MADISON — Rachel Halvorson has been a mainstay at the Madison Country Club for much of her life.
Her grandparents lived by the course and grandpa would take her along “as long as I could take it.”
“I was really little; I remember having a little yellow golf bag,” Halvorson said. “My grandpa and parents would take me golfing. I’ve been doing that as long as I can remember.”
Those days of tagging along at the course cultivated a love of golf that catapulted Halvorson, and the entire Lac qui Parle Valley Eagles squad, to the top of Class A. Halverson won state titles her sophomore and junior years and the Eagles took third last year after winning the title in 2018. She heads to Augustana to continue her career.
“I’m proud of everything we got to accomplish,” Halvorson said. “We had awesome coaches and supporters. The school does an awesome job of making us feel important and we were able to improve a lot from the time we started to the time we finished.”
Breaking into the state tournament as a seventh-grader with a 12th-place finish, Halvorson followed that up with a ninth-place finish as an eighth-grader and 11th place as a freshman.
In her sophomore year, the switch flipped for Halvorson.
“I think I was more ready for it. I was used to the pressure,” Halvorson said. “Plus, the team was there and having that support helped.”
Over two days at Pebble Creek Golf Club in Becker, Halvorson had a 15-stroke improvement from her freshman year for a two-day score of 155 to take medalist honors. She held off Legacy Christian Academy’s Sophie Gray by a stroke.
And thanks in large part to that effort, Lac qui Parle Valley won the 2018 Class A state championship in its first state trip by a stroke over Fillmore Central.
“It was really nerve-wracking, especially with the team there because that race was also really close,” Halvorson said of the 2018 tournament. “Being in that first group made me feel better. … By the time I was a sophomore, I was able to play my own game without worrying about everything else.”
Halvorson said she’s always been consistent with her irons and drivers, so in preparation for a state repeat, she focused on tweaking her short game.
“That’s where you can save a lot of strokes,” Halvorson said.
She added, “For my team, the expectations were a lot harder (in 2019) and we lost one of our best players (Abigail Stender).”
The Eagles were able to make it back to state after winning the Section 5A championship and was in second place after Day 1 with a score of 353. Lac qui Parle Valley ended the tournament in third place with a score of 720.
And after leading the pack with a Day 1 score of 79, Halvorson won her second consecutive state title last spring with a two-day total of 160. Once again, she was the medalist by a stroke, this time over Fillmore Central’s Madison Scheevel.
The building blocks were there for a third straight title as Halvorson continued to play summer golf and tweak her short game.
Then just days before practice could begin for Halvorson’s senior year, schools in Minnesota were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were supposed to begin that Monday,” Halvorson said. “But we never got to practice together.”
Her attempt at a third straight state title was taken out of Halvorson’s hands after the spring sports season was canceled due to concerns over coronavirus.
Halvorson had gotten some of that camaraderie with her teammates back when golf courses were allowed to open on April 18. So, it was back to where it all began for Halvorson: at the Madison Country Club.
“We’ve talked a lot and some of us have played together. Social distancing, of course,” Halvorson said. “We’re staying very positive. We did some Zoom calls as a team before (spring sports) got called off.
“It was pretty awesome (to golf again). I was getting pent up around the house.”
The golf journey will expand to Sioux Falls, South Dakota next year when Halvorson joins the Augustana University women’s golf team. Since 2009-10, the Vikings have won the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference six out of nine years and have placed as high as eighth in the national tournament.
“I’ve always really liked Sioux Falls,” Halvorson said. “The coaches are really awesome. It’s an awesome program.”