GIRLS STATE GOLF: Wolverines in prime position for first title

Dike-New Hartford’s Mike Soppe is wiping the slate clean.

Even though his team made a strong opening statement to earn a 26-stroke advantage over the field, he’d rather his Wolverines start from scratch today.

Propelled by a pair of top three finishers, Dike-Hartford dominated with a first round score of 348 to separate itself from an otherwise closely contested pack at the Class 2A Iowa Girls State Tournament at American Legion Memorial Golf Course.

Reigning state champ Alta-Aurelia is second at 374, while West Monona is two shots back in third at 376. Nashua-Plainfield (379) is right behind in fourth as just two strokes distance the last four squads.

Central Decatur and Pleasantville are knotted in fifth at 384, while Audubon (385) and South Winneshiek (386) round out the field.

The Wolverines’ Ashley Dumler shares the top spot on the leaderboard with 2013 champ Sarah McMichael of Nashua Plainfield as each shot a 4-over 75. Dike-Hartford’s Briana Weber is three strokes back in third, though her head coach isn’t allowing the team to get comfortable after the strong start.

“I’m going to tell the girls it’s 0-0 and we need to compete because it’s golf and anything can happen,” Soppe said. “We’re going to have to show up and play well here (today).”

Nikki Weissenfluh carded a 97 and Abby Camarata’s 98 also figured into the Wolverines’ score. Weber finished runner-up last spring, while Dumler took sixth.

The reigning runners-up are on pace to dethrone Alta-Aurelia and previously beat the Warriors by 14 strokes at the Eagle Grove Regional Final, though Soppe is hoping his team can balance things out a little more on their second day.

“They all kind of fired on different holes today, but we’ve got to be a little more consistent,” Soppe said. “We had some ups and downs and we have to level that out a little bit.”

The winds wreaked havoc on scores throughout the day and Soppe pegged the 508-yard second hole as the toughest to counter, but his squad adjusted on the fly.

“When you come out and it’s really windy, you have to make adjustments and we did a pretty good job with that,” Soppe said.

Alta-Aurelia’s LeAnn Patton is looking for an adjustment from her team on day two. The Warriors sit second in the field but didn’t have an individual crack the top 10 as Ericka Lockin’s 88 paced the team in 12th. Jenna Snyder shot a 90 and Lexie Patton had a 92 to sit 15th and 16th, respectively, through 18 holes.

“We didn’t play very well today. Our top three struggled and didn’t get off to a good start,” Coach Patton said. “We had some big holes and had some double and triple bogeys that we don’t normally have.”

The short game proved to be the Warrior’s biggest obstacle as several three and four-putts cost the team key strokes.

“They were disappointed in themselves on those big holes,” Patton said. “We have to work on a few things out here on the range and come out with a bigger, brighter day (Tuesday).”

Lexie Patton was eighth a year ago and is one of five top-10 returnees from 2013 in the field.

Cascade’s Kate Coyle is five strokes off the pace in fourth at 80 and Samantha Knight leads West Monona with an 81. Ogden’s Emily Rinehart is sixth (82), while Hinton’s Rachel Grenko and Audubon’s Susie Bylund share seventh at 83. Sumner-Fredericksburg’s tandem of Ashley Larson (85) and Maya Marshall (86) cap the all-state positions after the opening round.

Second round play gets underway today at 9 a.m.