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Wheeler, Chelberg complete careers at state girls golf tournament

New Richmond seniors Megan Chelberg and Alex Wheeler are playing in the WIAA State Girls Golf Championships this week. It is Chelberg’s second trip to state and Wheeler’s fourth. Wheeler is the first four-time state qualifier for the Tiger girls.

The numbers tell the story.

Alex Wheeler and Megan Chelberg have given the New Richmond girls golf team its best 1-2 tandem in team history this season.

Fittingly, the two seniors are closing out their careers at the WIAA Division 1 State Girls Golf Championships this Monday and Tuesday at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison.

Last year, Wheeler became the first Tiger girl to play in three WIAA state golf tournaments. She added to that record this year after shooting an 82 to tie for the best score in the La Crosse Central sectional tournament last Tuesday.

Chelberg also qualified for state as an individual, shooting an 88 at the sectional meet. That put her into a three-player playoff for the final state berth from the sectional tournament. Chelberg parred the first playoff hole to earn a spot in the state tournament field, her second straight trip to state.

The Tigers had hoped to send their entire team to state, but they fell short of that dream. The top two teams advance from the sectional meet to state and the Tigers placed third in the sectional.

Wheeler was part of the Tiger team that qualified for state in 2010 and 2011 and now she has qualified twice individually. Wheeler tied Danielle Ducklow of Tomah for medalist honors at this year’s sectional meet, but Ducklow was able to win the playoff for the medalist honor.

Chelberg found out the Tigers didn’t qualify as a team when she was told she was in a playoff for one of the individual state berths. She maintained her poise and pounded a drive down the heart of the fairway on the first playoff hole, while both of her opponents were out of the fairway. Chelberg played the hole in textbook fashion to get her par.

The Tigers are one of two teams that are sending two individuals to the Division 1 tournament, with Milton being the other team.

Junior Hannah Baker shot a 95 for the Tigers at the sectional tournament. Freshman Maddi McCann finished at 105 and junior Emma Ongstad finished at 106.

@sub:Wheeler, Chelberg

@t:For both Tiger seniors, their success is the result of a lifetime of playing golf and of their family’s interest in the sport.

Chelberg said she began playing when she was just old enough to walk, going out to the course with her parents. Wheeler was only slightly older when she began, learning the sport in third grade from her dad’s passion for the game.

Tiger coach Neal Ziller said the seniors were at the peak of their game as they headed into the sectional tournament.

“They were poised, they were driven, they were ready,” Ziller said. “They used everything they learned over the last four years.”

Wheeler and Chelberg took different routes to their high school golf success. By the start of her freshman year, Wheeler was already an accomplished golfer. She stepped right into the varsity lineup as a freshman and has put together several of the best seasons in Tiger history.

Wheeler has finished 50th, 29th and 22nd in her past three years at state and is hoping to continue to climb the state leaderboard this season.

“As long as I play up to my expectations as a golfer, I’ll be happy,” Wheeler said of her state goals.

Wheeler is a fierce competitor who is always looking to improve her game.

“There’s something about the competition that drives me to play my best, to prove myself, in a sense,” she said.

Both girls are hoping to play golf collegiately. Wheeler is considering a number of schools, with Concordia-St. Paul and Lindenwood University in Missouri as two of the strongest possibilities.

Both girls had older siblings play in the Tiger golf program. Wheeler’s older sister, Hannah, was her teammate for her first two high school seasons. Chelberg’s older brother, Reed, was an all-conference player for the Tiger boys team.

While Wheeler made an immediate impact for the Tiger girls team, Chelberg was the team’s sixth player in her freshman and sophomore seasons. Tired of falling just short of the varsity lineup, Chelberg played every day of the summer before her junior season to improve her skills.

“I wanted to prove my potential,” Chelberg said. She said that constant diet of golf caused her to get to know her swing better and give her the ability to self-diagnose any flaws that might arise in her swing.

That worked turned Chelberg into a state-caliber golfer, tying for 25th at state last year. For golf drama, it will be hard for Chelberg to top the playoff she won to reach state this year.

“My heart was pounding,” she said. “It was the most anxious and stressful time I’ve ever dealt with.”

Chelberg is also considering playing golf in college. She said her first priority is to find a college with a strong athletic training major, but she hopes her choice will also have a golf program in which she can continue her career.

2013 La Crosse Central Division 1 Girls Golf Sectional Tournament

Team scores: Eau Claire North 359, River Falls 362, New Richmond 370, Hudson 382, Tomah 387, Holmen 388, Marshfield 398, Stevens Point 414

New Richmond scores

Hannah Wheeler 44-38=82; Megan Chelberg 46-42=88; Hannah Baker 48-47=95; Maddi McCann 54-51=105; Emma Ongstad 48-58-106

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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