Riding in the car Tuesday morning, not long before their first grouping in a competitive event, sisters Isabella and Reese McCauley joked about meeting in a playoff to decide the 75th Minnesota Junior Girls’ State Championship.
The siblings, who play golf at Simley High School, entered the final day tied atop the leaderboard with recent Woodbury graduate Aayushi Sarkar. Then Isabella, the 2019 Class 3A prep state champion, pulled away. A 2-under 69 gave Isabella a five-stroke victory over her younger sister at Bent Creek Golf Club in Eden Prairie.
“It was fun to play with her,” Isabella said. “I found myself rooting her on, but I also wanted to win.”
The McCauleys both played to win, but they also took note of more than yardage and terrain.
“On the course, I’m a little more focused and she’s more laid back,” Isabella said. “But I think we each brought a little bit of our personalities out of each other.”
“I know I was a little more focused playing against her,” Reese said.
Isabella, who will be a junior this fall, took her game to its customary high level despite playing her first competitive rounds since last fall. She carded four birdies each day but took control by having three fewer bogeys on Tuesday.
Grabbing the top two spots owed to the sisters’ offseason grind. They practiced six days per week in the winter, either inside domed facilities in Edina and Maplewood or using their basement net at home.
Since the spring, the McCauleys have invested in five days of golf per week, often for seven hours at a time. They typically arrive at a course and warm up, play 18 holes and then practice for a few hours.
“She’s really helped me in terms of practicing more,” Reese said. “I would be the one asking, ‘Are we going to leave now?’ and she’d say, ‘No, we’re staying.’ That helped push me.”
On Tuesday, Reese pushed back. She took an early lead with a birdie on the third hole. An incoming ninth-grader this fall, Reese put some welcomed pressure on her older sister. Last June, Isabella crushed top high school competition by 10 strokes at the state meet. Playing a tighter match, against her sister to boot, provided fuel.
“I want to win when I play well,” Isabella said. “So, I was glad that this was a competitive round.”
Isabella captured the lead for good with a birdie on the sixth hole but really took comfort in the way she wrestled a bogey out of the ninth hole. She hit into a bunker just under the lip but salvaged a decent score.
“That was one of the best bogeys in my life,” she said. “It gave me momentum to start the back nine.”
Three birdies in the next four holes padded Isabella’s lead. Her score of 141 was followed by Reese at 146 and Sarkar, who will play at Drake University, at 150.
“To play pretty well and to play with my sister in a group for the first time was great,” Reese said. “It was a pretty special day.”
• Sam Baker, who will be a senior at Cloquet, won the Minnesota Boys PGA Golf Championship on Tuesday at the Quarry at Giants Ridge in Biwabik. He tied his personal best with a 65 for a two-day total of 1-under 143.
Kyler Schwamb, who will be a sophomore at Farmington, won the 13-to-15-year-old division and tied for fourth overall at 150.