By Kyle Daubs

Typically, one would see Hannah Harpster, Stacey Zerbst, or Taryn Pearson leading the charge for this Charleston girls golf team. 

Instead, there was a new name near the top of the standings last week when the Trojans captured their eighth straight Regional Championship at Charleston Country Club.

Sophomore Madeline Sanders emerged to finish fifth overall after carding a 95.

“I surprised myself a little bit, too,” said Sanders. “I think once I got to the back nine, I started to figure out my swing.”

Harpster, who finished third overall with a score of 81, said she found out on the back nine about her teammate’s sudden surge. 

“I talked to our coach throughout the day and he told me she shot a 50 on the front,” said Harpster. “He was like she did okay. Then, on the back he told me ‘She’s doing just as good as you.’ I was at a 40 and 4 over. I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s great.’ She pulled through really well.”

The Trojans needed just 377 strokes on the 5,638-yard course to finish 15 strokes ahead of runner-up Paris.

“I feel like the team has improved a lot together,” said Zerbst. “I’m just so happy we made it this far into regionals and conference. We beat Effingham and then beat those other schools. I was a little shocked.”

Charleston managed to pull out the win even though two of its All-Apollo golfers sagged towards the bottom of the team’s scores. Zerbst and Pearson tied with a score of 101, which put their scores fourth on the team’s scoresheet.  

“I have to work on my iron shots,” said Pearson. “Stacey and I both struggled in tough spots. It wasn’t really pretty, but, hopefully, sectionals will be better.”

However, Pearson knows that after a few minor fixes the Trojans can be a top contender in Thursday’s Class 1A IHSA Rochester Sectional. 

“I think you have to believe we are a contender to be a top-three team,” said Pearson. “All of us just have to give our best on the course. Stacey and I played bad, but everyone in our top six on a normal day could help us, hopefully, have a good ending to the season. We’ve just got to pick it up, get through the bad holes and not sit on them.”

Zerbst agrees that the team is close to competing for a state berth, were a championship to be held. 

“We are pretty close,” said Zerbst. “I don’t know who is in our sectional, but if we had that chance to go to state, I think we could do it as a team. I can definitely see it.”

Unfortunately, the team will be playing for an artificial state berth. In a normal sectional, the top three teams would qualify for state. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this will likely be the final golf championship this season. 

That’s why winning a regional with just one senior on the team was a special moment. 

“Hannah being the team captain, she’s the one that is always rallying us to do our best,” said Sanders. “Regionals was a lot of fun and Hannah was a big part of that, especially with that being her last one. I’m going to remember us winning that for a while.” 

Harpster missed making state last year due to a knee injury towards the end of the season. As the All-Apollo golfer takes her final swings, she knows she is a contender for the individual sectional title, but she has an even loftier goal. 

“I’d rather win as a team than as an individual,” said Harpster. “Maybe, we can do both?”