the finished holes behind her. Van Dyk responded with back-to-back-to-back birdies, getting right back to even par.

She finished the round with bogeys on nine, 11 and 17 and added a birdie on 10 to end up with a 37-38-75 and a two-shot cushion.

“My short game hurt me today pretty much,” she said. “So tomorrow I’ll just focus on putting speed. But I was proud of the way I didn’t let that first hole frustrate me.

“I’ve never four-putted. It was a long putt but I went short and then way long. It was a good lesson for me I guess, and I’m proud that I came back. It gave me motivation to keep going.”

Van Dyk will be paired with Krehbiel, Snelling and Klostermann for today’s final 18 holes in Ames. Klostermann, though eight shots back, might pose the greatest threat to Van Dyk’s title defense. She was eighth last season and second in Class 2A two years ago.

The Dyersville Beckman junior is, like Van Dyk, one of only three players in 3A to average in the 70s in 18-hole rounds, according to Okoboji junior Alex Mankle, who shot an opening-round 86, is the other.

“I just can’t worry about them, just focus on myself,” Van Dyk said. “I know if I play just like today or even better, I should be fine. I can’t let their play affect my play.”